About 15 years ago, WAY before all the Target hype about Lilly Pulitzer last year, I lived in a flat in downtown Buffalo, NY and my go-to fashion advisor was Lucky Magazine. They had a small feature article in the back of the magazine about this woman who worked at an orange juice stand in Palm Springs in the late 1950s. The women would spill a lot of juice on her clothes while working, so to hide the stains she made a shift dress printed with bright bold patterned fabric. Her name was Lilly Pulitzer.
This story stuck with me because in all honesty, I'm a klutz. Anyone that knows me rarely sees me in a solid print. I'm messy and spill a lot, but don't want to show it. This article made me rethink my wardrobe and how I can make it spill-proof. (No, I'm not joking.) Shortly after this wardrobe altering article, I started helping out in a vintage clothing shop and was often paid in trade. To my surprise, a bunch of Lilly Pulitzer shift dresses were acquired for resale and I just had to earn one! I don't care about name brands, but I remembered her history and somehow felt an unlikely attraction to The Lilly with the loud turquoise polka dots.
This is a dress I cherish and love. It has so much personality and as Lilly Pulitzer once said, "Life is a party. Dress like it."
A couple interesting facts about shopping for vintage Lilly Pulitzer…
1. During the '60s there were a lot of dresses that copied the Pulitzer dress shape and prints. Be careful of greedy sellers on eBay, etsy, etc., trying to sell "The Lilly" shift dress. Sometimes they will take a brand name label out of the original garment and resew it into a knock off. This goes for any “name brand”. Look at how the label is stitched, if it's on the garment haphazardly, beware! Below is how the tag should be stitched on.
2. All of Lilly Pulitzer's printed fabric has her name - "Lilly" - within the design somewhere and that goes for the new Lilly Pulitzer prints too. It's a fun game to play, find "Lilly", even though she has passed away her aesthetic still lives on in the new Lilly designs. Unfortunately, many of the new items are monochrome and I'm not drawn to them. Where's the fun in a boring solid color print? (Plus, I'd probably spill something on it anyway.)
3. Look for good quality workmanship, if it has buttons they will be Lilly ones, the interfacing hem will be lace, there will be bra strap stays at the shoulders, lining, and often leg vents at the thighs for easy movement. Sometimes overseas companies will take the Lilly Pulitzer fabric and make a knock off dress. If you're buying online, ask very specific questions to identify it as a real Lilly.
Don't want to pay the expensive vintage or current retail prices for Lilly Pulitzer AND missed out on the Target exclusives? You can settle for all the great accessories she has made over the years at a fraction of the price. I have one of the breast cancer awareness scarves she designed for Ford in the early 2000s. They sell for between $3.99-$35 on eBay. I'd say that's pretty a-FORD-able!
Have fun shopping for bold new prints, whether they are a Lilly or not. WEAR WHAT MAKES YOU HAPPY! Party on!
Bold prints at Cats Like Us: