Yesterday 3 famous and incredible women passed away-Margaret Thatcher, Annette Funicello, and Lilly Pulitzer. All 3 of these women pursued their passion and touched the world. I posted on facebook yesterday how sad I was about Lilly Pulitzer, a designer I have admired most of my life.
I want to tell you about Lilly Pulitzer. She has been such an inspiration to me because her line is so happy and uplifting and fresh. And her story so inspires me.
Lilly was born in 1931 and grew up in a wealthy family in New York and met Pete Pulitzer, the grandson of newspaper publisher Joseph Pulitzer, whose bequest to Columbia University established the Pulitzer Prize. They eloped and moved to Palm Beach Florida. They were known for throwing fun dinner parties at their home. They had 3 kids in quick succession. After her 3rd child, Lilly had a nervous breakdown and ended up in a mental hospital in New York where all the “fashionable”, upscale ladies went to have their breakdowns. Her doctor said, “You’re not happy because you’re not doing anything” and she replied that she didn’t know how to do anything because she grew up with a nanny and a mother that did everything for her. Her doctor said she had to go out and find something to do. So she took an unconventional path, as most women in the 1950’s stayed at home. She became an entrepreneur and opened up a juice stand (her husband owned citrus groves). It was a small juice and fruit bar in Palm Beach where her friends would come and laugh and talk and have fun. By the end of each day Lilly was covered in pulp and fruit juice so she decided to have some shift dresses made with bright fruit colors so the splashes and mess wouldn’t show. Her dresses started selling faster than the fruit!
Her tropical print dresses became a sensation in the 1960’s when the then first lady Jacqueline Kennedy wore one of Lilly’s sleeveless shift dresses in a Life magazine photo spread. Jacqueline Kennedy had attended boarding school with Lilly. Her line of dresses extended to swimsuits, country club attire, children’s clothing, home decor and a little bit of menswear. I have been to her stores, they are so fresh, fun and uplifting. People like Lilly have inspired me with my Happy First business. I love what she said about her business-“We focus on the best, fun and happy things, and people want that. Being happy never goes out of style.”
I loved that she helped her friends too. If one of them needed something to do, she opened up a store in her friend’s town. She was all about spreading happiness and finding purpose!
I had been wanting Lilly’s book “Essentially Lilly a guide to colorful entertaining” for a while and just hadn’t gotten around to buying it and then my friend Jana surprised me with it a few years ago. It is so fun, it tells her story and has beautiful styles and pictures and entertaining ideas and recipes. When I read her book it just gets me so excited for summer, entertaining outside and being with friends.
Lilly Pulitzer’s styles remind me of growing up in the 60’s and also remind me of my mom. My mom is not doing well at all right now, we don’t know how long she has. So I guess seeing Lilly and Annette pass away is just making me nostalgic.