Lilly Pulitzer started making her famous dresses in 1960. She and her dressmaker designed the original little cotton print shift dress to hide the stains she acquired working in her Palm Beach, Florida, fruit juice stand. Before long, people were asking about the dress, so Pulitzer began selling the dresses at the stand.
She got a tremendous boost when the first lady, Jackie Kennedy, was pictured in Life magazine wearing a Lilly Pulitzer dress. By 1961 she had a lot more orders for her "Lilly" dresses than for juice, so she closed the stand and opened Lilly Pulitzer, Inc.
Her dresses were brightly colored and often had whimsical prints that usually incorporated her name, Lilly, somewhere in the design. She also began using a special hem lace, with the name Lilly spelled out in it. Her dresses spread far beyond Palm Beach, and proliferated nationally throughout the 1960s and 1970s.
The earlier dresses are 100% cotton and usually have metal zippers. Key West handprinting was used to produce some of the fabrics. Sometime in the mid to late 1960s Lilly Pulitzer started using a 65% Poly/35% cotton blend. These later 1960s dresses usually have nylon zippers. Also, in the late 1960s, Lilly Pulitzer started making garments besides dresses, such as shorts, casual tops and slacks.
Lilly Pulitzer did a little girl's line, named for her daughter, Minnie, and a junior line named for daughter, Liza. Accessories, such as hats made to match the garments were added. A men's line was established in the early 1970s. The company also began to use other fabrics, such as printed cotton and polyester knits.
As a general rule, the earlier Lilly labels are orange, and the ones after the mid 70s are green. You can see examples at the Vintage Fashion Guild website.
Lilly retired in 1984, but the business reopened in 1993 under new ownership. Today Lilly Pulitzer fabrics are named, and the company has branched off into accessories and shoes. The emphasis is still on the original bright colors and whimsical prints introduced by Ms. Pulitzer in 1960.
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Books:Essentially Lilly: Holidays, November 2005
Essentially Lilly, April 2004