At the bright young age of 21, an irreverent and enterprising New York socialite named Lilly eloped with publishing mogul and citrus heir Peter Pulitzer.
Ditching the city for sunny Florida, the couple embarked on a glamorous and colourful life in Palm Beach. In need of a day job, Lilly opened a simple juice stand in 1959. She soon transformed her citrus-stained clothing into a line of brightly coloured shift dresses in an array of cherry prints. Her designs quickly became the unofficial uniform of America’s splashy resort towns.
Fast forward 50 years and Lilly Pulitzer prints and colours continue to inspire people to lead colourful lives.
And now you can buy the Lilly at the Cabana at Camana Bay.
Leslie Bergstrom opened the store a year ago.
“I remember my glamorous grandma Jane wearing a classic shift with a scarf around her head and huge sunglasses…when she wasn’t hanging out poolside at the country club, she would drive around town in her trademark white Cadillac (she got a new model every year) and deliver donuts to the police station. It is rumoured that this simple gesture kept them from issuing traffic tickets to a certain ‘someone’ who was known for her lead foot as well as her dazzling smile! My great-grandma wore the classic shift too, with a huge brooch on the shoulder. I thought they were the most elegant women in the world. I was probably six! I’ve been a Lilly fan for as long as I can remember,” Bergstrom said.
The Lilly was based on a simple home economics pattern with side slits for collecting shells on the beach. The thing that made it original was the fabric, which was first bought at Woolworths and eventually printed especially for her in Key West with the word Lilly hidden among the crazy, colourful brush strokes.
Lilly’s soon became a fixture for the best times in life – weddings, family reunions and parties. Crossing ages and life stages, Lilly’s were passes down from generation to generation. Some say that Lilly was the original social networking brand. Before there was Facebook, Lilly lovers would share cherished photos and stories with the company via snail mail. The tradition continues today with over 100,000 thousand friends on Facebook.
Lilly herself was the quintessential entertainer. Her parties started by the pool and ended by the piano…or was it started by the piano and ended by the pool? Whichever the saying, Lilly’s door is always open when you’re in need of a little fun, laughter and colours.
Lilly’s believes that a dance floor is not necessary for dancing. Dancing is like laughter, better for it to break out spontaneously. There is also a no shoes, better service policy.
Lilly Pulitzer founded this company the same way people decide to have a party. She did it for fun.
Her business plan was simply to surround herself with good friends and good times. Whenever she had a friend moving to a fabulous new place, she would invite them to open a Lilly store; and of course they did. Shift dresses were popping up all over the place, even on some of Lilly’s best friends, which helps when they are folks like Jackie Kennedy and Wendy Vanderbilt. Jackie was photographed for the cover of Life Magazine wearing her Lilly and before long a little piece of Palm Beach was in demand. Lilly became the unofficial uniform of the jet set at play.
Over the decades, Lilly’s fashions have evolved beyond the shift and prints have captured new stories, but colourful optimism is always in style.
“If you haven’t any charity in your heart, you have the worst kind of heart trouble,” Lilly once said.
These very words have served as inspiration for the company, as its philanthropy is at the root of what it is. With the help of generous customers, Lilly’s has raised millions of dollars for worthy partners like Susan G. Koman Foundation, the American Cancer Society and The World Wildlife Fund. Within the stores there is a tremendous culture of giving back wherever and whenever Lilly’s can by teaming up with local partners who share a passion for making a difference. The philosophy remains: like the shift dress, kindness looks good on everyone.
For over 50 years, Lilly’s has been designing prints that lift spirits. Customers have been wearing the prints to the most important events in their lives. The Lilly customer’s life is the company’s inspiration.
“A cute tourist lady and her mom came into the shop excitedly looked around (tourists are always so thrilled to find a Lilly boutique in cayman) and bought a few things,” said Bergstrom. They mentioned that they were here with some family to plan her wedding, which would happen in the summer. We had a great chat and talked about restaurants, photographers, all that jazz. Two days later they returned. She and her fiancé had decided to get married in a couple days time in an impromptu beach ceremony. They literally whipped together a wedding! Mother-of-the-bride, bridesmaids and flower girls all wore different but complementary dresses, jewellery and shoes from our shop. It was so beautiful; the flowers, the beach, everyone in the wedding was gorgeous. You can see photos on our Facebook page or on photographer Melissa Wolfe’s better angle photography.”
The Cabana is on the Paseo at Camana Bay. Store hours are 8.59am until 6.59pm and on Facebook at The Cabana, A Lilly Pulitzer Via Shop.