This Day On The Street
Continue to site right-arrow
This account is pending registration confirmation. Please click on the link within the confirmation email previously sent you to complete registration.
Need a new registration confirmation email? Click here
TheStreet Open House

Lilly Pulitzer's Main Street Legacy Beyond Prep

NEW YORK ( MainStreet) --Lilly Pulitzer, the doyenne of the bright pink and green "shift dress" spotted from Palm Beach to Nantucket, died Sunday, but her legacy is not as stitched into class elitism as one might think.

Born in New York in 1931, Lillian Lee McKim married Peter Pulitzer Jr. and settled down in Palm Beach. In the late 1950s, she started selling oranges from her husband's nearby groves and opened up a juice stand on Via Mizner. She started buying loud fabrics to hide the juice stains that were inevitable and started working with a local seamstress to incorporate these vibrant fabrics into clothing. And her business was born.

"Her story is so funny, so counter-intuitive--she was bored, had kids, opened an orange juice stand," said Lisa Birnbach, co-author of The Official Preppy Handbook. "All the socialites these days, their husbands are in banking, so what would they do now, set up little check cashing stands?"

In 1962 First Lady Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, was photographed wearing a "Lilly" on the cover of LIFE magazine. The brand--with its blithe colors and free-flowing seams--catered to the elite lifestyle but had an appeal that extended beyond.

"At first you could only buy the shift dress in Lake Placid, Rye, Nantucket, Greenwich--in other words, Resort Town, U.S.A.," Birnbach said. "But the more widely available it became, the more democratic."

This aspirational bent to the company, serving women beyond alumnae of Miss Porter's School who took yacht holidays, allowed the business to grow. From the 1960s to the early '80s, the business boomed and catered toward women, children and men with revenue of more than $15 million.

"There was no master plan of taking over the WASP world," Birnbach said. Some of her innovations simply fell into her lap.

Pulitzer didn't wear underwear, Birnbach explained, and only after she got in an aircraft accident where her bright skirt left her exposed, did she think to create bloomers with the same floral pattern as her dress.

Of course, that freedom embodied the laissez-faire of the elite's leisure but with an unpretentious aspect appealing to everyone.

1 of 2

Check Out Our Best Services for Investors

Action Alerts PLUS

Portfolio Manager Jim Cramer and Director of Research Jack Mohr reveal their investment tactics while giving advanced notice before every trade.

Product Features:
  • $2.5+ million portfolio
  • Large-cap and dividend focus
  • Intraday trade alerts from Cramer
Quant Ratings

Access the tool that DOMINATES the Russell 2000 and the S&P 500.

Product Features:
  • Buy, hold, or sell recommendations for over 4,300 stocks
  • Unlimited research reports on your favorite stocks
  • A custom stock screener
Stocks Under $10

David Peltier uncovers low dollar stocks with serious upside potential that are flying under Wall Street's radar.

Product Features:
  • Model portfolio
  • Stocks trading below $10
  • Intraday trade alerts
14-Days Free
Try it NOW
Only $9.95
Try it NOW
14-Days Free
Try it NOW

Check Out Our Best Services for Investors

Dividend Stock Advisor

David Peltier identifies the best of breed dividend stocks that will pay a reliable AND significant income stream.

Product Features:
  • Diversified model portfolio of dividend stocks
  • Updates with exact steps to take - BUY, HOLD, SELL
Trifecta Stocks

Every recommendation goes through 3 layers of intense scrutiny—quantitative, fundamental and technical analysis—to maximize profit potential and minimize risk.

Product Features:
  • Model Portfolio
  • Intra Day Trade alerts
  • Access to Quant Ratings
Options Profits

Our options trading pros provide over 100 monthly option trading ideas and strategies to help you become a well-seasoned trader.

Product Features:
  • Actionable options commentary and news
  • Real-time trading community
Try it NOW
Try it NOW
Try it NOW
To begin commenting right away, you can log in below using your Disqus, Facebook, Twitter, OpenID or Yahoo login credentials. Alternatively, you can post a comment as a "guest" just by entering an email address. Your use of the commenting tool is subject to multiple terms of service/use and privacy policies - see here for more details.
Submit an article to us!
AAPL $124.24 0.70%
FB $83.01 0.11%
GOOG $555.17 -0.65%
TSLA $190.40 -2.00%
YHOO $44.47 0.61%


DOW 17,678.23 -40.31 -0.23%
S&P 500 2,056.15 -4.90 -0.24%
NASDAQ 4,863.3620 -13.1570 -0.27%

Partners Compare Online Brokers

Free Reports

Free Newsletters from TheStreet

My Subscriptions:

After the Bell

Before the Bell

Booyah! Newsletter

Midday Bell

TheStreet Top 10 Stories

Winners & Losers

Register for Newsletters
Top Rated Stocks Top Rated Funds Top Rated ETFs