"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
Of course, that freedom embodied the laissez-faire of the elite's leisure but with an unpretentious aspect appealing to everyone.
With the escalating tuition costs and mounting student debt, the idea of prep and privilege (and the accompanying style) still won't go away tattered onto the shores of Martha's Vineyard with other gingham and madras casualties. Instead, Birnbach says, people even buy Lilly Pulitzer clothes in vintage stores where they're more gently priced. "They sidestep the question of this bleak economic picture," she said. "They're almost cheaper than anything else you could buy." Pulitzer closed the business in 1984, only to have it revived by current President James B. Bradbeer, Jr. and CEO Scott A.Beaumont, who started Sugartown Worldwide, Inc. and bought the Lilly Pulitzer brand. Oxford Industries, Inc. acquired the company in 2010 and has sales toward $100 million. "Today we celebrate all that Lilly meant to us and come together as Lilly Lovers to honor a true original who has brought together generations through her bright and happy mark on the world," Bradbeer and Beaumont offered in a statement. Birnbach, for her part, thought it might be appropriate to mourn with some flare. "I'm looking for a shirt with black flamingos and chimpanzees," she mused.