Monday, November 11, 2013
Lilly Pulitzer: Close-up
Lilly Pulitzer fabrics and fashions made a transition during the later half of the 1960's to include white trimmings that were heavy and textured. She used the popular caftan shapes that were constructed with vertical seam lines and slash necklines to create 'outlines' and seam accents.
She had been using cotton fabric around edges, and expanded on that with shirred trims, ruffles and ruched panels cut from the dress fabric for texture.
These close-up view of her trims and textiles show how she used contrast and texture to create additional new looks and add a fresh face to her well known shift dresses in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
Her textile design color palette was based on citrus and tropical brights. She continued to make that her brand identification, rarely including other hues. During the 1970's she did work with deeper brights along the lines of then popular Pucci prints, as shown above.
The themes and images that she used in her designs tended to have a sea and surf motif. Usually there are identifiable images within each design, rarely using all abstract shapes. Floral are dominate, along with fish, frogs and other water creatures.
When trying to date her dresses, it is important to find examples that 'match up' to what you have found. With Lilly designs, due to her use of classic silhouettes and prints, this can be difficult to do, since some styles span a decade or more. In her early career, it is possible to find photos of her wearing her designs that date to the early and mid-1960s. Often she is shown wearing a triangle scarf to match the dress.
The 1960's dresses have a simple cut with popular details such as patch pockets and a deep side slit with contrast white banding and a bow. Contrast rick-rack or banding is also seen around the necklines and armholes. This might be due to the garment construction where under-lining or flat-lining is used to support the thin cottons she printed on. This technique requires that the seam allowances are pressed open and are not hidden behind a lining 'shell'. Rather than loose facings she seems to have chosen contrast binding, rick-rack or piping around the edges, most often in white as you can see in the photos.
Some primary sources are her advertisements (often in "Vogue"), catalogs, press photos, and magazine editorials. Because well known personalities such as Jackie Kennedy wore her dresses, photos are available with dates (note that Jackie favored simple gingham shifts, rather than bold prints).
I have found quite a few examples and have saved them in a Pinterest board "Lilly Pulitzer" for research reference. Feel free to let me know if you locate additional images.
the New York Times
Palm Beach Daily News
This post is part of a three-part series. Part one: "Lilly Pulitzer and Her Dresses" can be seen HERE. Pinterest photo album can be found HERE