Saturday, November 9, 2013

Lilly Pulitzer & Her Dresses

The Lilly Pulitzer revival continued this year with a small but punched up exhibition of her dresses and other designs for both men and women. It was a good opportunity to view the diversity of her work over the span of her career, with many examples of silhouette and style all created from her textile designs.

Lilly dresses from the 1960s and 1970s are like those from other well know textile designers such as Pucci, Vera, and Marimekko designs: the fabric is first and foremost, while the garment structure is often the vehicle for the textile, rather than the other way around.

The photos here show some of the garments that were in the exhibition, and I offer them as an example of her diversity as a designer of fabric who found a way to marry those splashes of color with simple garment silhouettes. In a second post I'll share more detail photos and textiles close-up.

One important fact that is seldom emphasized about Lilly Pulitzer (1931 - 2013) is that she wasn't a homely Florida orange grove owner's wife selling juice, as the myth is often told. She was a socialite married to a Pulitzer publishing heir, living in Palm Beach, Florida. She was socially connected and knew the major characters who resided in Palm Beach as well as most of the east coast as well. That Jackie O was a former room mate at boarding school who owned and wore her dresses for a magazine cover photo attests to how easy it was for Lilly's company to gain popularity and success. The design business that she began in 1959 included a partner who had been a fashion editor, so she was given great advice along with expert assistance. Her brand is also a story of how a creative individual with drive can become a success especially if they are part of the established upper class system where their work is easily accepted and promoted.

Sadly, I can't give you the dates or descriptions for the garments in the exhibition because nothing was labeled. More to the point, this show appeared to be mounted for entertainment, rather than education, with odd and inappropriate accessories and pairing of garments. All of this aside, it was great to see her diversity when it came to textile design.

These photos were taken at the southern California exhibition "Loving Lilly: Lilly Pulitzer From the Keni Valenti Collection" on view late this summer. All garments shown are from the collection of Keni Valenti, a Miami-based vintage clothing collector.


Lizzie said...

It's beautifully presented, but it seems like a real lost opportunity to go a little deeper into the Lilly Pulitzer story. Or at least there could have been a bit of chronology to it.

Lilly Pulitzer vintage is hard to date. Someone ought to do some research with vintage ads and catalogs to try and see how her style evolved.

Jen O said...

Exactly, there were a few ads from the 70s on display, and I plan to scour my magazines to see what I can find for my 2nd blog post (personal photos would have been good to supplement that too, if I can find any).

LanasArtStudio said...

Ohh, those sweet colors of the tropical fun! Love it! Your story about Lilly is so interesting ...I would like to see more about here life.

Lynn Mally said...

I am not a fan of her clothes at all, but it was interesting to see that she made something more than sheath dresses!