Palm Beach

In Southern California, a Lilly Pulitzer Retrospective (Photo)

On exhibition at Palos Verdes Art Center is a retrospective that pays tribute to the late Lilly Pulitzer.

Lilly Pulitzer Exhibit

On August 9, Southern California's Palos Verdes Art Center opened its Loving Lilly exhibit, paying tribute to fashion designer and socialite Lilly Pulitzer, who passed away, at age 81, in April 2013. Pulitzer left behind three children and a legacy of brightly colored shift dresses that made her both a commercial and cultural success. The late designer brought the fun of Palm Beach to all of America, with patterns and designs that have now become iconic. On display through September 29, Loving Lilly capsulates decades of Pulitzer prints from clothing collector Keni Valenti's personal collection. 

Courtesy of Palos Verdes Art Center

Loving Lilly Pulitzer

The exhibit features classic Lilly designs, like the red and white shift dress shown here on the designer, amassed by three decades worth of printed clothing.
 

MAKING A SPLASH

THREE DECADES OF THE LATE LILLY PULITZER’S CLOTHES AND PATTERNS MAKE A BOLD DEBUT AT THE PALOS VERDES ART CENTER THIS SUMMER.

SPLATTERED. That one word links minds as diverse as Jackson Pollock, Hermann Rorschach and Lilly Pulitzer. Pollock’s paint-splattered canvases shocked the 1950s art world as much as Rorschach’s inkblots revolutionized psychoanalysis in the 20th century. 

However, neither would have imagined that a barefoot heiress in Palm Beach could achieve national renown and phenomenal commercial success over something so simple as a splattered A-line dress. Welcome to the wonderful world of Lilly Pulitzer. 

Born into the socially elite East Coast world, Lillian Lee McKim attended the prestigious Miss Porter’s School with Jacqueline Bouvier, who became a life-long friend. Lilly married literary publishing heir Peter Pulitzer in Palm Beach, while Jackie Kennedy Onassis went on to become one of the most famous women in the 20th century. Throughout their adult lives, both women wore the timeless uniform created by Lilly.

As a young mother of three children living year-round in the sweltering summer heat of Palm Beach, Lilly longed for something to do besides lunch with the ladies at the club. When she constantly ruined her dresses juicing oranges from Peter’s groves, she decided to create fabrics that would mask her messiness. In that simple act, one of the most eponymous fashion lines was born: Lilly Pulitzer. 

The most comprehensive collection of vintage Lilly Pulitzer clothes debuts in the kaleidoscopic exhibit “Loving Lilly” at the Palos Verdes Art Association. Men’s, women’s and children’s clothing create a riot of color and pattern in one of the new galleries of the recently remodeled facility.  

Miami collector Keni Valenti

MAKING A SPLASH

THREE DECADES OF THE LATE LILLY PULITZER’S CLOTHES AND PATTERNS MAKE A BOLD DEBUT AT THE PALOS VERDES ART CENTER THIS SUMMER.

SPLATTERED. That one word links minds as diverse as Jackson Pollock, Hermann Rorschach and Lilly Pulitzer. Pollock’s paint-splattered canvases shocked the 1950s art world as much as Rorschach’s inkblots revolutionized psychoanalysis in the 20th century. 

However, neither would have imagined that a barefoot heiress in Palm Beach could achieve national renown and phenomenal commercial success over something so simple as a splattered A-line dress. Welcome to the wonderful world of Lilly Pulitzer. 

Born into the socially elite East Coast world, Lillian Lee McKim attended the prestigious Miss Porter’s School with Jacqueline Bouvier, who became a life-long friend. Lilly married literary publishing heir Peter Pulitzer in Palm Beach, while Jackie Kennedy Onassis went on to become one of the most famous women in the 20th century. Throughout their adult lives, both women wore the timeless uniform created by Lilly.

As a young mother of three children living year-round in the sweltering summer heat of Palm Beach, Lilly longed for something to do besides lunch with the ladies at the club. When she constantly ruined her dresses juicing oranges from Peter’s groves, she decided to create fabrics that would mask her messiness. In that simple act, one of the most eponymous fashion lines was born: Lilly Pulitzer. 

The most comprehensive collection of vintage Lilly Pulitzer clothes debuts in the kaleidoscopic exhibit “Loving Lilly” at the Palos Verdes Art Association. Men’s, women’s and children’s clothing create a riot of color and pattern in one of the new galleries of the recently remodeled facility.  

Miami collector Keni Valenti

Howell Conant/TimePix

The Palm Beach Princess

Pulitzer originally designed her signature patterns as a way to hide fruit-juice stains. In the late 1950s, she kept herself busy by selling oranges and grapefruit at her husbands orchard, but by the end of the day, she was covered in pulp. Rather than discard the dress, she turned the Rorschach-esque mistake into a colorful, tropical design. 

Courtesy of Palos Verdes Art Center

Just Dashing

Lilly, in 1963, making a dash out of an airplane as her husband, Peter Pulitzer, looks on. Clearly her dresses were made to move in, not just to look classic and carefree. 

Courtesy of Palos Verdes Art Center

A Kaleidoscope of Color

Lilly Pulitzer admires her Worth Avenue store in 1963, surrounded by pinks, lime greens, oranges, and yellows inspired by her husband's Floridian fruit stands. Pulitzer went on to expand her collection to include designs for men and children as the brand evolved from a pastime to a vibrant cultural status symbol. 

Courtesy of Palos Verdes Art Center

Breaking Traditions

By the 1960s, Pulitzer's designs were recognized as a staple of Palm Beach socialite culture—her customers included Vanderbilts, Rockefellers, Kennedys, and Whitneys. Her dresses provided a comfortable and trendy alternative, like these matching lemon-yellow dresses, to the belted shirtdress of the 1950s and quickly became a summertime staple of the social elites.  

Courtesy of Palos Verdes Art Center

Belle of the Beach

Valenti admired Pulitzer for her individuality as a designer. His private collection includes everything from vibrant swimwear to wildly printed blazers. 

Courtesy of Palos Verdes Art Center

Having a Ball

While Lilly Pulitzer herself may be gone, her legacy continues for those of all ages who are just discovering Lilly.