It is officially the first day of spring! The sun is shining, the birds are singing, and floral is everywhere! Here at the Historic Clothing and Textiles Collection, we have an abundance of floral patterned clothing and accessories from buttons and hats to paper dresses. One of the most well known designers for the floral season would be Lilly Pulitzer. She was previously mentioned in our women’s history month post, but today we will be solely focused on the designer who got her start at an juice stand.
Lilian Lee McKim was born in November of 1931 in Roselyn, New York to a family of wealth. Her schooling was only the best. She attended the highly regarded Miss Porter’s School. As life went on, she met Peter Pulitzer of the Pulitzer Prize family. At the young age of 21, she eloped with him and they took off for Palm Beach. At one point, she became troubled and put herself in a psychiatric hospital where she hoped to receive treatment. However, the doctor told her there was nothing wrong with her. She simply needed something to do. Her solution? Well, her family already owned an Orange crop, so why not just open a juice stand? This idea would actually work. What she started would turn into more than she probably ever imagined.
Lilly had a major problem, however. When making juice, the juice from the fruit would get on her clothing. One cannot simply make juice and be seen with a stain on their clothing! Something had to change. She had a seamstress create a dress she designed in order to hide the stains. The fabric was fun, bright, and really attracted attention. It was unlike anything that society had seen before. Women were used to wearing toned down colors, tight dresses, stockings, stilettos, and being up-kept. Lilly had introduced them to a free-spirited way of dressing, a rather bohemian style for the time. The fabric would be light enough to survive the Florida heat, yet loose and somewhat freeing. The style swept the nation. Everyone would soon know the name “Lilly”.
After people took notice of her dresses, her husband placed over 80 dresses in his stores. Little did they know that this business would not only last two years, but still be alive today! One of the reasons her company truly succeeded was because of her connection to the higher class. She was a socialite and married a Pulitzer, which is the perfect equation for success in the business world. She had connections from Florida to New York. However, the breaking point was probably when Jackie Kennedy wore a pair of her designer pants. After this, there was no going back. The future of fashion was in Lilly’s hands.
Lilly was always noted for being wildly creative, had a big heart, and an even bigger personality. This may be one of the reasons we are still in love with her fashion influence today. Lilly was described at one point as being more of just a truly creative individual rather than a business woman. When the stress of the job became too much, her role ended eventually filing for bankruptcy when the 90’s begged for minimalistic designs. The company moved on to new ownership, however, and Lilly still kept her spirit alive as a creative consultant.
Floral And Pastels
It’s time to dress up for everyone’s spring holiday, Easter! Pastel colors are often thought of when spring pops up. Pastel blues, pinks, yellows, and greens fill the stores with plastic Easter eggs, candy wrappers, and giant stuffed animal bunnies and chicks. But why are these colors so popular this time of year, though?
Easter Parades were once walked by people adorned in your everyday dark-colored clothing. It wasn’t until the 1870s that men, women, and children began to wear lighter, happier colors. Spring is often a sign for renewal and new life. In the Christian world, Easter is a sign for the resurrection, a new beginning. But even nature agrees that it is time to liven up. The trees start to bloom, the birds decide to come back, and the yellow tulips spring up from the ground, telling us that warmer weather is coming. This idea of new life and nature’s blossom is one of the biggest impacts on spring fashion.
Below are images of a from April 1906 poster illustration called “The Smartest Fashions in Easter Hats, Costumes, and Blouses from The Crowell publishing Company.
Easter Bonnets: Don’t Leave Home Without One!
The Easter Bonnet used to be a staple for women’s fashion. They partially received their origins from the Christian custom of buying new clothes after the Lenten season. It was often common to wear your “Sunday best”. However, once again, Spring is seen as a time for new life and rebirth. So, one of the most common symbols of rebirth we can think of in the spring time is the flower coming into full bloom. Wearing hats is also part of the American tradition called “The Easter Parade”, a Fifth Avenue Parade in New York, which emerged in the 1870’s after the Civil War ended. The unorganized event was a symbol of entering a happier life. After church services, crowds would walk down Fifth Avenue. One million attended the event in 1940. Today, it is less of a religious event and more secular one focused around the size and celebration of the Easter season.