It's hard to resist the sunny Lilly lifestyle
FILE - In this Saturday Sept. 21, 2002, file photo, Lilly Pulitzer reacts to cheers after the showing of her spring 2003 fashions in New York, 2002. P ulitzer, known for her tropical print dresses, died in Florida at 81 on Sunday, April, 7, 2013. ( (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)
You can spot a Lilly lady from what seems like a mile away.
She is wearing that rainbow of color, a cheeky print and, most likely, a smile on her face.
What Lilly Pulitzer did for fashion is more a story about what she did for women: She made them happy. She made them laugh. She gave them a mini vacation.
"Her clothes were transporting," said Adam Glassman, creative director of O, The Oprah Magazine. "You automatically think of Palm Beach, or sunny California in a Slim Aarons photograph."
Lilly Pulitzer died Sunday at her home in Palm Beach, Fla. She was 81.
She had launched her business in the 1950s — by accident. She was socialite with time to spare and a wealthy husband who owned citrus groves, so she started a juice stand on a busy shopping street. She needed dresses in tropical prints (no dowdy aprons for Lilly!) that would hide stains. The loose, sleeveless cotton shape that came to be known as the shift was perfect for the task and local climate.
"I designed collections around whatever struck my fancy ... fruits, vegetables, politics or peacocks! I entered in with no business sense. It was a total change of life for me, but it made people happy," Pulitzer told The Associated Press in 2009.
Her clothes, and later accessories and home goods, weren't dictated by runway trends or sweeping sociological statements: They were about lifestyle, and a lifestyle that real people had or, at least, wanted.
FILE - This Thursday, April 15, 2004, file photo, shows a retail clothing store on Newbury Street in Boston, Wednesday, June 11, 2003, which features the trademark colorful Lilly Pulitzer fashion line, made famous in Florida in the 1960s. Pulitzer, died in Florida at 81 on Sunday, April, 7, 2013. ( (AP Photo/Chitose Suzuki)
Few people wear their Lilly Pulitzer pieces on a dreary day, or to a routine dental appointment or a boring business meeting. You see them at baby showers, weddings, and garden and pool parties.
You'll see them on little girls, their mothers and grandmothers, because no one corners the market when it comes to being cheerful.
Pulitzer and the company she sold her name to court women of different ages, body types and hometowns, Glassman noted, but what links them all together is a "life's a party" attitude.
There's a broader audience than one might think for pineapple-printed swimsuits and monkey-covered caftans. They're almost a given for a Southern belle or a Nantucket prepster, but even cosmopolitan city sophisticates can't wait to pull out their sunniest styles and head out to the Hamptons.
The brand was purposefully inclusive, said Janie Schoenborn, now the vice president of creative communications of Lilly Pulitzer's former company. "If someone is wearing the same print, you high five them! I don't want to use the word 'club,' though, because that seems exclusive. Anyone who is happy and wants to have a good time can come to our party."