Sunday, April 7, 2013

An Ode to Lilly Pulitzer: 1931-2013

my new favorite role model

image via Lilly Pulitzer

Love it or hate it, if you've lived anywhere south of the Mason-Dixon then you know what Lilly Pulitzer is...but do you really know who Lilly Pulitzer was? Probably not. I was familiar with the Reader's Digest version of her life- a socialite marries the heir to a newspaper fortune, starts a juice company, makes dresses to hide the stains, her long lost bestie Jackie O. wears one, and presto! an empire is born. But, it wasn't until Mrs. Pulitzer Rousseau died that her story truly caught my attention.  ABC News posted in their obituary that,

"Despite having money and being well-known on the society circuit, Pulitzer told People Magazine she was so miserable that she landed in a Westchester, N.Y., mental hospital for six months.  'I went crazy,' Pulitzer told the magazine in 1982. 'I was a namby-pamby; people always made decisions for me. The doctor said I should find something to do.' Pulitzer began juicing citrus grown at her family's groves, but was always covered in juice at the end of the work day...'[the clothing line] was a total change of life for me,' she told W Magazine in 2008. 'I entered it with no business sense. ... It was just something that I all of a sudden took over.' "

Why doesn't anyone tell this part of her story?  I know it's not the most glamorous part of her tale, but let's face it: Lilly Pulitzer is/was a bad-ass.  It takes a lot of guts to publicly admit and discuss any kind of personal problem, especially with current stigmas around mental illness.  Lilly not only shattered her bell-jar and got the help she needed, but she thrived enough to discover her own passions as an individual at time when trophy-wives were at an all time high. Plus, she managed to simultaneously turn herself into a household name and a business mogul just by taking the plunge and doing what made her happy. So today, in honor of Lilly's indomitable optimism, let's raise a glass and remember her not only as a woman of impeccable taste but also as a woman of great strength and spirit.

image via People

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