- Posted April 7, 2013 by
Vero Beach, Florida
This iReport is part of an assignment:
The written word: Your personal essays
The Legacy of Lilly
The first time I saw a Lilly Pulitzer print I was less than 10. My family had traveled the I-75 corridor to Saint Armand’s Circle to visit with my grandparents who resided in near-by Siesta Key, Florida.
I remember the excitement of seeing my favorite colors, pink and green, in bright and lively prints. It may have been the twenty hour trip from Ohio, with my three brothers, that made me delirious. All I knew in 1973 was this – I wanted one of those dresses!
My mother, the daughter of German-Hungarian immigrants, was the queen of stretching a dollar. She assured me she could me make me a dress just like that. As well-meaning as she was, I would spend decades with those engaging patterns in my head. It was no wonder that a Mid-western girl, like me, wanted to be wearing the frocks like Palm Beach mavens!
Additional trips to Marco Island and the Bahamas would again tempt me to spend my savings for those brightly colored dresses. Eventually, at the age of 30, my husband and I made our home in the Sunshine State. Determined to fully embrace the Lilly label, I realized one thing; the slender cuts were not made for a plus size girl like me.
Some might think that I would have departed from those early Lilly dreams. However, my interests moved to learning more about her as a person. You see, I thought if I can’t dress like her, perhaps I could be like her.
I will never forget the first gift I received as a new mother. It was the, “Essentially Lilly: A Guide to Colorful Entertaining.” Now you need to understand what a joke it was that I had this proudly displayed on my sofa table. My life was in total chaos. I had a one year old with severe developmental delays. Our house also looked like a version of hoarders. And, I rarely let people in our home, let alone entertained.
Now please know that before our son, I did entertain. I felt I was colorful and creative. However, somewhere between being covered in baby food and vomit, I longed to return to being Lillly-ish.
However, that book was the best gift I ever got. I had it proudly placed at the entrance of our home. It was sort of shrine to remind me that I was once elegant and that I would again be a hostess of grace and hospitality.
As time went on my family and friends indulged my Lilly admiration with home decor and accessory gifts. I am not sure if it was living on the Treasure Coast, not far from her Palm Beach home, or if it was merely, that I too was a hostess who enjoyed indulging dear friends with good food and fun.
There was something endearing about her effortless style. Who wouldn’t want to be barefoot and stylish in the company of loved ones?
On another level, there is something that speaks to my entrepreneurial family roots. My grandfather came to this country with less than an eighth grade education. However, we went on to have several patents and become a wealthy businessman with tool cutting plants in the United States and Ireland.
So I find it intriguing that a rich heiress would design prints to hide orange and grapefruit stains. How comical is it that these frocks would become the mark of achievement for wealthy families in America for five generations?
I believe that despite my non-blue blood roots, even my grandfather, would have backed that business model!
I think that Lilly’s bright and lively prints will surely endure. However, for me, an Ohio girl, it is the simple statement that is so often associated with her legacy, “Being happy never goes out of style.”
Now that is something all of us can bank on. Regardless of fortune or waist size – the colorful happiness of life is always within our reach.
The attached photo shows me at a very young age on the beach of Siesta Key. My dress was made by mother. It was not quite a "Lilly" but it was the beginning of my admiration for her colorful designs.