The grand matriarch of monied, blonde WASP summertime, Lilly Pulitzer, has died at 81. The vivid-print fashion designer and Standard Oil fortune descendant shuffled off to a wine-and-cheese croquet match in the sky on Sunday, presumably after a tasteful Episcopalian service and cucumber sandwiches at the Breakers.
Equally appropriate at ominous interfaith Hamptons weddings and Division II football games in Virginia horse country, Pulitzer's designs were light zephyrs that wafted stately debauchery. They paired well with Veuve Clicquot and anything that fits into a Duke coozie.
Pulitzer married into the Pulitzer publishing family in the 1950s and ended up designing clothing not to put food on a table, but to divert herself from the mundanity of her housewifely existence. She is best known for basic designs in bright, tropical prints that cost large amounts of money and joined the pantheon of iconic preppy labels alongside Brooks Brothers and Hickey Freeman. Her brand sold three years ago for $60 million.
Lilly had two sisters named Mimsie and Flossie, and she attended Miss Porter's School. "I designed collections around whatever struck my fancy," she reportedly said: "fruits, vegetables, politics or peacocks." The results were garish and often confounding to the middle-class eye and the male gaze alike, which was to a great extent the point.