The Lilly Pulitzer brand had humble beginnings. According to the company’s website, things began when Lilly Pulitzer herself owned a juice stand in Palm Beach. To hide the juice stains she would get on her clothes, she wore colorfully patterned dresses, which began to catch the attention of customers and celebrities alike. By the time Jackie Kennedy was pictured on the cover of TIME magazine in 1962 wearing a Lilly dress, the brand had its bearings and its popularity took off from there.
Although Lilly Pulitzer herself passed away in April 2013, her work is alive and well in the hands of designers carrying on her craft today. Each Lilly print and pattern is designed in the company’s print studio, where designers “sketch, draw, marker, watercolor and block-print every tidbit of the line,” according to the website. Designers also continue to incorporate the tradition of hiding the word “LILLY” in every print.
Sydney Scheiding, a freshman hospitality major, believes that the Lilly brand’s success lives on due largely in part to the constant release of fresh designs, prints and patterns each season.
“[The brand is] constantly changing prints and styles and always incorporating the season’s best and brightest colors,” she said. “It’s just very classic. And it’s hard for something that’s so classic to just become unpopular. Another thing is that Lilly dresses never really go out of style and they’re made really well, so they last forever.”
College students don’t have to go far to get their Lilly fill either. The nearest Lilly Pulitzer retail store is located in Winter Park — just miles from UCF, Rollins College and Valencia College — and sees a lot of business from college-age students.
“We have a number of college students [who] shop with us. Between UCF, Rollins and Valencia, around 20 to 30 percent of our business is college-age,” said Hillary Staley, assistant manager at the Winter Park location, in an email. “Certain products and certain times of year increase that number significantly.”
And while some people are off-put by pricey brand-name apparel, there are ways for college students on a budget to avoid breaking the bank.
Scheiding cites the brand’s annual sale as one of them and said she got a dress that was normally priced at $188 for only $70 during the sale.
“I get a lot of stuff when it’s on sale or during [the Lilly Pulitzer] annual sale, or if Dillard’s or Belk is having a big deal some weekends,” Scheiding said. “I’m also pretty tiny and have learned that I can actually wear the kids’ sizes, which are about half the price.”
The Winter Park location also offers the occasional special sale or big event. Staley estimated that around 200 customers visit the store each day, but when the store hosts special events, hundreds more will drop by. Hot-selling items include agendas with monograms, shorts and classic shift dresses.
“Lilly is a happy brand, full of color and optimism. Plus, it’s always appropriate,” Staley said. “You can live your whole life in Lilly. It appeals to all ages and we have items that are affordable, as well as dresses for those special occasions.”
Scheiding agreed and holds true to her own testament of the brand’s knack for creating bright, cheery patterns. She also proves her love for Lilly with her extensive collection of its products, which includes five dresses, tops, shorts, a bikini, two wallets, a beach bag and a phone case.
“I like [the Lilly Pulitzer brand] because it’s very colorful and very Florida, and [it] has so many different patterns and styles. It’s very classy without being too conservative and it’s just something that sets you apart, even though many other people wear it,” Scheiding said.