(A revised version of this story can be found online at TheAlligator.org. All images are from the Feb. 5, 2011 Ringling in Bloom event, taken by me)
Lilly Pulitzer Rousseau, the famed fashion icon who used a juice stand uniform to start her Floridian fashion empire in the early 1960s, died Sunday in Palm Beach at the age of 81.
Gracie Carryl, an 18-year-old UF family, youth and community sciences freshman, said she will remember Pulitzer’s remarkable generosity towards her family when they dined at her home in 2004, as part of her father’s business convention spouse’s retreat.
“She was so kind and sweet that she invited the whole family over for lunch the next day, too,” Carryl said.
A few days later, the family received a handwritten thank you note from Pulitzer herself.
“She was such a genuine person. It’s sad to see such a legend go, but she probably lived one of the best lives of anyone,” she said.
Susan Hines, owner of local Lilly Pulitzer Specialty Store The Colorful Gator, said she was saddened to hear of Pulitzer’s passing but knows the Lilly Pulitzer company will keep her spirit alive.
“The one thing we love about Lilly is the slogan, ‘Lead a colorful life.’ Bright colors make people happy, and we love that she was a pioneer,” Hines said.
Lauren Gonzalez, a 22-year-old UF journalism senior and former sales associate and social media manager at The Colorful Gator, said Pulitzer’s legacy is about so much more than a clothing label.
“I think it’s gotten a reputation for being childlike, colorful and very Palm Beach, but I think there’s a lot more to it than that. It’s about expressing yourself and a love for life and not taking yourself too seriously,” she said.
Pulitzer’s successful transition from a couple of juice-stained dresses to a self-titled clothing line inspired Gonzalez to pursue a career in fashion.
“I think she’s a great role model for women and any designer who wants to be an entrepreneur and start a business. She was into following her heart and her dreams, and that’s what Lilly means to me,” said Gonzalez.