Tag Archives: middle school memories

I Have One Lilly Pulitzer Dress

“Being happy never goes out of style.” ~Lilly Pulitzer

 When I was in middle school, the pretty girls took off their Fair Isle sweaters in May. They sloughed their turtlenecks with the little whales on them and switched up the covers on their Bermudas bags. Spring meant sunshine and tulips and daffodils and lovely lightweight dresses.

One day, I dared to ask a pretty girl where she found her colorful sleeveless shift.

“It’s not from here,” she said, crossing her arms in front of her very flat chest.

“But where did you get it?”

This particular pretty girl – let’s call her Courtney — flipped her hair and caught it in one hand, a move I could never master.

“It wouldn’t work on you,” she said. “It’s a Lilly.”

Cover of The Official Preppy Handbook

Cover of The Official Preppy Handbook (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

That night, I consulted my Official Preppy Handbook. It showed a photograph of a similar looking dress to the one Courtney had worn in school that day. The handbook stated that Lilly Pulitzer clothing was a “must-have” item for all “preppy” women.

In middle school, I didn’t care that my mother made kick-ass matzah balls.

I just wanted to be a prep.

Looking at myself in the mirror, I thought about Courtney’s words. A little Jewish girl with a big nose, I’d never look good in a casual shift dress. I’d never rock pale pink lip-gloss. At summer camp, when I got off the sailboat, my hair was a frizzy triangular mess. I’d never look like I’d spent the day relaxing on the yacht. Who did I think I was?

About five years ago, I was in Florida shopping with my friend, Jan, when we passed a Lilly Pultizer Shop. I’d never seen one before. We don’t have Lilly Shops in Western, New York. Why would we? We wear sleeping bag coats for most of the year.

Anyway, Jan encouraged me to go in. She may have physically pulled me through the door.

I didn’t think I had any business being there.

But I sifted through the yummy racks filled with whimsical fabrics.

How can you not love orange elephants?

How can you not love orange elephants?

I heard Courtney’s voice in my head.

What was I doing? I was still that Jewish girl. And now I had boobies. Big ones. How was I ever going to fit into anything Lilly? It was ridiculous.

Jan handed me a pile of dresses and commanded I try them on.

And there was this one.

When I came out of the dressing room, the Lilly ladies made a fuss.

{But, you know, they work on commission; they’re paid to smile and coo.}

Still.

I looked at myself in the mirror, and I liked the way I looked.

I’m no socialite.

And I’m decidedly unpreppy.

But I bought it.

Because screw you, Courtney.

It works on me.

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Lily Pulitzer passed away last month, on April 7, 2013 at the age of 81. I am confident her legacy of brightly colored fabrics featuring flamingos & seals & peacocks & turtles & elephants & hippoptamuses & flowers & flowers & flowers will live on forever. A believer in the power of whimsy, I like to think we would have been friends.

• • •

May 14th marks the beginning of my 4th year in the blogosphere. Come back next week because I’m giving away a Lilly Pulitzer handbag, baby!

In the meantime, tell me about something you never thought you could wear/do/be, but you did it anyway!

tweet me @rasjacobson

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