How many Cincinnati favorites can you name?
If you rattled off Skyline chili, the Montgomery Inn’s barbecued ribs, Graeter’s ice cream and the Cincinnati Reds, you’re well on your way to recognizing the local symbols that you can spot in an unlikely place – the fitting rooms of Lilly Pulitzer’s Kenwood Towne Center store.
Lilly Pulitzer, the fashion designer known for her bright, colorful prints, got her start by making sleeveless cotton shift dresses to wear while working at a juice stand stocked with produce from her husband’s Florida citrus orange groves. She received so many compliments on her dresses that she started her own company in 1959. When Jackie Kennedy, a school friend of Lilly’s, was featured on the cover of LIFE magazine wearing a “Lilly” in the early 1960s, the dresses took off. Lillys were popular until the early 1980s, when the company closed, but the brand was revived in the early 1990s. Today, Lilly Pulitzer makes clothing, shoes, jewelry, accessories, stationery, and special collections like sorority prints and horoscope scarves. If you can spot Lilly’s name incorporated in the design of the silkscreened print, you know it’s a Lilly.
I’ve loved wearing Lillys for years. In the height of the preppy era, my mother made me a shirtwaist dress with pink violets on a yellow background, yellow elephant pants and a white shirt with matching epaulets, a lavender lion wraparound skirt, and matching Bermuda bag covers. Now my closet includes a Lilly turquoise seahorse wraparound skirt and a pair of turquoise and yellow bees-and-sunflowers Lilly pants. A detail of them is pictured here. How many “Lillys” can you find?
So when I spotted a brightly colored Lilly Pulitzer shopping bag at the Taft Museum of Art a couple of weeks ago, I was excited to learn from its owner that Lilly Pulitzer had opened a Cincinnati store in May. I stopped by to see it last Saturday.
Coral chandeliers, mirrors framed by shells, and walls bordered with real and hand-painted shells express the brand’s Florida heritage.
Inspired by local Cincinnati favorites, Lilly Pulitzer’s print designers made the fitting rooms extra-special. When I saw lime-green bamboo chairs, a pink and blue trellis-pattern carpet, and the same bold floral design I’d seen on the shopping bag, I knew this section of the store was going to be great.
It was so hard to tear myself away from this room that I think we should spend some extra time here. Can you spot the Montgomery Inn and La Rosa’s Pizzeria symbols in this corner? The Cincinnati store is the first to have a very special fitting room with a door replicating Lilly’s actual front door in Palm Beach, Florida. A nifty lime green wallpaper patterned with drawings and facts about Lilly is inside. Another fitting room celebrates Lilly’s motto of living the high life. “That’s what life is all about: Let’s have a party!,” proclaims one of the begonia-pink walls. Shadow boxes of vintage Lilly ephemera and champagne corks dotting the ceiling complete the party look.
“Paint the town pink!,” says another room with mint green walls adorned with artists’ palettes. Lilly Pulitzer never goes out of style. For more on Lilly, who passed away in April 2013, read Lilly: Palm Beach, Tropical Exuberance, and the Birth of a Fashion Legend, by Kathryn Livingston. Also check out Essentially Lilly: A Guide to Colorful Holidays and Essentially Lilly: A Guide to Colorful Entertaining, both by Lilly Pulitzer and Jay Mulvaney.