Vintage Lilly Pulitzer

The Lilly Pulitzer brand has become ubiquitous. Last spring, Instagram was utterly saturated with the only dress I wanted, the Maisie. Fortunately, I previously purchased the limited release Goop version of it so I did not experience as much FOMO as one would have expected.

I digress.

This is all to say that the only way to not twin with every other Lilly Pulitzer fan, not only on Instagram but more importantly IRL (quelle horreur!), is to wear a vintage item from the brand. I went through a phase in which I straight up stalked eBay for dresses from the 1960s and stocked up in vintage frocks. Anything that Jackie Kennedy, i.e. the original influencer, would have been spotted wearing at Hyannis Port found a home in my closet.

Identifying the Time Frame

How do you know the time frame of your {potential} vintage Lilly Pulitzer dress? The answer is all in the label. First look at the fabric content. If it is one hundred percent cotton, it is truly a first generation dress. The 1960s brought a cotton / poly blend; nearly all of my vintage Lilly dresses are of this generation. A one hundred percent polyester knit was de rigueur, not only for the brand, but in general for 1970s clothing. Hello, Carol Brady.

Lilly Pulitzer retired in the mid-1980s, but the brand was revived in the 1990s. Do you consider the 90s vintage? I don’t, but also I lived through the decade and have clear memories of it. I distinctly remember a front half style feature in Seventeen magazine circa summer 1997 in which the costume designer of the ABC network sitcom Dharma & Greg included a pair of Lilly Pulitzer Bermuda shorts as an article of clothing that lead character, Dharma, would wear. Seems off-brand for the hippie character now that I think about it… These items have a label with a deep navy blue “Lilly” script on a white background.

And for eff’s sake, never purchase the present pink label under the guise of it being vintage. It is not. Need an example of the pink label?

The one on the left is from the standard line. The middle is from the Goop x Lilly collaboration. The one on the right is from the Jubilee line. Though not vintage, if you find a dress from this collection that is a NWT and fits (or can be taken in by a tailor), by all means jump on it.

For further information about labels, I have to refer you to the Vintage Fashion Guild. It is a fantastic resource not only for Lilly Pulitzer but for an extensive array of designers and brands.

Shopping

When perusing eBay for vintage Lilly Pulitzer, I recommend searching for the following, in order of my success:

Since I have purchase most of my vintage from eBay, I have never been able to try on prior to buying. Learn from my lessons:

  • Always look at the measurements of the item. If the measurements are not included in the item listing, then request them from the seller.
  • Vintage Lilly Pulitzer runs small. I only purchase items that are at least a size larger than what I would wear in today’s line. I once fell in love and bought a dress that was four sizes larger than what I would typically wear. A trip to the tailor and I have a dress customized to my size perfectly. I wore it to my birthday party last year.
  • Read the fine print about the item because finding a NWT condition vintage Lilly item is impossible. If you have any doubts about an item, ask the seller if there are any flaws and subsequently, for photos.

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