Focus on Fashion Engineers

Honoring Two Great Designers

Lilly Pulitzer

It all started with a juice stand in Palm Beach.  Lilly, a young, sassy New York socialite had eloped with Peter Pulitzer, grandson of the Pulitzer Prize’s Joseph Pulitzer and settled in Palm Beach to live the life of the rich and famous.  Peter owned several Florida citrus groves, but Lilly needed a project of her own.  So in 1960, with Peter’s produce, she opened a juice stand on Via Mizner, just off Worth Avenue in Palm Beach.

Lilly’s business was hit, but squeezing oranges, lemons, and pink grapefruit made a mess of her clothes.  Realizing that she needed a juice stand uniform, Lilly asked her dressmaker to design a dress that would camouflage the stains.  The result?  A comfortable sleeveless shift made of bright, colorful printed cotton in pink, green, yellow and orange.  The dress even had custom dressmaker details like lining and lace seam bindings.  It was perfect for the job and became Lilly’s first classic shift.

Although her customers liked Lilly’s juice, they loved her dress.  When people began to ask if they could buy the dress, Lilly had a few more made up to sell in the stand.  Soon Lilly was selling more dresses than juice, so she decided to stop squeezing and to focus on designing and selling her Lilly originals.  Before long, Jackie Kennedy, an old school chum, began wearing Lilly’s designs and as First Lady was featured in Life Magazine wearing a Classic Shift.  Then, of course, everyone wanted one and Lilly Pulitzer became a fashion sensation.

Bonnie Cashin

Bonnie Cashion was a highly influential innovator in fashion design who created loose-fitting sportswear and light, layered clothing.  She first designed sportswear for the fashion house of Adler & Adler from 1937 to 1943.  Working for Twentieth Century Fox from 1944 to 1949, Cashin designed clothes for some 60 films, including Laura (1944) and The Keys of the Kingdom (1944).  She started her company, Bonnie Cashin Designs, in 1952 and was one of the world’s most prominent designers during the following two decades.

In 1962, Cashin was hired by Gail Leather Products, the original parent company of Coach, as their first designer.  Coach would go on to become one of the world’s most successful purveyors of handbags and other leather products.  Many of the company’s iconic handbag designs still produced and marketed today were created by Bonnie Cashin.

Celebrate National Women’s History Month by sharing the legacy of these two great American designers with your FACS students!

Tomorrow we’re building a bridge and improving automobile safety!  Stay tuned!

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