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The Real Lilly Pulitzer Wasn't a Snob

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images

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The Lilly Pulitzer for Target line was controversial from the get-go, and the sold-out collection continues to get both Lilly fans and print haters riled up. From the moment the collab was announced, Lilly diehards tweeted things like, "Lilly Pulitzer is turning over her grave right now that her legacy is being sold at TARGET." When all the products sold out in minutes, shoppers expressed their anger over eBay resellers who sold hammocks for astronomical prices. Then Lilly Pulitzer fans felt they had to speak out against reviews and think pieces bashing the brand.

Now prep authority Lisa Birnbach, author of 1980's The Official Preppy Handbook, has been dragged into the debate. In an essay for The Cut, Birnbach writes, "In their furious quest to shore up their side of the battle, the anti-Lilly-via-Big-Box-Retail-Brigade have begun targeting me, a "spokesperson" for old school and old style, thanks to the Preppy Handbook, to weigh in against the venture." But Birnbach isn't exactly on their side. She writes about her memories of the real Lilly Pulitzer and what she might've thought of all the outrage:

The Lilly I got to know somewhat, about five years ago, would not have approved of her "defenders." She invented these little frocks to cover up the citrus-juice stains she got when selling orange juice from her husband’s orchards. Down to earth and earthy, she decorated her house with good stuff and with papier-mâché gewgaws. In 2010, when she put her beloved Palm Beach property on the market, she was endlessly amused by the potential buyers who were offended by the family of raccoons who had homesteaded in her driveway. Alexander Theroux once said, "Hypocrisy is the essence of snobbery, but all snobbery is about the problem of belonging." And Pulitzer, despite her last name, was no snob.