“It was time the government ought to show their tremendous appreciation for everything the fashion industry does. It employs 300,000, it does 1 billion exports and I have felt for quite a long time that we don’t give them enough government moral support for the tremendous work they’re doing.” – Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher
Yesterday, the world lost Britain’s “Iron Lady,” and today we’re featuring the next generation of United Kingdom icons for our “Tuesday Twosome.” The first day of spring falls in March, but it usually doesn’t feel like it until April. Today, it definitely felt like spring had definitely sprung – since it was 80 degrees here in New York! What better outfit to feature for rebirth than Kate Middleton in this stunning floral number by Jenny Packham? Here the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are attending a charity polo match in the summer of 2011 outside of Los Angeles. Kate is sporting a silverish lavender De Gournay hand-painted chinoiserie silk dress with taupe L.K. Bennett heels. Prince William looks like a sophisticated prep in a navy blazer, crisp button-down and white trousers.
Lilly Pulitzer automatically brings to mind vivid images of hot pink, bright yellow, and apple green, dancing across summer dresses patterned with fruit and flowers. The heiress-turned-fashion-designer built a business around a simple concept and execution that has remained popular for over 50 years. Lilly Pulitzer was born Lillian Lee McKim on November 10, 1931 to socialite parents in Roslyn, Long Island. She was the middle daughter of three girls, between Mary “Mimsy” Maude and Florence “Flossie” Fitch. Her mother was an heiress to Standard Oil, and Lilly and her sisters attended the Chapin School in Manhattan, alongside a soon-to-be notable classmate, Jacqueline Bouvier. She attended Finch College, before leaving after one semester to work as a midwife’s assistant and as a volunteer at a Veterans Hospital in the Bronx. Shortly after, Lilly married Herbert “Peter” Pulitzer, Jr., after meeting him on vacation in Palm Beach. The grandson of publishing magnate, Joseph Pulitzer, the two enjoyed living on the family’s Florida estate, among groves of citrus trees. After having three kids in five years, and growing bored at home, Lilly started selling juice of the fruit from her husband’s groves. Squeezing the juice out of the fruit stained her clothing, so she made sleeveless shift dresses of brightly-colored cotton. Pulitzer’s customers loved the shifts so much, she started selling them at $22.00 a piece. The dresses soon outsold the juice, quickly moving from Palm Beach to around the world (especially after former classmate Jackie Kennedy started wearing them). The frocks were soon dubbed “Lillys.” In 1959, Pulitzer became the president of her own company, Lilly Pulitzer, Inc., and she designed until the early 1980s. Her brand became popular with some of the wealthiest women in America, including the Kennedys, the Rockerfellers, and the Whitneys. (Fun Fact: This editor was prepping, pun not intended, for a friend’s yuppie-themed party in East Hampton this weekend by whipping out my copy of The Official Preppy Handbook by Lisa Birnbach. She mentions the Lilly Beach Dress as the quintessential item to wear for “lunch on the terrace at the club,” or something “to put on over the bathing suit.”) The company faced bankruptcy in 1984, but was revived by Sugartown Worldwide in the 1990s. Pulitzer retained the role of creative consultant, but was no longer involved in the administration of the company. Eric Wilson of the New York Times reported, “Part of her reluctance to promote herself, she often said, came from her upbringing. She meticulously avoided personal publicity, as was once common to people of bottomless wealth, though she remained interested in the company.” Ha, if only the so-called “elites” of now retained the same kind of old-world modesty – the dreadful “Real Housewives” or the Kardashians would never exist… Lilly Pulitzer was as bright, sophisticated and classic as the brand and era she represented. The “Queen of Prep” will be sorely missed.
Yesterday, the “Queen of Prep” Lilly Pulitzer died at the age of 81 in her home in Palm Beach. For today’s “Look-of-the-Day,” we’re featuring one of her former classmates from the Chapin School in Manhattan – Miss Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy. We actually had the photo of Jackie saved in our folder of favorite summer looks, but couldn’t find the designer. But then the photo popped up all over the place today, due to Pulitzer’s death. Here, the former First Lady is wearing a yellow and white gingham print shift dress that she wore during a LIFE photo shoot. Kennedy was one of the first celebrities to wear Pulitzer’s shift dresses, which were eventually nicknamed “Lillys.” Perfect look for spring & summer!
This editor tends to be more romantic than the other, so when I opted to write our piece on Claddagh rings, I couldn’t help but talk about the embellished and romanticized version behind its origin. Legend has it that a fisherman by the name of Robert Joyce left his native town “Claddagh” in Galway (pictured, below right), on the western coast of Ireland, for the West Indies when his ship was taken over by pirates. He was forced into slavery and sold to a goldsmith. There, while perfecting his new craft, he designed the first Claddagh ring as a symbol of his undying love for his lassie back home. The two joining hands holding a heart represent friendship, the crown sitting atop the heart signifies loyalty and lasting fidelity, while the heart itself is the sign for eternal love and devotion. After years of imprisonment, Joyce finally gained his freedom when King William III ordered the release of all slaves in 1689. Joyce hoped to return to the arms of Margaret, his long lost love. There, he found her… still waiting. They spent the rest of their lives together without the Claddagh ever leaving Margaret’s hand. Whatever the legend may be about their romance and the ring, Joyce’s initials do appear on one of the oldest surviving Claddagh rings. Other rings of that era bare initials of another goldsmith named Thomas Meade.
The very first rings these editors were ever given were small, silver Claddaghs gifted to us by our Italian mother, who wanted us to be proud of our heritage and the history behind the Claddagh. (Which is interesting, because it belongs to a group of European rings called fede rings, which comes from the Italian phrase, “mani in fede,” meaning, “hands joined in faith or loyalty.” Also, traditionally, in the US and Ireland, Claddagh rings are supposed to be handed down mother to daughter, or grandmother to granddaughter.) Although our mom isn’t Irish at all, she always cherished its symbolism and history. The Claddagh hadn’t held significant meaning to this editor again, until thirteen years later, when my future husband gifted me a gold Claddagh ring for our one month anniversary. I still wear it with my matching pendant he got me later on. <3
Fun Fact: There are special meanings to the ring, depending on how the Claddagh is worn. If it’s worn on your left ring finger, with the heart facing you, you are married or, by all means, spoken for. If the heart is facing outward on the left ring finger, it means to you’re engaged. If you have a Claddagh ring on your right ring finger, with the heart facing inward, it means you’re in a relationship. And if the ring’s heart is facing outward on the right ring finger, it means you’re single and looking for love. Finally, if your Claddagh appears on any old finger, we guess it just represents Irish heritage. Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
The Quiet Man may be the most noticeable movie in America about Ireland, and is always a St. Patrick’s Day favorite. John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara star in the 1952 film about an American boxer, Sean Thornton, that falls for a surly, sharp-tongued spinster named Mary Kate Danaher (love it!) Here, O’Hara is wearing a black-belted green floral dress, adorned with white buttons and a lace-trimmed collar. Without the wide collar, this would actually look pretty modern otherwise, and the material makes O’Hara’s emerald eyes pop (pictured, below). She tops it off with a wide-brimmed straw hat, which looks gorgeous against her red locks. According to IMDb, the national color of Ireland (green) is shown in nearly every shot of the film, but it only appears on one costume in the entire movie – this one. Which makes sense, since it’s the first instance in the film when Mary Kate and Sean kiss! Apparently bad weather and bickering is what gets the Irish going! Erin Go Bragh! <3
The Irish love to laugh, and it seems our humor is pretty dark, because only a Gaelic comedy could be named Widows’ Peak. In the 1994 film, marriage, money, death and chastity come into play in this story of some sour and sweet single ladies. The late Natasha Richardson plays the beautiful Edwina Broome, a mysterious woman that moves into an Irish neighborhood during the 1920s. Here, she’s riding with her new friend, Mrs. Doyle-Counihan (Joan Plowright) in a stunning cream dress, layers of long pearls, delicate white gloves, and a classic 1920s hat adorned with a flower. The costume designer of this film was Consolata Boyle, who got the period clothing from Angels and Berman, Costumi d’Arte and the European Costume Company.
We had a little trouble coming up with an Irish gown for “Fancy Friday,” and then remembered the 1992 film Far and Away! Former spouses Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise star in the Ron Howard movie about Irish immigrants coming to America during the late 1800s, to stake their claim in American soil. Kidman plays Shannon Christie, a wealthy girl who grows dissatisfied with her parents’ traditional views, and leaves for the US with Cruise’s character, Joseph Donnelly. Shannon is accustomed to a cushier lifestyle than Joseph, so she emigrates across the ocean more dressed-up than her male companion. She’s wearing a royal blue gown with a velvet top, leather gloves and purse, and a couple of fancy hats. Shannon soon learns that rich clothing isn’t going to get her anywhere in this new land… Life is much tougher without money. But she and Joseph decide to take part in a race across the wide plains of the Oklahoma Territory, in which the victors win part of the vast land! Costume designer Joanna Johnston, who just celebrated her first Academy Award nomination for Lincoln, outfitted the film. Fun Fact: Three of Ron Howard’s great-grandparents actually rode in the Great Land Run of 1893!
Orla Kiely’s name might sound familiar to you, but her prints are so recognizable, it’s a wonder her name isn’t as popular as her famous patterns! In honor of “Irish Week,” we’re celebrating the creative Dublin-born designer and her beautiful achievements in the fashion world. Kiely is famous for her mod prints of items found in nature, and her most popular pattern is her “Stem” design (pictured, top right), which appears on clothing, furniture, accessories, dinnerware, and cars! Kiely was born in the capital of Ireland in 1964, and it is a decade that has influenced her ever since. Her throwback patterns look straight out of that era, and the designer admits her childhood heavily influenced her style. In 2010, she spoke of growing up in the 1960s to The Independent, “It was lovely… The greens, the yellows … the clouds, the skies and the sea. In a sense, it’s not colorful, but you do see accents in the wild flowers by the road, or the yellow gorse on the mountains. I love all those dirty colors – and mixed in with sharp brights they look more sophisticated.” Kiely originally worked for a wallpaper designer in New York, after studying at Dublin’s National College of Art and Design. After moving to London to work for Esprit, she earned her Master’s in knitwear at the Royal College of Art. At her graduation show at the RCA, Kiely displayed her own line of hats, which a buyer from Harrod’s purchased. Later, she did design work for Marks & Spencer, and Habitat. According to the New York Times, during Kiely’s first appearance at London Fashion Week, her father noticed all the girls were carrying handbags, and no one was wearing a hat. This led Kiely to a whole new realm – pocketbooks! They took off, and by the late 1990s, Kiely came up with the idea of laminating cloth for handbags, and in 1997, she formed The Orla Kiely Partnership with her husband, Dermott Rowan, with who she has two sons, Robert and Hamish. In February 2009, Target introduced a line of home decor featuring the nature patterns of Miss Orla’s mind. More recently, Kiely’s work became even more popular when Kate Middleton sported two frocks of hers last year. The first, a walnut brown bird-patterned dress coat Kate wore while visiting schools in Oxford that sold out within minutes (pictured, above right). The second was the gray accordion dress the princess wore last March (pictured, above left), while visiting the Dulwich Picture Gallery (which made it into our Top 10 Outfits of 2012!) But the Duchess of Cambridge isn’t the only celebrity in love with Orla’s designs – her clothing has been spotted on Kirsten Dunst, Alexa Chung, and Keira Knightley. Kiely is also a visiting professor of textiles at her Alma mater, the Royal College of Art, and published her own book of patterns in 2010 called, what else, Pattern. Kiely’s designs may be retro, but they’re certainly not going out of style any time soon!
Ondine tells the tale of a woman (Alicja Bachleda) that ends up in the net of an Irish fisherman (Colin Farrell), and he and his daughter attempt to figure out if she’s just a pretty girl, or possibly a nymph from the sea. I guess we’re kind of ruining the ending by showing this scene, although we’re not telling if she’s a woman, or a Selke. But we just love Ondine’s simple white, capped-sleeve wedding gown. The dress’s eyelet detailing actually looks like a Celtic design, and the knee-length silk veil with tiny flower buds on the bottom looks lovely on Ondine’s loose mermaid waves. It’s the perfect bridal look for an Irish wedding on a fishing boat. Especially when the bride may actually hail from the sea…