Why Are Women So Furious About the Lilly Pulitzer for Target Collection?

"You can't sit with us."


A preview of the collection for Target. | Photo via Target.

No other designer collaboration has sparked as much vitriol as the Lilly Pulitzer for Target collection. The announcement was initially met with glee. Yay! Lilly! The bluebloods come down to earth! Red plastic Target would turn into a porcelain teapot of floral shifts! Lilly—God rest her soul—would surely be cheering in her grave at the thought of her clothing—a happy accident, really, the outcome of a fruit juice stand venture (to camouflage fruit stains, she fashioned simple dresses out of colorful floral-print cotton)—now being made available to the masses! Think about it: Instead of going to stuffy debutante balls, she rode donkeys. She’d want everyone to wear her clothes.

Not so fast. These people were misinformed. Lilly, a Palm Beach socialite, they said, would not be happy. In fact, she’d be “turning over in her grave!” Refinery29 rounded up 39 reactions from these furious Lilly die-hards, many of them sounding like classist, bratty sorority mean-girls.

Look closely, though, and you’ll notice two prime arguments rising to the top of the furor. On one side of the palm tree, there are those who are concerned about the preservation of the storied, “prestigious” brand. It was never meant to be wholly mainstream, they say, certainly not in a big-box chain store. Others care less about the brand’s hallowed history and are just pissed at the thought of a less-wealthy person wearing a brand they feel should be reserved for wealthier people, a sort of “If you can’t afford it, it’s not for you” mentality. (See: this chick.)

Where were these mean girls when Prabal Gurung and Missoni popped up in Target stores? There were a few jabs thrown when Alexander Wang partnered with H&M. “Doesn’t change the fact that all these products are H&M. Also known as designed for broke ass people to show off designer clothes with lowest quality fabrics,” sniffed one commenter on a High Snobiety post about the collection. “This is all happening because broke ass wannabees people like you want to hang like you can afford designer clothes. You know what? You Don’t. So don’t chase it if you can’t afford it.”


Adweek‘s take on the surprising backlash was that it highlighted class divisions:

“Target may have partnered with high-end brands in the past, but Lilly Pulitzer is the first old-guard, social-register brand to sign on, and that makes a big difference.”

And Jezebel also hit the nail on the head:

“Add the fact that it’s just expensive, not astronomically far out of reach, which means there’s a bigger population of people peeved because their “I’M FANCY” sign is dealing with some sudden electrical interference. Cohen added that this kind of flip-out isn’t uncommon when you see designers partnering up with the mass market: “[Fans say,] ‘Why would you allow someone to buy the product who’s never bought it before?'”

But who really cares who buys it? Are people who wear full-price Lilly any better than those who shop at the Lilly sample sales? (I dare you to find Lilly fans who do not go weak at the knees at the sample sale.) Also, the real WASPs—those of Lilly Pulitzer ranking who initially catapulted the brand into the spotlight, those steeped in the comfort of what is typically referred to as “old money”—are comfortable enough with their social and financial status to give less than a crap about who else is wearing what and what they paid for it. (Jackie Kennedy wore a Lilly dress made out of kitchen curtain material. Who’s snobby now?)

Here’s the main—only—reason we should be angry about the collaboration. The Lilly Pulitzer for Target collection goes up to a size 26, a wonderful departure from previous collabs (which typically only went up to a size 16), but these plus-sizes will only be available online.

So, pearl-clutchers, I say you channel this anger into something more fruitful. And if you can’t do that, then perhaps you’d better study up on your favorite brand. See, right here? On this page? It’s on the “Our Story” page. Here, let me transcribe it for you:

“We are who we are. Some think that orange is the new black, for us it’s pink. Trends will come and go but our mission is to be essentially Lilly; in how we design our prints and patterns, the shape of our shifts and the way we treat Lilly lovers everywhere. Inclusive. Proud to be different.”