Inside the Cult of Lilly Pulitzer: Catfights, Mean Girls, Ebay and Sample Sale Madness

Is all press good press?


The setting of Lilly Pulitzer for Target’s fashion preview. | Target.

Call it the year of Lilly Pulitzer.

The Palm Beach-prep brand has whirled its way into the headlines — again and again — this year, a funny thing, actually, as most associate the tony brand with preppy blue bloods who pride themselves on discretion and refined decorum. (See: Jackie Kennedy.)

Not anymore. With a collection for Target and a splashy behind-the-scenes photo shoot for The Cut, New York magazine’s fashion blog, Lilly Pulitzer is now on the minds of even the most Rick Owens-obsessed, urban-warrior, I-only-wear-black women. Still, is all press good press?

If you ask Urban Outfitters, well, the answer is a big, fat Indian headdress-wearing yes. But for a conservative brand like Lilly? Well, judging by the fervor surrounding its Target launch and its annual sample sale (which, by the way, kicked off this morning), it certainly hasn’t hurt.

Missed all the fuss? Here’s a quick primer. 

January: Lilly announces its collaboration with Target! Great news, right? Not so fast. Lilly die-hards are pissed. Call it attack of the Mean Girls.

January: Now, the fine print: The Lilly for Target collection will include plus sizes, only they won’t be available to purchase in stores, only online. Outrage ensues.

April: Lilly for Target launches the morning 19th. The lines outside Target stores snake around parking lots. Women swipe entire racks of items into their carts. It’s chaos.

April: Within hours, tens of thousands of listings for Lilly for Target items appear on Ebay, at ridiculously marked-up prices.

May: The Cut visits Lilly’s King of Prussia HQ. They find: freeze-dried palm trees, a ping-pong table, pink-and-green everything … and illustrated reminders to “Put it down, carb-face.” Cue fat-shaming accusations.

June: Sample sale madness. (“The best friend you had in line? You’d walk over her dead body to get to the same dress.”)

In the end, though, Lilly lovers are loyal. They’ll be there — wearing a bright green palm-print shift dress — while the brand weathers all storms. And, come to think of it, they probably don’t even consider them storms. After all, it never rains on Lilly’s beach.

Oh, and about that sample sale? It goes through Saturday at the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center in Oaks. Before you go, check out our insider guide to finding the best stuff. (Prime tip: It’s actually best to get chummy with that girl next to you in line. You just might want her castoffs.)