Tomorrow marks the two year anniversary of mess that was Lilly Pulitzer for Target. For us here in the plus size crowd, it was a dream come true. We’ve all longingly stared at the shifts and pined for the blouses but to actually be able to just reach into our closets and pull one on? Paradise. Absolute paradise.
However, we all know what happened in the wee hours of April 19, 2015.
Many of you are long time readers of this blog, but here’s my post from the day after the sale. Yes, I was actually called a bitch over some wine stoppers. Even though the mess was pretty much Target’s fault, I do think the experience soured Lilly as a brand for me. I do look forward to wearing the dresses I got and I love wearing them. In fact, they’re probably coming out of storage in the next week or so. But the other stuff I picked up from Lilly x Target? Beyond the dresses, shoes, and a beach towel it’s all sitting in a storage unit. Those wine stoppers? I think I’ve used them once.
I worked overnights at the time and I spent my entire shift on April 19th on Target’s website. I then went to the nearest Target store (an hour away in Wheeling, WV) and picked up some more stuff. On my way back home, I stopped at the Golden Arches for a bit. I was in Bellaire, Ohio, eating a cheeseburger and looking at the goodies I had just purchased. I hadn’t slept in nearly 24 hours. What really strikes me at that moment, sweet tea in hand, how utterly stupid that day had been. Yes, I love Lilly but between the website debacle and then dealing with idiots in a Target store?
I think it was at that moment, sitting in my rusty Ford Bronco II–the ultimate vehicle for a West Virginian journalist–I think my love for Lilly died. Not completely, but a lot. I haven’t gained it back.
Target aside, I think another reason I’ve lost that Lilly lovin’ feeling is the prints. Mostly gone are the whimsical tropical prints of yore. Now we just get the same reiterations of this crap:
Frankly, they’re a giant mess. It’s like a toddler got a hold of some hot pink and neon blue crayons and went to town on the living room wall. The next round of prints will look just the same, only in different colors. There’s nothing memorable about them. They look like something Forever 21 would produce, should it decide there are other colors in existence beyond olive green or black. Obviously not all the patterns look like this but it seems that like 80% of what’s released is one of these busy “watercolor” patterns. These also seem to be the patterns that make up the accessories line.
Here’s a sampling of some of my favorite patterns:
chomp chomp | pink lemonade | summer classics
u gotta regatta | desert tort | little master of the house
Comparing some of these patterns, I do think there are some common factors. One of my all-time favorite patterns Little Master of the House mixes two things I absolutely love: leopards and paisley print. It’s busy and it’s colorful. To me, what separates it from the “watercolors” is that Little Master of the House seems more thought out. The colors flow together much better. Pink Lemonade is part of the “watercolors” era but it retains what I love about Lilly prints. There’s a sort of whimsical innocence about it, with colors harmonizing that only enhance the pattern.
Earlier this year there was another issue with Lilly and not enough product: the S’well bottles from Starbucks. Again, these sold out quickly and ended up on Ebay for ridiculous prices. The amount of complaining that I saw was just so unattractive. By now we all know that anything Lilly will sell out quickly. No amount of bellyaching will stop this. If you’re so willing to spend that kind of money on a water bottle of all things, you can just as soon spend it on the Lilly website where things don’t seem to magically sell out. It’s so weird. People want everything Lilly except from the website. I remember talking with a woman who spent $150 on one of the Target bags but could have gotten a better bag straight from the source? It just doesn’t make sense to me. Was it because they were limited edition and therefore “rare?”
The there’s all this talk about how Lilly is considered exclusive. True, at one point it was hard to get but that’s before the internet. Now, there are Lilly stores in many malls and it’s available at Dillard’s & Nordie’s and all sorts of other department stores. I haven’t even begun to talk about how easy it is to find online. Honey, Lilly is well past being an exclusive brand. A sartorial acquired taste does not equal exclusive. Goyard totes are exclusive, a Lilly dress is not.
I feel that Lilly is losing her way as a brand. Maybe it’s just me, but I feel like the brand is going through a Coach Poppy (that’ll throw you back to the recession) phase. A part of me will always love Lilly but in the meantime Lilly Pulitzer, it’s you and not me.
UPDATE: SEPTEMBER 3, 2017
This past week was the most recent After Party Sale, one of the two sales Lilly holds a year. I’ve done a variety of posts on how to shop the sale but I think this was the first sale where I didn’t say anything about it. Why? Again, I’ve not been fond of the prints lately. The quality and the materials of the products have also been going downhill for the past few years. Last year around this time at a After Party Sale I bought a wristlet/wallet thing that can also hold your cell phone. I love the design of the wallet, I love that it can hold my phone along with a bunch of cards, etc. But with moderate use it looks like crap. First off, the fabric used is a cheap looking sateen and the “leather” accents are polyurethane. The gold finish on those “leather” accents has rubbed completely, the gold finish on the zipper has come off and the sateen has faded. What boggles my mind is that this wallet originally cost nearly $50.
Lilly has fallen victim to the same phenomenon that has plagued other brands like J.Crew: charging premium prices for items of lesser quality. There’s a remarkable difference in materials and craftsmanship in their merchandise in the past decade. Compare a Lilly shift made in 2007 to one made this year, it’s quite obvious.
Another brand having similar issues is Vera Bradley. They’ve had similar issues in the decline of quality although theirs isn’t quite as bad as Lilly’s. Their patterns are also leaving a lot to be desired as well. I look at my collection consisting of Chelsea Green, Nantucket Red and Navy, Petal Pink, and Pink Elephants. Nothing these days comes close to the whimsy or quality.
Maybe some of my issues are just related to me getting older. At 32, I feel like I’m being phased out of a lot of fashion trends these days. The fast fashion stores are too trendy and the department stores are too stale. However, that doesn’t negate the fact that quality has become so bad lately.