Monday, May 22, 2017

On Basque Prep's Mind: Is Lilly Pulitzer even Lilly Pulitzer anymore?

Kaixo everyone,

Disclaimer: I am no journalist. I mean, many act like it, but like any other job, it is hard (sorry peeps, The Odyssey only does not count. But it is a great start!). Whenever my best friend (who actually is a journalist) talks about the ups and downs and details and formatting and word choice and all the shebang, I start to hyperventilate and go back to my safe haven of sounds, languages and L2 acquisition. However, I have always had a knack for writing. Before this blog, I had two, and one of them was pretty successful (my mom was NOT the only reader). Even some actual journalist friends said I had a good style of writing (YAY!). So please, I would like to introduce a new series called On Basque Prep's Mind. This could be a bust, but I also feel like it could be fun to share my thoughts here, no matter how silly the topic may be. After all, it's my little corner of the internet.

So with that being said, let's talk business. Let's talk about the pink and green elephant in the room. Lilly Pulitzer. The epitome of Southern belles, sorority girls, Northeastern preps, some West Coast outliers and yours truly. Bright colors, fun styles, and cheeky print names. For me, it means TONS of saving up and eagerly waiting for those cherished store visits that usually happen once or twice a year.

I started to fall in love with the brand right before moving to the USA. My senior year of college, I had just moved back from my study abroad year in Colorado, and I was having major star and stripes FOMO. I missed my friends, the whole American college experience, real deal BBQ sauce and even my language skills (gentle reminder that I'm a linguist. I panic at losing my English the minute I set foot in Spain). So I started reading blogs. Tons and tons and tons of blogs. I literally looked up "fashion blogs" on Google (#amateurhour, I know). And that's when I started seeing Lilly. At first, they looked like a unicorn had puked on someone's shorts. But then, they started to evoke dreamy East Coast beaches, poplars and summer nights. It represented a dream life (or at least a two-week vacation) and I was sold.

However, what once made me feel happy and excited, is now a series of sad disappointments. At first, I thought my style was evolving back into simpler, cleaner cuts and less busy colors, but there are definitely more reasons involved. Without going into more details concerning the decline in quality, these are the main changes I have noticed:

Let's take a trip back to memory lane, and see some prints of 2012-2013, back when I was finishing college:

I could see myself wearing any of these prints. Look at them. They are varied in colors, patterns, and themes. You have animals, sea life, plants, artsy forms and real-life products, but they all evoke a different setting, feeling and response to them. They are visually pleasing, not busy, and in my opinion, artistically well-crafted. I particularly like that they stick to a limited number of colors for each, and each part of the print is well-defined and differentiated from the others. Look at the print on the lower right corner: You have stripes and superposed flowers with the same color scheme. These were original prints, the objects represented are easy to discern and they are definitely different from each other.

However, look at the prints now: 

These are some of the current prints you can purchase from Lilly. If we compare them to the previous prints, we see the following: The colors are very, very similar to each other. Apparently, originality is no longer part of the dictionary at Lilly. Apart from Ceviche, the rightmost print in the second row, the rest of the prints are barely lined, the limit between the objects can be barely traced. The prints are also overwhelmingly busy. Like, beware for color-induced epileptic episodes, y'all. There are also no contrasts between lighter and darker colors. As a paler person, darker colors usually look better on me, and pastels and light colors make my nuclear-white skin tone even whiter and/or pastier. There really is no need.

In general, although somewhat aesthetically pleasing, the newer prints are not inspiring, and it does not make me want to wear any of them. The only one I could consider would be the Ceviche print. How could the prints of my beloved brand go from everything I wanted to a hard pass? *Cries*

When she started the brand, Lilly Pulitzer used colorful fabrics to hide juice stains and chose the fabrics that could hide the wearers' gin bellies. My kind of gal! (although I'm more of a vodka person myself). So back when I discovered the brand, Lilly still offered beautiful shifts true to the brand's roots, season-appropriate garments and sturdy, good-quality materials.

Now, it's all about #Resort365, itty-bitty lengths and styles, Forever21 trends at triple the price and silk that breaks just by looking at it. #Resort365 refers to the idea that Southern Florida weather is a year-long affair. Thus, pineapple prints, monkeys and the 25 millionth rendition of seaweed and algae are the prints to be worn in let's say, November. It is definitely acceptable to wear that in November. If you feel like it, you absolutely should. No one should tell you what or how to dress like. However, I do miss darker colors and more season appropriate prints. If you want to keep selling pineapple prints, by all means do it, but please do not forget that most of us do not live in Florida. I am the kind of person who does not care about what others think about my outfit, but it is impossible not to feel self-conscious wearing seaweed in the cold Midwestern winter.

Other aspects of Lilly Pulitzer that make me want to buy the brand less and less are the new, more trendier styles like crop-sets, super-short dresses, off the shoulder styles and tassels. They are darling, but they really do not go well with my body. I am a size 8 and I range from size S to M in Lilly, which is not bad at all, but whenever I try any of the new styles, I feel it's too revealing, too short and too flimsy. Anytime I read the reviews of new dresses, everyone says "too short." At 5'8, I do not want to risk it. Moreover, all stores from AEO, to Loft, to ASOS sell off the shoulder styles and tassels. Unlike previous timeless Lilly styles, these seem to be trends that come and go. At the Lilly price-point, I would much rather buy them at any of these way cheaper stores. Basically, Lilly, You! Are! Not! Forever! 21! 

Anyone remember that time when during Cyber Monday, Lilly offered the Palm Beach Tote in Gimme Some Leg? I was supposed to get that according to my receipt (read more about it here), but I got some earrings (EL-OH-EL!). It was definitely a free gift, and it is better than nothing, but my receipt showed an image of the bag. I called Customer Service a couple of times, and the first representative was, pardon my French, a Class A B*tch. She sounded exasperated from the very beginning. I do understand that it can happen after a long day of work, but I called at 10 a.m., and as someone who has worked in retail, I know that you will encounter unhappy customers, and you should learn to deal with it without treating them as if they were dumb. The second representative was way nicer, and should probably teach lessons to the first one.

Last Sunday, I had the chance to have one of my cherished Lilly store visits that occur once in a blue moon to return a dress that was too big on me. I wanted to exchange it for something new, but unfortunately, I left the store completely empty-handed. It was sad, and it made me think of everything I've written above.

All in all, Lilly needs a revamp, pronto. It needs to go back to its roots and consider its more traditional clientele. I do not mean that the younger, trendier clientele should be shunned, but they should not be the one and only focus. EVERYONE should be considered. So basically:

- Make better, more distinguishable, less busy prints.
- Bring more traditional styles back. Leave off the shoulder and tassels to tween mall favorites, and bring back those gin-belly hiding materials!
- Consider all seasons, not everyone lives in Florida or has the money to vacation there constantly (lol, if only!).
- Quality control. Like, right now. Also, tell your customer service peeps to be less rude. Getting hung up is SO not okay.

What do y'all think? Do you like this shift from traditional to trendy? How do you feel about Lilly Pulitzer? Let me know!

- Ane

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