She was a socialite famous for her rollicking parties, then an accidental fashion designer known for simple dresses with loud, splashy patterns.
Lilly Pulitzer's whimsical taste and love for fun was also clear in how colorfully she decorated her sprawling Palm Beach home, which she called "the Jungle" because of its lush, tropical grounds. The house was bursting with personality, from the turquoise front door marked with an "L" to the backyard that was home to a mini Statue of Liberty, cement alligators and a small army of potted plants.
Now, Lilly lovers can bring a bit of her iconic style into their own homes.
Her collection of furniture, knickknacks, paintings and decor is being auctioned Saturday in West Palm Beach. The event is expected to draw a parade of fans from near and far, with many flying in from out of town to place bids on Pulitzer's belongings, left behind when she died in April at 81.
"Besides people that knew and loved her, there's going to be people who just say, 'Oh, Lilly Pulitzer — I would love to have something that she had,'" said friend Peyton Bruns, "because she had such taste."
Among the 295 lots up for grabs Saturday is the Statue of Liberty and alligators from Pulitzer's backyard, a pair of brightly colored Chinese porcelain urns, a pink and green Lilly Pulitzer-designed map of Palm Beach, a Louis XVI-style oak table dining set with pink and orange floral seat covers and an array of animal figurines.
There are flowered sofas, colorfully painted plates and 41 pieces of fine art, including an abstract painting of a dove, one of a Paris street scene, another of Lilly's dog lying on a bed and a pastel sketch of a woman wrapped in a blue shawl.
And then there are the eccentric pieces that showcase Pulitzer's style and her sense of humor: a set of monkey figurines playing instruments and a dog dressed in a yellow jacket, standing on a stool.
The estimated going rates range from $20 for a set of four prints of a tiger in a flowery jungle to $15,000 for a signed oil painting of people sitting at a table of flowers by a French artist named Le Pho.
"Every item had a little story behind it," Bruns said.
Some of it came from Pulitzer's friends and some from her travels, he said. She had a keen eye for spotting good finds — particularly colorful ones. And she threw them together in a way that only she could.
Recent years have seen a revival of the clothing brand that bore her name. It had gotten its start in 1960, after women across the country fell in love with the boldly-patterned shift dresses the young heiress made to hide the stains of the orange juice she sold for fun.
In a time when women were still wearing girdles, it was a revolutionary concept, said Francesca Granata, an assistant professor of fashion studies at Parsons The New School for Design. The colors, too, were new — a "Florida, preppy look that wasn't there before," Granata said.
The company closed in the 1980s after its wild colors and prints fell out of favor. A decade later, it was back, resurrected by a company that bought licensing rights to it. These days, it's popular among preppy young women, especially the college crowd.
The wild patterns that made Lilly Pulitzer so popular 50 years ago remain the company's trademark – with a selection including blue and green elephants looping in circles and yellow and green cats lounging in a jungle – and the shift dress is still a staple.
You won't find any dresses at Saturday's auction. But Pulitzer was loved beyond her brand for her welcoming, fun-loving personality and her attitude toward life – and that's part of the appeal of having something that was once hers, said Maura Ross, a manager at the company putting the event on.
Pulitzer believed life was a party, being happy was always in style and shoes were optional.
"She had that fabulous type of life which people tend to be attracted to," Granata said. "She kind of broke all the rules."
Said Ross, of Leslie Hindman Auctioneers: "I think she is known for being such a wonderful, warm entertainer, decorator, designer — and to be able to own a piece of her well-lived life is a very special thing."
Bruns said he's planning to bid on a few things he's always loved: the dog on the pedestal, a table in the form of a seated man holding the round top and a surreal painting that used to sit on Pulitzer's piano.
He wants, he said, "a little piece of Lilly as a way to remember her."
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The auction starts at 11 a.m. Saturday at 1608 South Dixie Highway in West Palm Beach. Doors open at 8 a.m. For more information, call 561-833-8053 or visit lesliehindman.com