Standing with the Daytona International Speedway in the distance behind me I stared up at the large pink letters above the entrance. I took a deep breath, clutched my leather wristlet, and stepped inside the store. Beneath the glow of perfect lighting I allowed my hands to graze across racks of colorful dresses.
If you were to encompass all that is Florida into one clothing brand it would without a doubt be Lilly Pulitzer. The iconic dresses once worn by likes of Jackie Kennedy are bright, fun, and “loud” as my Pappaw would say.
They honestly are just as much a status symbol as Ray Ban sunglasses or Kate Spade handbags are. Throw Tory Burch into the mix and you’ve crossed the fashion bridge into “luxury.”
I love Lilly. I love the illusion of an eternal summer stitched into shift dresses. I love the classy and preppy persona associated with each unique piece.
Most of my Lilly collection has been purchased during cyber annual sales, from friends, or consignment. Let’s be honest here... I don’t own beach front property, play tennis, or carry a dog in a handbag. Of course, that’s not to say I don’t enjoy dreaming about living a life of that sort.
I picked up several dresses, and a sales associate started a fitting room for me. I browsed the clearance racks and held up several pieces of jewelry. Another customer close by commented on a necklace I had my eye on and struck up a conversation.
I shared with her I was on vacation, visiting from Kentucky. It was obvious she was a local or at least “semi local.” The manager knew her on a first name basis.
She jokingly rolled her eyes and laughed when I bragged on the neat location of the new shop. She responded with, “It’s so tacky,” she said. “Personally, I don’t think it’s the best fit.”
Insecure Erinn was taken back. I immediately felt my face get flushed. I honestly felt the urge to leave. Who was I kidding — I didn’t “fit” into the dynamic of this store, this crowd, this mirage?
I stood there in my cotton day dress and I glanced down at my gold slides from Poshmark. I panicked and wondered if I looked like I was trying too hard.
I could’ve put my items back. I could’ve told this random stranger all about herself. I could’ve felt self-conscious and awkward... but I didn’t.
I was polite. I smiled and told her I hoped she had a great day, and I walked my tan self into the dressing room.
I left with two new treasures under $100 and a new sense of self pride. My momma raised me to be exactly who I am. I don’t need self-validation. I don’t have to fit in.
I signed up for a monthly newsletter and dangled my hot pink shopping bag from my wrist like a true southern lady with distinct style as I left the store.
For what it’s worth, I pray none of us ever feel like we don’t “fit” or belong.
I laugh to myself thinking about Lilly Pulitzer’s humble beginnings. Barefoot with a monkey on her shoulder she ran a local juice stand in Palm Beach, Florida. Some of her dresses were fashioned from old curtains with busy patterns so juice stains weren’t as visible. She certainly wasn’t the best “fit” for everyone, neither am I, and that’s just fine.
Live your life to the fullest, buy the “loud” dress and wear it like it was designed just for you. I can promise you I will, I might even buy the matching shoes just for fun.
“Being happy never goes out of style.” – Lilly Pulitzer
Erinn Williams is originally from Williamsburg, and now resides in Owensboro, Ky. The daughter of a teacher and a preacher, she hopes to make a difference through her words. She serves as a teacher's assistant in Daviess County, and writes for two newspapers in Western Kentucky. She can be contacted at email@example.com.