Monday, January 26, 2015

Lilly Pulitzer and the concept of class

So, here's something that happened this month: The fashion label Lilly Pulitzer announced they were collaborating with Target and some classy, longtime Lilly fans lost their minds. And by lost their minds, obviously I mean they took to Twitter.

Which Refinery29 then cataloged for everyone else's amusement. Allow me to summarize the tweets for you:

But if the poors now have access to Lilly, how will anyone know I'm The Special? #LillyforTarget #whygod

While I think the protestations are snobbish to their core, they don't really surprise me. It's kind of like when a favorite but not very well-known singer gets catapulted to the spotlight and I have that moment of always wanting to be like "but I liked them first!"... minus, of course, the classist bit about hating that poor people might have access to the things I like. 

To me, Lilly Pulitzer--along with Vera Bradley--is the long-standing domain of sorority girls, which I was not, so it never really registered as a fashion option. That said, I'm all for their aggressively preppy accessories, like the tote/grocery bag I bought on clearance (yes, clearance) that has lobsters all over it and says something about buttering me up. 

I'd also be all about their iphone cases, if, you know, I had an iphone. 

The point is, though, it's not a label I dearly love, so I didn't really have a reaction, one way or the other, to the news that Target would feature Lilly. What really chafes my ass though (sorry, is that not a classy thing to say?) is that there are people who, without shame, think they are better than other people based on the clothes they wear and, not just that, but the cost of the clothes they wear.

So many of the arguments against Lilly for Target come down to the brand being too "classy" for an inexpensive mass-retailer, which basically translates to, "it's no longer special if poor people can wear it too." 

Unfortunately, it's not uncommon for people to make fun of designer labels that "slum it" by creating a cheap line that's sold at inexpensive retailers, like Oscar de la Renta at Costco. But why are we making fun? What's the issue? What's wrong with more people having access to designer clothing? Because A) Let's be real--there's clearly going to be a difference between what's sold at Costco and what's sold in a name-sake boutique and B) Is that $1,500 dress you bought really less special because someone was able to buy an Oscar de la Renta sweater at Costco that was cheaper and of less quality? 

It all seems to come down to the bullshit concept of class and what's classy, and, on the other hand, what's not and what's trashy or tacky. As in: "Oh my god, Oscar at Costco?! That's SO tacky!"

The term "class" is synonymous with good breeding and wealth and being of the upper crust, which is apparently what we're all supposed to strive for. As such, being called classy is supposed to be the ultimate compliment and anything opposite that is exactly what you don't want to be.

What's really being said when you call someone classy is, "You're like someone born with money. Good for you." 

And, you know, at 18, when I was incredibly insecure and in awe of Vogue socialites, I probably would've loved if someone complimented me by calling me classy. At 27, though, I only think of drunk Real Housewives shrieking about other bitches not being as classy as they are. 

And, while I'd desperately like to learn the secrets of "classiness," I feel like I'm getting mixed messages. 

Countess Luann, the self-proclaimed queen of class, tells me in her useful primer that money can't buy you class:

And yet, apparently, money spent on expensive Lilly dresses does in fact buy you class. So I don't know who to believe anymore.

But I do know that this bullshit worship of people born into money needs to stop. 

There is nothing inherently special about someone who had the good luck of being born into wealth regardless of how desperately Vogue wants you to think they're special. And you're not special because you spent more on a dress than someone else. 

Can we please find more interesting ways to differentiate ourselves?


  1. It's kind of like when that girl in 7th grade said "Hahahahaa, who gets their clothes at Target?" to the group of three girls who all bought our clothes at Target.

    Yep. Those people are like 13 year old mean girls.

  2. I LOVE Lilly, but all the Lilly I own was purchased on sale. Like, my first Lilly dress wasn't just purchased on Rue La La, but purchased when Rue La La had a clearance sale. My other dresses I bought last summer on sale. Still, I've stuck with the classic patterns so they'll still look good in 10 years, which is the only reason you should spend that much money on clothes. I'm so excited about the Target collaboration so I can buy a few of the crazy patterns even if I'll only wear them for a few years.

    Now, as to the actual substance of your post, I agree 100%. It's awful that people are so snobbish about having money. I've definitely had to fight some elitist thoughts myself, so I understand the initial knee-jerk reaction... but then I tell myself my thoughts are being jerks and to shut up.

  3. I couldn't believe the uproar I saw over the Target and Lilly Pullitzer. It made me almost never want to purchase anything Lilly if that's how the fans react to the public at large being able to afford it.

  4. But, hello! Target is the classy mass-retailer!

    For serious, though, amen to everything you said.

  5. I don't know that I've ever thought about the word "classy" in connection with social class. That just became real distasteful real fast. :P

    Great post! I didn't notice any of this (not surprising; I barely know what store my clothes came from, let alone brand), but you're so right. I shouldn't be surprised that people are ridiculous (hardly a news flash), but I am.

  6. I was psyched out of my mind when I heard that Lilly was doing a Target line. All the stuff I have ever bought has been on sale, so this was totally up my alley. Then I saw all the comments on Instagram and I got So. Pissed. But then I thought it was really funny when people would say "Lilly just lost a loyal fan!" So? They really don't care. They are still making a shit ton of money. And yes, stop acting like "classy" only means that you have money. Money does not equal class. Good manners and treating everyone with respect is class. Good grief! And lastly, of all the things to get upset and waste energy on, they pick this? That says everything about their character.

  7. Hahah. OH MY GOD I LOVE TARGET. Who insults Target??

  8. Hahah, so true. Honestly, people who look down on Target are people who try way too hard.

  9. Haha, right? I feel like it's the same with some musicians--as in, their fans are so awful, it makes me not want anything to do with the actual musician. I do think Lilly Pullitzer's accessories are really cute so I'm curious to see what the Target collab is like...

  10. Haha, it's always disappointing when people prove themselves to be awful...

  11. But didn't you know Kate, Lilly is absolutely rolling over IN HER GRAVE because of this collab. Which is weird, because I feel like the sorority girls (who would be most likely to wear Lilly) I knew loved Target as much as I do. Who doesn't like Target?

  12. Haha, I have to do that with my thoughts sometimes too. And I feel like while a lot of people after this hubbub were quick to insult how Lilly Pulitzer stuff looks, I DO get the appeal. I'm not sure I've ever actually seen her clothes in person, but like I said in the post, I think her accessories are adorable. I mean, pink elephants, come on.

  13. Oh don't even get me started on the musicians part. I experience that so often and it makes me want to scream. I'll probably check out Lilly's collab too, but part of me will feel like I gave in. Oh well, having me wear that stuff will make those naysaying fans cringe.

  14. Don't forget, Jackie Kennedy is rolling in her grave too! There is just a whole lot of rolling going on for these ladies. I was also totally perplexed about the Target could you not like Target? That is completely un-American. Also, what was the deal with all these people on Twitter who were CLEARLY confused about the definition of a hipster?