7 Things We Learned from Lillian Vernon

Lillian Vernon, trailblazer and catalog magnate, passed away yesterday at the age of 88. She was an impressive woman, building her empire during a time when women didn't do that kind of thing. And an empire it was. People of all ages can share memories of the Lillian Vernon catalog, the first of its kind. We used to pore over the pages, looking at toys in our younger years, and monogrammed necklace organizers and rolling suitcases as we got older. For adults, the kitchen organization tools were irresistible. (Well, at least for some of us!)

Read more on the New York Times → Lillian Vernon, Creator of a Bustling Catalog Business, Dies at 88

We learned a lot from Lillian Vernon, and it seems appropriate to share some of that today.

  1. If you'll use it without a monogram, it'll feel even more special with one. Many of the products in Lillian Vernon's catalog could be monogrammed. Putting away the good china in a quilted storage box feels special, but the monogram takes it to a whole new level. A toy truck or play kitchen feels like Santa made it for one very special child when it has a monogram. A monogrammed Dopp kit is easy to distinguish on the bathroom counter when you're crashing at the lake house with a big group. And pencils with your name on them? Make school work (almost) a pleasure.
  2. You can organize it. Before Marie Kondo, before Crate and Barrel or Martha Stewart, Lillian Vernon taught us to put everything away neatly, from tools and gift wrapping supplies to jewelry and toys. 
  3. Gifts don't have to be huge or expensive to be special. The price range in Lillian Vernon's iconic catalog was reasonable, and - as we mentioned - almost anything could be personalized. Gifts for all ages could be special without breaking the bank.
  4. Shopping can be easy. Whatever you ordered from Lillian Vernon arrived right at your door, in a reasonable amount of time. (Sure, we're used to that now, but this was back in the day!) And the catalog had something for everyone on your list. Can I get an "amen" from everyone whose grandparents regularly shopped Lillian Vernon for every holiday?
  5. A little color brightens your day. Pretty lined baskets for stacks of mail, festive hand towels for the guest bath, a little throw rug beside the back door...they all make us smile.
  6. Little things turn into big memories. An awful lot of people remember poring over the catalog with their siblings or reading it at their grandparents' house. So many of us made wish lists by folding down the pages. Lillian Vernon brought us together.
  7. Women can build empires. Lillian Vernon wasn't behind the scenes. Her name was right there on the catalog. Lilly Pulitzer, born four years after Lillian Vernon in 1931, was another woman of the same generation who wasn't shy about taking on a leading role in her business. There must be something about starting your name with "Lill..." Or maybe not, but we predict a rise in the popularity of those names over the next few years.

The world lost an impressive woman yesterday. And we've enjoyed hearing everyone's Lillian Vernon stories. What's yours?