As first lady, Jacqueline Kennedy had a favorite Tillett sundress freckled with raspberries, a design the decorator Albert Hadley later used on the walls and for the curtains and coverlets in a Palm Beach bedroom, blowing up the berries to the size of grapefruits.
As Mrs. Onassis, Jackie brought Billy Baldwin and the Tilletts to Skorpios to work on the Greek villa her husband, Aristotle, was building, and furnished the seed money for the couple’s Manhattan shop, Portmanteau. One note to D. D. from Jackie is illustrated with doodles of cushions to be made up in the Tilletts’ “Joseph’s coat of many colors stripe ... Ari loves it.”
The 2016 movie Jackie, a biographical depiction of Jacqueline Kennedy’s life shortly after President John Kennedy’s assassination, was filmed on sets replicating the Kennedys’ Sister Parish-designed White House living quarters and their home in Hyannis Port. The First Lady, who used Tillett Textiles for both her decor and her dresses, was a fan of the bright, casual, yet sophisticated patterns. When the filmmakers wanted accurate set materials, it was just a matter of going to the library and pulling out the appropriate screens. In the Hyannis Port house, the dining room drapery was made from our Chrysanthemum pattern. Jackie’s White House bedroom used our Daisy fabric for the headboard and the curtains. About 50 percent of the movie takes place in that bedroom.
Seth Tillett, at 57 the youngest of the Tilletts’ three children, who lives in the Bronx, still recalls what it was like as a teenager to be handed a bolt of fabric and be told to deliver it to 1040 Fifth Avenue, and have Jackie Kennedy open the door. “She wrote very affectionately to my parents, and we stayed with her in Hyannis Port,” he said. “It was hoped that I would become a friend for John, but when I was 12, he was 7, always a bit too old.”
Greta Garbo, Gary Cooper and Harry Truman also wore the Tilletts’ creations, and the American sportswear designer Claire McCardell chose for a dress a wool challis they did for Milliken, the textiles giant. Loulou de la Falaise was 21 and on her way to divorcing Desmond FitzGerald when she was photographed in 1968 for Diana Vreeland’s Vogue, picnicking wistfully with her impossibly wayward mother, Maxime. The copy described the women as being dressed in “the fresh, clean-as-a-Maine-breeze” prints the Tilletts “are famous for.”