MIAMI -- Lilly Pulitzer, a Palm Beach socialite turned designer whose tropical print dresses became a sensation in the 1960s and later a fashion classic, died Sunday. She was 81.
Pulitzer, who married into the famous newspaper family, got her start in fashion by spilling orange juice on her clothes. A rich housewife with time to spare and a husband who owned orange groves, she opened a juice stand in 1959, and asked her seamstress to make dresses in colorful prints that would camouflage fruit stains.
The dresses hung on a pipe behind her juice stand and soon outsold her drinks. The company's dresses, developed with the help of partner Laura Robbins, a former fashion editor, soon caught on.
"Lilly has been a true inspiration to us and we will miss her," according to a statement on the Lilly Pulitzer brand Facebook page. "In the days and weeks ahead we will celebrate all that Lilly meant to us. Lilly was a true original who has brought together generations through her bright and happy mark on the world."
Her death was confirmed by Gale Schiffman of Quattlebaum Funeral and Cremation Services in West Palm Beach. She did not know Pulitzer's cause of death.
Jacqueline Kennedy, who attended boarding school with Pulitzer, even wore one of the sleeveless shifts in a Life magazine photo spread, and matriarch Rose Kennedy and one of her teenage granddaughters were once reported to have bought nearly identical versions together.
Pulitzer, who was known for hosting parties barefoot at her Palm Beach home, also published two guides to entertaining.
"That's what life is all about: Let's have a party. Let's have it tonight," she said.