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April 8, 2013

Fashion designer Lilly Pulitzer dies

MIAMI — Lilly Pulitzer hosted parties in her bare feet and wasn’t afraid to get a little messy — just as long as she looked good and had fun, too.

In the late 1950s, the Palm Beach socialite had time to spare and a wealthy husband who owned citrus groves, so she opened an orange juice stand just off the island’s main shopping street. Pulitzer needed to hide all the juice stains on her clothes, though. Instead of just putting on an apron, she asked her seamstress to make some sleeveless dresses in colorful fruit prints, and a fashion staple was born.

Pulitzer died at her home Sunday, according to Quattlebaum Funeral and Cremation Services. She was 81.

Pulitzer’s tropical print dresses became a sensation in the 1960s when then-first lady Jacqueline Kennedy, who attended boarding school with Pulitzer, wore one of the sleeveless shifts in a Life magazine photo spread.

The colorful revolution came as fashion shed its reliance on neutrals, and Pulitzer’s stuff was almost the housewife version of the more youthful mod look that was migrating from London.

To this day, the Lilly Pulitzer dress remains a popular, if not a necessary, addition to any woman’s closet.

“I designed collections around whatever struck my fancy ... fruits, vegetables, politics, or peacocks! I entered in with no business sense. It was a total change of life for me, but it made people happy,” Pulitzer, who married into the famous newspaper family, told The Associated Press in March 2009.

Pulitzer’s dresses hung behind her juice stand and soon outsold her drinks. A boutique featuring the company’s dresses — developed with the help of partner Laura Robbins, a former fashion editor — soon replaced the juice stand.

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