Iconic fashion designer Lilly Pulitzer Rousseau dead

Story highlights

Pulitzer died surrounded by family

She was "a true original" who "brought together generations," her company says

First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy helped make Pulitzer a fashion star

Her career began when she created clothes to work in citrus groves

CNN  — 

Iconic fashion designer Lilly Pulitzer Rousseau died Sunday in Palm Beach, Florida, surrounded by family, according to an announcement on her company’s official Facebook page.

She was 81.

“Lilly has been a true inspiration to us and we will miss her,” the statement said. “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 schoolmate Jacqueline Kennedy, while first lady, was photographed wearing one of Pulitzer’s dresses – and made her a star. The dress “was made from kitchen curtain material – and people went crazy,” Pulitzer said in her book, “Essentially Lilly: A Guide to Colorful Entertaining,” excerpted on her company’s website. “They took off like zingo. Everybody loved them, and I went into the dress business.”

The stories behind your favorite fashions: Lilly and her juice stand

Her career sprang from her husband Peter’s citrus groves, Sports Illustrated reported in 1968.

She opened an orange juice stand in Palm Beach, and designed colorful cotton shifts for herself to work in comfortably. Soon, customers wanted to buy her shifts, as well as the juice.

She began a collection of informal dresses, called “Lillys,” and then began designing clothes for girls and a men’s sportswear line.

An earlier version of this article and an e-mail alert incorrectly identified the location of Lilly Pulitzer Rousseau’s death. She died in Palm Beach, Florida.

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