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June 27, 2007 • Fashion

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Liz Claiborne, Designer of Women’s Clothes, Dies at 78
By ERIC WILSON, New York Times
Published: June 27, 2007

Liz Claiborne, the designer of indefatigable career clothes for professional women entering the workforce en masse beginning in the 1970s, died Tuesday in Manhattan. She was 78.

Her death, at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, was caused by complications of cancer, said Arthur Ortenberg, her husband. Ms. Claiborne learned in 1997 that she had a rare form of cancer that affects the lining of the abdomen.

She had homes in Manhattan and the Saltaire section of Fire Island, N.Y., and on a large farm in Swan Valley, Mont.

Before she became the most successful women’s apparel designer in America, Ms. Claiborne had worked for 20 years in the backrooms of Seventh Avenue sportswear houses like Youth Guild and Juniorite, making peppy dresses.

A strong-willed designer with an acute sense for business, she defied the male-dominated ranks of the fashion industry by starting her own company in 1976 with Mr. Ortenberg, a textiles executive. In an apt reversal of roles, she gave him the corporate title of secretary.

Ms. Claiborne correctly anticipated a market for affordable, professional-looking clothes that women could wear to compete on an equal footing with men in corporate professions. In her no-nonsense way, she became something of a role model, and her label an inspirational emblem, to those who, like her, were looking to break through glass ceilings.

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