U.S. fashion designer Liz Claiborne, who created career clothes for the surge of women entering the workforce in the 1970s, died Tuesday. She was 78.

An assistant for Claiborne said Wednesday the designer had cancer for a number of years. She died from complications of the disease at a hospital in New York.

Claiborne founded her namesake fashion company, Liz Claiborne Incorporated, in 1976 with her husband, Art Ortenberg, a textiles executive. The company created a collection of affordable, professional clothes that stressed practicality over high fashion. The line attracted loyal customers among the millions of women joining the U.S. workforce and propelled the company into the Fortune 500.

It was the first firm founded by a woman to make the distinguished list of successful companies.

Claiborne retired from the company in 1989.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.