Pregnancy never slowed down Tiffany Glenn Burress. If anything, it made her busier.
The wife of Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Plaxico Burress found herself juggling work as an attorney at Dario, Yacker, Suarez & Albert in Hackensack, N.J., and attending professional events with home life and planning for parenthood.
"I couldn't find any clothes that worked for what I wanted them for -- a woman who's on the go, still works, goes to dinner, has events," said Mrs. Burress, 35, a New Kensington native. She now lives in New Jersey but splits her time between there and Pittsburgh during football season.
While pregnant with her first child, Elijah Alexander, she conceived the idea of creating a collection of maternity clothes that could go from casual to corporate affairs while remaining stylish, comfortable and affordable. But life's demands kept her from channeling her inner fashion designer right away.
During her next pregnancy with daughter Giovanna Joi, she still struggled to find versatile, fashionable maternity clothes. "I should come up with something," she said.
Her collection, Joiful Maternity, is now taking its first steps into the retail world as she looks for stores to carry the chic-yet-comfy dresses, separates and sweat suits. Her designs are available at joifulmaternity.com. The name of the collection combines Mrs. Burress' middle name, Joi, with the excitement a pregnancy can bring to a family, she said.
"Initially, I went through my wardrobe and pulled out the stuff I liked to wear when I was pregnant and started coming up with some designs and looking into fabrics," she said.
Mrs. Burress, who earned her law degree from the Duquesne University School of Law, never formally studied fashion but has long been interested in the latest trends and hot designers. Once she sketched her ideas, she recruited designer Mychael Knight, who competed in season 3 of the reality TV series "Project Runway," to help her fine-tune her designs.
"With everything, I want it perfected," she said. "The dress I came up with, but how do I make it perfect? That's where he came in."
One of her biggest fans has been her husband, although he was slow at first to recognize the breadth of her undertaking.
"I talked about this to him forever, and it was as if he wasn't listening," Mrs. Burress said. "But as soon as he saw the designs, he went crazy. Now he's all into it."
"I think her designs are exceptional," Mr. Burress said in an email interview. "They are what the modern-day mother would want to wear. I didn't know in the beginning that she had a talent for fashion design."
Lycra, spandex, silk and stretch charmeuse are staples of the figure-flattering pieces, many of which are in the $70 and $80 range.
"You don't even have to be pregnant to wear the stuff," Mrs. Burress said.
One of her favorites is the Manhattan dress, a slender ankle-length black dress with spaghetti straps and gathered neckline that retails for $82.
"That is an example of a dress that's very versatile, that you can dress up and make it look very dressy or just dress it down," she said. "You also could wear it to work by putting a thin sweater with it."
Clothes are made in Long Island so Mrs. Burress can better oversee the production process. Now she's looking to find a home for her fashions, including in Pittsburgh.
"That will be a market that's targeted," she said. "I feel like the line is great for Pittsburgh because it's very versatile."
While she spreads the word of her collection, she still works as an attorney, finding that there is more cross-over between the two fields than some might think.
"There's so much more than just being a designer. You're dealing with a lot of contracts, a lot of legal issues," Mrs. Burress said. "I still like having my legal background. It's benefited me in every possible way."
Sara Bauknecht: firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @SaraB_PG.