Wife of Steelers coach has designs on showing off her fashions

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Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin brought more than a great reputation with him to Pittsburgh.

His wife, Kiya, is a fashion designer and will have two looks in the annual Steelers Style charity fashion show today at the Hilton.

Mrs. Tomlin, 33, is designing for herself a strapless, floor-length silk crepe number with an airbrush-painted motif. Her other creation, a '30s-inspired dress, will be worn by singer Brynn Williams to open the show.

Mrs. Tomlin designs for private clients, including Miss Williams, who wore one of her creations two years ago in the Broadway production of "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang."

A native of Morristown, N.J., Mrs. Tomlin began sewing when she was 10. She asked her mother, college professor Susan Winston, for a sewing machine and rapidly progressed from a pillow to a duck to women's apparel.

She attended The College of William and Mary on a gymnastics scholarship, studying for a career in medicine and setting a school record on the uneven parallel bars. When her husband later got an assistant coaching job at the University of Cincinnati, she studied fashion design there for two years.

The wife and mother of three manages to spend about six hours designing in an average weekday. She sews from 6 to 8 a.m., resumes from 1 to 3 p.m. while their two sons are in school and their toddler daughter is napping, and then picks up again from 9 to 11 p.m. when the kids are in bed in their Shadyside home.

Her specialty is women's formal wear.

"I like the fabrics better," she said.

Like most designers, she selects a textile first and allows it to inspire design. She said she enjoys the challenges of design.

"I like the problem-solving. It's like a puzzle, trying to figure out how to construct something to make it look like what you have in your mind."

She comes from an artistic family. Her maternal grandfather, Bobby Tucker, played piano for Billy Eckstine, Tony Bennett and Billie Holiday at the height of his career. A sister, Mia Winston of Baltimore, is an artist and a photographer.

Mrs. Tomlin remembers when her mother worked overnight at a plastics factory to make ends meet. To keep from being bored, Ms. Winston collected deformed and defective pieces discarded from the assembly line and used them to build a fabulous two-story doll house.

Mrs. Tomlin isn't the only one who will be outfitting participants in Friday's show. Steelers players, their families and agency models will wear clothes by major sponsors Reebok and American Eagle, with some special-occasion styles for women from hip'tique in Shadyside.

The gala begins with cocktails at 6 p.m., dinner at 7 and the fashion show at 8.

The Tomlins, along with Steelers chairman Art Rooney II and his wife, Greta, are event chairpersons. Honorary co-captains are Steelers players Casey Hampton and Ben Roethlisberger.

Proceeds benefit the Thomas E. Starzl Transplantation Institute at UPMC and the Cancer Caring Center. Tickets are $225. For information, call 412-802-8256.

Post-Gazette fashion editor LaMont Jones can be reached at ljones@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1469.


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