While on maternity leave, I launched Tiff.Marie Maternity, an online boutique for transitional clothing from pregnancy into motherhood. From my very recent experience, I became frustrated with poor quality, ill-fitting, and limiting maternity-wear that I would inevitably return. I no longer wanted to compromise my sense of style, so I decided to create my own dresses that I wore to events, the office and holiday parties; all of which were well received. This inspired me to bring the collection to life and help other women feel confident during a very transformational period.
It all started with a few dress sketches, a favorite pastime of mine to mentally “check out” of sorts, from my stressful day. Having been new to Chicago, I navigated the fashion industry on my own but found a fabric sourcing company that helped me select the most comfortable, well made and forgiving (flexible, stretchable) fabrics that suited the types of dresses I wanted to produce. The goal was to be multi-purpose and not a “one-time use” type of dress, so I also worked closely with a seamstress to develop designs that would look effortlessly fashionable with or with out a baby bump, all in the same dress. We achieved this through the careful placement of elastic banding and fabric gatherings together with a pop of style!
I wore the sample dresses day in and out to see how they’d flex to my evolving physique and would always take note of the positive feedback I received. My looks were fun and unique, and not as matronly or common as a lot of the items on the current market. This helped me to choose the first three looks that I wanted to introduce at the launch of the business. Fabric rolls were ordered, I built my custom website online, I started marketing the first looks available for pre-sale, my production facility began producing quantities, and in late January 2017, my first inventory shipments arrived on my doorstep.
Guess who else arrived that same week? My newborn son. Did I mention I work well under pressure and little sleep?
I come from a very loving and loud Italian-American family. My grandmother immigrated from Sicily and became a seamstress in the 1920s; she designed figure skater Sonja Henie’s clothing for competitions. My brother is the executive director of the Centrist Project, an organization dedicated to empowering the political middle. My husband, Nate is the interim CFO of ATI Physical Therapy and I have a newborn son, Aston Rye.
The biggest lesson I’ve learned to date is to have more restraint when it comes to product placement. At first, I wanted to become noticed on social media, so I gave a way a lot of items to influencers. I ended up selling out of many of the styles and needed the inventory for actual customers. I’ve learned to be more selective and strategic about what I give away for social media marketing.
Aston has been to the post office (to mail out orders) more than the average infant. Motherhood influenced my fashion and wardrobe now that I understand, first hand, that comfort and versatility are key elements in what we choose to wear. But oftentimes that comes at a cost of sacrificing fashion, and that’s where my line attempts to mend the gap.
If you feel a certain way about a product or service, chances are other people feel the same as you. I know I didn’t care for available maternity clothes and as I started to pulse my friends and network, I learned that others felt the same way too. Follow your gut and gauge others for a sanity check.
The only way a baby knows how to communicate is to cry; don’t take it personally! People often give the advice to “sleep when the baby sleeps.” To me, this is impossible, because that’s when I get the most done. Although postponed, sleep eventually comes again and things will fall into place.
Ready to tell your #MyMotherHustle story? Share it here.
Tiffany Marie Bard is a 10-year finance veteran who burned the midnight oil on Wall Street during her early twenties. She met her husband in NYC and later moved to Chicago where they had their son, Aston Rye. Her recent pregnancy inspired her to follow her entrepreneurial dreams in fashion and stay home to raise her son. Shop Tiff.Marie Maternity here, and follow Tiffany on Instagram and Twitter.
Access our free Members-Only Portal + get exclusive stories delivered weekly