Style: Self: Haute Mama

Classic style inspires this young mother’s new line of fashion.




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Photograph by Thom Thompson

Hair and Makeup by Kirsten Sylvester



Tonjia Coverdale prays for rain—and not because her riverfront townhouse comes with a garden. She simply wants an excuse to wear her Burberry rain boots.

“I wear them even when it’s not raining,” she says as a guilty smile plays across her small features.

The boots aren’t alone—Coverdale is an avid fan of the Candy Check line. That means a cap, sun hat, earmuffs, scarf, poncho, belt, umbrella, diaper bag, wallet, sandals and, of course, rain boots share intimate closet space in luxurious, baby-pink Burberry harmony.

Her polished wardrobe boasts classy threads and shoes by Gucci, Chanel, Ann Taylor, Ralph Lauren—and an unexplainable pair of non-fabulous sneakers.

“Before I had Benjamin, the only sneakers I owned had heels,” she says. “But I can’t exactly get around in stilettos anymore.”

Benjamin is the inspiration for Divas N Babes, an online fashion boutique she launched for “haute mamas and cool babes.” “I didn’t necessarily want to be this big, T-shirt, sweatsuit-wearing person every day, but when you’re home with your child, what else are you going to wear?”

Coverdale’s collection of tees, suits and baby slings is the perfect solution for moms who’d rather roll stroller-less.

Barefaced and clad in lounge pants and a Divas N Babes top, Coverdale is befuddling—somehow, she still manages to look couture. And this isn’t the 29-year-old’s only parlor trick.

Besides roles as mommy and entrepreneur, the former Delaware State University professor is working toward her doctorate in information systems. Busy? Yes. But Coverdale makes time for fashion. A transplant from New York, it’s in her veins.

“Fifth Avenue is my favorite shopping destination in the world,” she says. In Delaware, she frequents Express for jeans, Ann Taylor for A-line dresses and M.A.C. for cosmetics. “Growing up, I wasn’t old enough to get into the clubs, so I hung out at M.A.C.,” she says.

Her routine consists of lip liner, lipstick and a M.A.C. lip gloss to finish, with lots of eye color. “I love the pin-up look, the Marilyn Monroe red lips and liquid liner,” she says.

Coverdale also applauds Jackie O. “She was always so well put together,” she says. “When you look at her pictures from 1960, it still applies today. She is timeless.” Coverdale’s oversized Chanel sunglasses are a nod to Kennedy-Onassis’ signature look.

Coverdale’s style is classic couture—a touch of pearl, a simple, elegant frock, understated hair and heels complete her look. “Style is too flamboyant right now, with loud prints and big chandelier earrings,” she says. “I like simple things.”

Her typical mommy attire is simple—a snug T-shirt from her own collection, with jeans, or the Divas N Babes Comfy Pants and practical flats. A night on the town finds her in a feminine dress, subtle accessories and, occasionally, a hat. “Women don’t wear enough hats these days. It adds an air of sophistication to an outfit that is just unreal.”

She downplays a dress with a jean jacket or revs up a casual look with slick shoes. “My favorite are my knee-high stiletto Gucci boots,” she says. “They create the ultimate diva. When you wear them, you have to strut a little more confidently.”

And strut she does—with come-hither hair to boot. But you won’t get her long, gorgeous, close up-ready locks in the 302.

“I import my stylist from Baltimore,” she admits. “She’s fantastic and she comes to me. As a mom, I don’t have the luxury of being able to spend hours at the salon.”

In the Coverdale household, fashion is a family affair—husband Gregory enjoys custom-tailored Gucci blazers, suits and shoes.

The Coverdale M.O. is to educate.

“I really want people to say, ‘Wow, look what I can do with fashion,’” she says.

Would-be students will know Coverdale when they see her. She’ll be the only mommy on the block with a Burberry baby bottle.

—Amy Kates

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