"This collection is a combination of me as a professional, me as a mother, and me as what I wear for comfort around the house," Williams tells People.

Vanessa Williams always wanted to be a designer. The actress and singer worked retail in high school (at a store called Current and Casual), went on to adore intricate pageant gowns as Miss America in 1984 (her winning dress is stored at Syracuse University), and turned into a power dresser on TV (thanks to her characters of Wilhelmina Slater on Ugly Betty and Renee Perry on Desperate Housewives).

Now, at 52, she’s taking a lifetime of fashion fascination to the next level by launching her first line, V. by Vanessa Williams, on the Evine home shopping network and evine.com starting March 19.

Credit: Jenny Anderson/FilmMagic

Courtesy NYDJ

“This collection is a combination of me as a professional, me as a mother, and me as what I wear for comfort around the house,” she tells PeopleStyle of the line, which she named after her lifelong signature, a single V and a period. “It’s your urban look, it’s your suburban look, it’s your casual look, and it’s your glam look, all in one.” What does that translate to? An 18-piece debut that includes jumpsuits, blousy caftans, stretch skirts, and rouched tops—all for $100 or less. (The dress she models below is the stretch-knit sleeveless knee-length style in cobalt and retails for $50.)

Credit: Courtesy Vanessa Williams

Courtesy V. by Vanessa Williams

But for Williams, she also wanted her line to act as a problem solver, “particularly for women who are 40 and up,” she says. “My friends and I complain about bra fat and loose arms. We’ve got a couple areas that we want to cover. Gone are the days when you’re 20 and you can just wear a little spaghetti strap thing and everything’s up and perky by itself. I’ve gone through my 30s, 40s, 50s and my body keeps changing with every decade. Yes, I’ve got bra fat and love handles. It’s a constant struggle. So, my view is don’t give up the fight, keep it moving, embrace where your body is going, and then dress accordingly.”

Vanessa Williams fashion line

Courtesy V. by Vanessa Williams

That’s why she made sure every piece is cut so bras fit comfortably underneath and the straps will be covered. Armholes are looser. Sizes go up to 24 and 26. Overall, the pieces are complementary to the areas we are trying to hide,” she explains. “We don’t want to mask them and we don’t want to disappear in loads and loads of fabric and look like were wearing a muumuu. I want women to look the best they can.”

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Her final touch to make this especially Vanessa: Choosing her favorite colors, embellishments, and prints and then “adding a bit of glam,” she says. “I love animal prints, grays, greens, khakis, and blues. I love that I got the chance to have a little color—but nothing that’s multiple leopards on top of each other—or, really, anything too cougar.”

Tell us what you think: Do you like Vanessa Williams’ new line?

—Sharon Clott Kanter