A Story From My Closet #4 - Jenny Yen, “The little dress that could!”

“The Little Dress That Could!”
Guest Article by Jenny Yen

This little red silk dress is very special to me. I've saved it for over 25 years, but worn it once. It's a cherished piece which reminds me to believe in myself and embrace who I am.

I designed and made this dress along with four other pieces for a "Petite" evening wear collection for my 1996 graduating year at Ryerson Fashion School in Toronto. It's a size two. At this time, I was 23 years old, 5' 2," and weighed about 90 lbs., which would make me a size -2 or double zero. I had to gain a few pounds in order to fit into it back then. 

For this collection, I worked countless hours to complete it. Drafting, cutting and sewing silk requires a lot of skill and to this day, I still find it challenging, as the fabric is slippery and delicate. During the final week, I slept only four hours every night for seven nights in a row to finish off all the pieces.

On the day of my collection "critique." one of my teacher told me I had made a mistake - I had no market to wear these evening wear designs and women this small simply didn't exist. Yet there I was, standing right in front of him, smaller than the dress size I had created. I wasn't yet confident enough to voice that he was wrong.

Over the years, I have held onto my collection including this little red dress. It was simply too precious to sell and someday, I would find an opportunity to wear it. In 2019, the opportunity presented itself. I wore it to the Vancouver Indigenous Fashion Week Red Dress Event. 

Opening night was dedicated to the missing, murdered indigenous women and LGBT community. It was just the perfect opportunity show it off. It is red and now, it fit me perfectly. I didn't even have to hem it or alter it. I felt like a million bucks not just because it looked so beautiful on, but because I wore it with pride and confidence. I was absolutely comfortable with my size and stature, not to mention the silk lining felt so amazing.

If there is anything I have learned over the years is that you have to own who you are and claim your own beauty, big, tall, small or in between. Over my career as a fashion designer and boutique owner, I have created and bought clothes for women of various sizes and body types. Size is really irrelevant, it more about attitude and loving your body.  And don't ever let anyone tell you, you don't exist because, it's absurd.

My plan for this year is to create a new higher end label. It will be inspired by beauty and elegance just like my little red dress!

You can currently find my wearable and stylish designs under my CiCi Clothing brand at Two of Hearts Boutique at 1986 W. 4th Ave in Kitsilano.

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Fashion Designer Jenny Yen has been creating beautiful clothing for women for 25 years.  In 2006 she established her own label - CiCi Clothing - that is 100% local from design to production.  In 2009 she opened her first Two of Hearts Boutique on Main Street, and in 2013 she opened her current location at 1986 West 4th Ave. in Kitslano. Here you'll find not only Yen's in-house label, Cici, but a unique selection of local and international brands.

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