Life, for the most part, can feel or appear calculable. Each day unfolds mostly the same as the last and we believe (or like to believe) we have an idea of how it all rolls out. At multiple points throughout our lives, however, life can pull a total M Night Shyamalan and reveal an unexpected twist. Some of these twists can be good, great even, offering us a new perspective, a chance for growth or an opportunity—and others can turn our entire world upside down. The latter of these twists recently popped up in the life of our social media rockstar/ ball of energy, Tracy Po, and we wanted to share with you her story of courage while contending with a life-altering disease.
More than a headache
Just over 12 weeks ago, Tracy, entered the hospital with chronic migraines. She had a history with these horrible head-splitters, having to visit the ER for them in previous years, but something about these particular migraines was different. Shortly after being emitted to St. Paul's in downtown Vancouver, Tracy's condition began to deteriorate. She started experiencing episodes of psychosis and catatonia (non-responsiveness). While no one knew the cause of her symptoms at the time, she would later be diagnosed with an extremely rare autoimmune disease.
Anti-NMDA Receptor Encephalitis
Anti-NMDA Receptor Encephalitis is a variety of brain inflammation caused by antibodies. It is relatively new to medical research, only being discovered back in 2007, and is often misdiagnosed. It affects both the body and mind, with symptoms including but not limited to headaches, fever, extreme fatigue, psychosis, hallucinations, seizures, decreased breathing, blood pressure, and heart rate issues. Nearly all patients who develop the disease require hospitalization, many need critical care—and, unfortunately, our Tracy was one of them.
During Tracy's time in the hospital, she endured a myriad of procedures, including multiple surgeries, lumbar punctures, MRIs, CT scans, infusions, blood tests and a colossal, nearly comical, amount of medications. This disease developed so rapidly and progressed to the point that Tracy had to be put into an induced coma and was completely bedridden for nearly a month. It was a very confusing and scary time for everyone involved, especially Tracy.
A Turning Point.
After an uncertain stage without any clear conclusion or cause, an ultrasound revealed a small tumour inside one of Tracy's ovaries, which doctors promptly removed. Tumours like this can, in rare cases, trigger an autoimmune response. Almost immediately after Tracy came out of surgery, she started to show some improvement. She slowly regained the ability to breathe and took her first assisted steps out of her bed in weeks. She was transferred out of the ICU to the Neurology ICU and then eventually to the Neurology ward where she began to relearn how to talk, walk, eat and drink again.
Recently, Tracy was transferred out of VGH and into the GF Strong Rehabilitation Centre, where she is undergoing an intensive therapy program, including occupational, physical and speech therapy. She has been improving every day and the hope is to have her status switched from in-patient to an out-patient, where she can attend her therapy sessions during the day and spend her evenings at home with her partner, Logan, and cat, Moose.
To Recovery + Beyond.
While this entire experience has been a painful and terrifying ordeal, Tracy has remained so incredibly optimistic and determined. Her drive to return to her regular life has propelled her forward and we're so incredibly proud of her spirit and unshakeable resolve. We hope to see her back here underneath the Cherry Velvet tree as soon as possible, which, at the rate she's progressing, may not be far off. Until then, please join us in cheering her on as she makes her way through this final stage towards full recovery and beyond—Go, Tracy go!
XOX Cherry Velvet
Today I'm remembering a time with one of our early models, Elly Mayday. Elly was an advocate for women's health, known for battling ovarian cancer throughout her modelling career. This weekend we are joining with Forever Yours Lingerie at their event, #onehellovawoman to fulfill Elly's wish for a high tea to raise funds for ovarian cancer research.
Looking back to our very first photoshoot in 2013
Amongst a group of lovely models, there was a young lady named Elly Mayday at her first-ever photoshoot as well. The location was a classic style Diner called Save On Meats. This was also the very first time we shot with Shimona Henry of Pin-Up Perfection photography.
Soon after, Elly began to model for Cherry Velvet on a regular basis. In 2014, after struggling for some time with symptoms that were not being diagnosed properly, Elly discovered she had ovarian cancer.
After Elly started her treatments with chemotherapy, she knew her hair was going to fall out, so she dyed it teal green: the colour of the ovarian cancer awareness ribbon. Elly made a video for us talking about her symptoms, and the importance of being your own advocate.
Elly lost her hair shortly thereafter from the chemotherapy. As a woman who had also lost her mother to ovarian cancer, I could imagine how difficult it would be to lose her hair at 25 years old, and so I wanted to do something for Elly. I decided to take her wig shopping. Can you even imagine being 25 years old and having your hair fall out? Just that alone would be so difficult to deal with, not to mention all of the other obstacles she faced.
We received a phone call from several of her friends who were planning a fundraiser and fashion show to help Elly support herself during treatments. The event was called Strut for a Cause. They asked Cherry Velvet to help surprise Elly and to get her "event ready" to arrive at the show.
Getting her party-ready and to this event...where she was greeted by friends, supporters and TV cameras was quite tricky to pull off without her suspecting what was going on. That day, Elly did a photoshoot with Shimona Henry with the goal of getting her into hair and make-up. Elly had lost so much weight at this point I thought perhaps she wouldn't have anything to wear so I designed a dress especially for her for that night and we named it after her, The Elly dress.
It was an amazing evening of fashion and friends coming together to show their love and support.
Elly continued to pursue her career in New York as a model and worked on a campaign to raise money for Ovarian Cancer Canada among many other achievements. Sadly, Elly passed away from ovarian cancer in March of this year, at 30 years old.
Elly left her mark on myself and our business. She will never be forgotten.
XOX Diane Kennedy, designer for Cherry Velvet
Did you know that September is the awareness month for Ovarian Cancer - a much less talked about, but very serious type of women’s cancer? Unlike other more well-known types, there is no screening test for cancer of your #ladyballs. (This may be a somewhat controversial name for your ovaries, but it does require both knowledge and guts to beat this difficult to diagnose disease.)
It's important for our designer, Diane, to spread awareness, as not only did this condition take her Mom at a very young age, but her Sister-in-law as well.
You may have heard the story of one of our early models, Elly Mayday, who at the age of 25 was diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer too.
We're pleased to join Forever Yours Lingerie's #Onehellvawoman High Tea and Fundraiser in honour of Elly's life and her wish to spread awareness about this difficult disease. We are proudly offering five "Dress of Your Choice" vouchers for the auction, which will raise funds for ovarian cancer research.
"Please spend a few moments learning about ovarian cancer, as discovering it early enough improves your chances to treat it effectively and survive" ~ Diane Kennedy
There is no one specific symptom for ovarian cancer, and the symptoms are generally vague and often mistakenly attributed to other causes. It’s called "the disease that whispers" or the "silent killer", as it tends to be overlooked and under-diagnosed.
Do you do a breast self-exam every month? What about going for an annual pap test? Although these simple steps could save your life, when it comes to taking care of your #ladyballs, it's not as straightforward.
We hope we’ve inspired you to catch up on any tests you haven’t taken lately, and brought attention to symptoms you should pay attention to. Please share this post with all the important women in your life so that they’ll be aware, too.
XOX Cherry Velvet
Last weekend at the Studio Shop a couple travelled all the way from Portland, Oregon, just to see us! We were so thrilled and honoured. And it's such a sweet story....
Meet Andy and Lisa. Andy's birthday gift to Lisa was a weekend trip to Vancouver and an "Empty Suitcase" to fill up with Cherry Velvet frocks. Can you imagine such a treat?
Lisa has a great laugh! And it was so lovely to watch her happy experience. She loved everything she tried on and was overjoyed with the fit and all the fun prints making it so hard to choose. These are the problems we all like to have: having so many choices of pretty dresses that fit!
The Paige Dress in Flower Power print was the first dress she tried and it was obvious that this dress lit Lisa up. She absolutely LOVED everything about this dress and it fit her like a glove but it was really the bright, vintage floral print that she connected to.
Next, Lisa tried on the Minerva Dress - Fantastic Beast, Unicorn print. This was a dress that she had on her list and was already excited to try on before she even got here. It didn't make it in her bag though.
The final choices included: The Shelly Dress in Slate Gingham, Elizabeth dress in the Graceful Dead print, Norma in the Gamer Girl print as well as the Paige Dress in Flower Power print. After her fun afternoon of shopping Andy took Lisa out for her birthday dinner to Maenam for delicious Thai food. What a day!!
Lots of folks have a heck of a time finding the right birthday gifts for their partner. What to do? A gift card is nice but can feel a little impersonal and a trip is a great way to celebrate another turn around the sun but... our new friend Andy really nailed it in our books. We've told Andy that he needs to spread the word about his magnificent idea! Don't you wish your partner would gift this for your birthday!
Thank-you so much Lisa and Andy! We loved having you visit our shop! Hope to see you next year!
XOX Diane and Barb
Just so you know our designer Diane is 53 and believes that you should wear fashion that makes you happy no matter what your age. It's a form of self-expression/art that you carry around with you wherever you go. Cherry Velvet dresses are made to fit many sizes and body types so that women of any age can enjoy wearing them. That's the whole idea! Wearing dresses that make you feel fantastic and look amazing but also are the foundation for your own personal style.
"I designed Cherry Velvet as dresses that I want to wear and feel good in. Age or body type doesn't come into this equation because I make clothing to be fun and beautiful no matter how old you are or what size you are." ~Diane Kennedy
Recently we received an email from a customer from Montreal asking us if 60 years was too old to wear one of our dresses. Absolutely not! We assured her that we have customers of all ages and even sent her a couple of photos of one of our favourite zoomers that absolutely ROCKS our dresses. She ended up buying the Norma - Magical Garden - Fairy Dress with a Purple Samantha Shrug and matching purple crinoline and plans to wear it to her niece's wedding in a few weeks with her lilac shoes and matching jewelry. We're hoping she'll send us some photos. We LOVE getting photos of our customers in our dresses!
~Photo and Fashionista credit to one of our most inspiring customers, Terri from Louisiana.
There are so many rules out there about what women can and can not wear and to them we say HOGWASH! Well, more to the point we feel like society should stop telling women what is appropriate to wear based on their age or their size for that matter. After all, a woman knows very well who she is, what looks good on her and what makes her happy. This is an earned right and no one else really needs to weigh in.
Just the other day we had a woman come into our studio to shop for a dress for a special occasion. The first dress she tried on looked amazing on her and fit like a glove. She stood looking at herself in the mirror for a long time and then I noticed she was tearing up. She assured me that she wasn't a big crier but she was so surprised by the emotional reaction she had by just finding a garment that she felt was made for her size, that included her and made her feel like she was beautiful. At her age no less. Imagine that!
Diane is wearing the Norma - Midnight Beauty Dress.
Diane loves to watch customers reaction when they come out of the change room. When you see a persons face just light up at their own reflection and especially when they dance or twirl in the mirror, it's obvious they are in love with the way they look. She never gets tired of hearing people say, "OMG I need this dress because I look fabulous!"
XOX Cherry Velvet
Find your perfect dress this weekend at the Studio Shop:
Friday August 23rd from 2pm-7pm.
Saturday August 24th 11am-5pm.
@ 1635 Powell Street, Vancouver B.C.
We'd love to see you!
We've come up with our best tips for getting the fit of your online dress purchase right the first time. More than anything we want you to be thrilled with your Cherry Velvet dresses! Not only do we want you to LOVE the style, print, and colour, most of all we want you to love the FIT! Because whether you're a new customer or a tried and true Cherry Velvet girl, your complete experience is truly important to us!
“I truly feel like I’ve done my job well when a curvy girl finds THE dress, and her face lights up when she sees how perfectly it fits and how beautiful she looks” Diane Kennedy, designer.
- Please measure yourself!! We can't stress this enough! Our sizes and fit are different than many other brands. Our sizing is very accurate to both regular (missy) size and plus sizes but that is a very subjective statement. What it means to us and to you is often not the same thing. Measurements don't lie though. Please don't guess! Measurements are the best chance for getting the fit right. Really!
- Please read the fit notes for the style you are buying. We've have been working on a revamp of this area on new styles and really hope that you, our customers will read them. While most of our dresses fit consistently there are a few rogues out there...Angelina is one or any style with stretch (spandex) We've been adding size charts to new styles as they come in.
- Please measure yourself and compare those numbers to the size chart. If you've never measured yourself before, don't worry it's easy! Here's our How to Measure Chart or you can watch this short, informative video.
- If you are unsure of your size PLEASE measure and then e-mail your measurements to us so we can help you. We are sweet little mature plus size ladies, we don't judge, we are here to help you. Our ONLY goal is to help you get the best fit. period. no judgement. ever.
We want to help you!
Email us here: cherryvelvetplus@gmail (dot) com
XOX Diane and Barb
P.S. Of course if you're local to our Vancouver studio, we're also happy to help you get your perfect fit in person. More info here
Published Aug 08 2019 in Best fit, Canadian Designer, Canadian Made, Cherry Velvet Dresses, cotton dresses, Did you know?, Facts, Garment care, Limited Edition Fabrics, Made In Canada, Made in Vancouver, Pockets, Vancouver-designed, Washable Cotton
We love our customers and it makes us so happy when you love our dresses (and us) back! We're very proud of the way we do business and wanted to share with you a few facts that you may not know:
Diane Kennedy is the designer and owner of the brand. If you ever come by the studio, you'll most likely meet her and she'd love to meet you too.
By 'old-fashioned', we mean personal. It's very important to us that you get the help you need. In-person, by email or by phone. We are always here to help you!
We understand fit is a big concern when purchasing online. If you ever need help with sizing, please send your dress choices and measurements via e-mail so we can help you find your best fit.
If you call during regular business hours, a real person answers the phone. We are here Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm, Pacific Standard Time.
Our amazing prints are hand-selected and 95% of the time are limited edition. We make almost all of our styles in small runs of 10-40 dresses. We have new styles and prints every season.
We have a very talented photographer on staff who photographs all of our local models and creates all of our official photos and videos.
We use high-quality cotton fabrics that are very easy to care for and are made to last. Our dresses are machine washable and hang to dry. We suggest smoothing out the wrinkles and the pockets when you hang your dress. Most of our customers do not iron their cotton dresses, but you can if you wish.
While some companies outsource, we design and make all our own patterns in our studio in Vancouver BC.
It can be difficult to ensure fair pay and proper treatment standards when manufacturing clothing offshore. That's why we only use local Vancouver-area factories for our manufacturing. Diane regularly visits the various factories to oversee the production of our dresses.
Definitely one the best facts...All of our dresses have POCKETS!!
XOX Cherry Velvet
Meet our #girlboss Diane at the Studio Shop this week in Vancouver:
Friday, August 9th from 2pm - 7pm
Saturday, Aug 10th from 11am - 5pm
1635 Powell Street in Vancouver, BC.
Free parking on the street (*please mind the parking signs for times) or in the parking lot beside the Flag Shop.
"This week we wanted to revisit this guest post by freelance writer Christina Myers. I would be lying if I said it didn't make a couple of us, here at the office, choke up a little. Christina is also a Cherry Velvet customer who decided to share with us her relationship with fashion and dresses. Thank you, Christina!"
Vintage fashion, self-love and the pleasure of pretty things...
I’ve always taken great pleasure in fashion – but for many years, that pleasure was reserved for browsing, only. I’d buy Vogue and Vanity Fair and spend hours relishing the designs and fabrics and accessories as they changed from year to year. Vintage anything, in particular, would catch my eye: cocktail dresses from the ‘50s, old-school silk and lace slips, war-era Victory roll hairdos. Don’t get me wrong: I loved modern things too (Tom Ford late ‘90s? Chanel all the way through the 1980s? Alexander McQueen basically any year ever? Yes, please!) But the things that always jumped out at me were the vintage touches: beaded clutches and Jackie O. pearls, glittery brooches and Mary Jane pumps, snug knee-length skirts and Cuban heeled stockings. If you think modern fashion in even its most simplistic, streamlined forms is a new-born beast each season, look again: vintage is everywhere, almost every year, though sometimes in just the tiniest details.
But, I struggled with the frivolity of fashion. I thought of myself as level-headed, smart – and strongly committed to feminist ideals, to boot. I worked in a field that required others to take me seriously. Was it fluffy-headed to like pretty things? Was I being silly and indulgent to care about this stuff?
Worse, I knew perfectly well that fashion could be a tool of oppression, a simple and effective extension of the intense scrutiny over female bodies – and a costly one at that, for an extra layer of gendered burden.
How was it possible that something that felt profoundly individualistic and pleasurable and even empowering – the fun I had in choosing a lipstick colour or a pair of shoes, the confidence I felt when indulging in certain outfits – was so laden with negative overtones? Could one be independent and intelligent and be taken seriously – and still enjoy a crinoline from time to time?
These were not idle thoughts but genuine debates I had with myself as I considered my responsibility not just to myself, but as a member of a larger “womanhood.”
On top of that, like many women, I struggled with my body – the food I ate, the shape of it, the way it changed through puberty and adulthood and motherhood. From my early teens forward, the message I heard was clear: unless you’re perfect, you need to cover up.
The result of all this body image/self-perception/internal philosophy was a wardrobe of black, with high necklines and long sleeves – and a lot of not-quite-being-myself-in-my-own-body. I’d treat myself to a pair of pretty tights or a satin purse or dramatic earrings – then tuck them away for “someday.”
It’s impossible to do that forever, without being unhappy. For me, a series of seismic life shifts, starting in my mid-20s, slowly – glacially slow at times – allowed me to come into myself in ways that were colourful, individual and most importantly, unapologetic.
It turns out that the unexpected result of indulging in the fashion that I loved – regardless of current trends or the disapproval of others or even my precise body shape at any given time – had the precise opposite effect I had feared when I was younger.
I don’t feel silly or self-indulgent, childish or fluffy – I feel like a woman in charge of herself.
It is a work in progress, and like most women, I’d be lying if I said I walk out of the house feeling divine every single day. I often pile on dramatic accessories, then take them back off. I try to tame my hair and lament when it’s bigger than it should be. I second-guess a polka-dot dress or a particularly bright pair of knee socks and wonder if I should go back upstairs and change. And it ain’t all silks and satins: many days, what makes me happiest is a pair of black leggings, an oversized sweatshirt, a ponytail and a pair of flip flops.
The point, though, is this: I dress for myself and I take intense pleasure in doing so – whether it’s dressing up or dressing way down – and if onlookers enjoy it, or don’t, is entirely secondary.
Discovering Cherry Velvet several years ago now, at the tail end of a lot of personal change, was (at the risk of sounding overly dramatic) a revelation.
The dresses were gorgeous, for sure: vintage shapes, big skirts, figure-hugging in the best ways even for curvy bodies.
But it was the spirit of the dresses that I fell in love with.
They’re meant to stand out. They are totally unapologetic. The fabrics are quirky at times, irreverent and fun. Squirrels and birds. Bicycles. Flamingos. Sushi rolls, anyone? Some are elegant, in classic colours and muted tones or bright primaries. They’re fun, and intentionally so. They’re pretty, elegant or cute, depending on the fabric and design. And let’s not mince words: they are ALL sexy as hell. (And, the cherry on top: the company is owned by a woman, the dresses are designed by that same woman, and the manufacturing happens locally – not to mention ethically, which can’t be said for most overseas clothing production.)
(Christina with her sister, both loving the same dress :)
But here’s the most important thing, in my opinion: these dresses are made to be worn. They’re comfortable and sturdy (yes, sturdy, and how often can you say that about a dress), practical (I’m talking pockets) and a breeze to take care of. They’re easy to get in and out of, with long zippers, or shapes that you can simply pull over the head.
In other words, they are made FIRST AND FOREMOST for the person wearing them. Think about that for a moment. They’re made with the woman who will wear them as the primary focus. Shouldn’t be so revolutionary, but it is.
A majority of fashion is made to look good to an observer but doesn’t feel so good to the person wearing it. Outfits are designed and made like props, objects one is required to “put up with” for the benefit of the world. The phrase “suffering for fashion” comes to mind.
But if I am truly dressing for myself, it can’t be just about the way a thing looks, it’s also fundamentally about how I feel while wearing it. And Cherry Velvet nails it.
I recently went out for a long-awaited celebration dinner with a group of women friends. All of us are CV fans and we each wore one of our CV dresses.
Not one of us wears the same size or even has the same shape. Between us we have given birth to nine children. We all have body image “junk,” parts of our bodies we like more or less. And we all enjoy very different things when it comes to colour and design.
The result? We were proud as peacocks in our dresses; from my solid cherry-red to my friend’s bluebird print, we were wearing every colour of the rainbow. We added cute-as-pie shoes, cardigans for our shoulders (hey, it’s still dang cold out), sparkly bead necklaces or pearls or no accessories at all, and off we went.
And every single one of us felt incredible. How often does that happen with a group of women? We were comfortable. Sexy. Smart. Fun.
We had a waitress take our photo and I sent it to Cherry Velvet that same night with a note about which designs we were each wearing. We are grinning like mad fools.
And though it was left unsaid, that photo for me was really a thank you – a way to say “look at us, all so different and so imperfect and so very, very beautiful being ourselves.”
Because what I’ve figured out, at long last, is that being different and imperfect – in body, in thought, in fashion - is not an impediment to being me.
Being different and imperfect – and feeling good about this – is, in fact, the very basis of being exactly who I am, as it is for all of us.
Christina Myers for Cherry Velvet
Christina Myers is a former journalist turned freelancer and creative writer. Her work appears in local magazines and she has been published in a number of anthologies. She is a fan of dresses with pockets, long socks and nerdy things. Find her online at christinaplus.wordpress.com, or on Twitter @ChristinaMyersA.
With our pattern maker away on maternity leave - our designer, Diane, found herself back in the sewing room - For the first time in years!
Diane has always been very hands-on when it comes to all facets of our dresses' production. As a seasoned fashion designer, she closely manages the pattern making and fittings, as well as monitoring production at our local factories.
Diane's background in sewing started at very early age. Fun fact - She made all her own clothes during her high school years and often sewed for other people. In grade 9, her sewing teacher actually paid her to sew for her! With style constantly on her mind and proven "clientele" at such a young age, she knew she found her calling and has been designing ever since.
And so, years later, with our Doris dress going into production once more, Diane wanted to make an adjustment to the pattern to improve fit. After all, even a classic can use an edit once and awhile.
The shoulder straps, while designed to go over a bra, were fitting too wide on somebody with a narrower shoulder. Diane administered a fit correction to the pattern and took the opportunity to sew herself a new dress in our Spinderella print, so she could test out the correction.
After this most recent session at the sewing machine, Diane was so delighted to remember how much she loved to sew - even after so many years! It's true; you never forget your first love ❤️
"It's such a wonderfully satisfying feeling to be able to design, make the pattern and complete a dress from start to finish". - Diane Kennedy
Diane's style of designing dresses has always been this kind of old-fashioned, "use all the best ingredients" approach. From the 100% cotton prints she carefully chooses to the YYK zippers that are a well-known industry standard, Diane's passion can be seen in her commitment to her designs.
Cherry Velvet's mission statement has always been to create a line of classic garments with exceptional fit and we hope this behind-the-scenes peek at our designer's process has helped illustrate her devotion for design!
XOX Cherry Velvet
As a proudly Canadian company, we love working with local brands and businesses that exemplify the level of care & quality that we maintain ourselves.
...So...that being said...
...have you met Pam? ♥️
She's the lovely face & talented hands of Mirror Mirror Bijoux, a well-known local jewellery designer here in Vancouver, BC and an overall entrepreneurial force.
She also loves our dresses 😘 (She's Team Chrissy!)
Under MMB, she designs and handmakes vintage-inspired jewellery that echoes old Hollywood glamour. Primarily working in crystal and glass, she adds elegant detail like ethereal finishes that sparkle like the night's sky.
She’ll often also incorporate real vintage beads or brooches into her pieces, giving that legit Vintage vibe.
CV Aficionados will be quite familiar with her & MMB, we not only carry her jewellery, including exclusive pieces, but she sometimes drops by our events...
...and often pops in to collaborate with our designer, on the next beautiful baubles to go with our dresses.
Whenever they meet, they pour over a multitude of beads and pendants, to create complementary pieces that add versatility and flair to our clients' wardrobe.
Recently, she's branched out to save us all from the worst thing imaginable...A bad hair day!
Have you tried a Great Hair Day Turband? We have!
They're easy-to-wear, insta-wow accessories for those days when a ponytail or plain ol' hat simply won't do.
Want to try one? Pam will be on hand at our next studio shop weekend @ 1635 Powell Street with a variety to try!
Friday :: July 5th :: 2pm-7pm
Saturday :: July 6th :: 11am-5pm
We hope you enjoyed this little spotlight on one of our favourite local entrepreneurs.
We think it's so important to support our fellow #womeninbusiness ♥️
XOX Cherry Velvet