Looking for that vintage vibe? You’ll love Cherry Velvet. The Canada-based vintage boutique is your go-to stop for retro finds.
Cherry Velvet dresses “unleash your inner bombshell” with vintage glamour. The boutique carries a variety of high-quality plus-size options in XL to 3X.
“Our dresses make people happy,” says owner and designer Diane Kennedy. “They’re bright, they’re colorful, they’re often a conversation piece.”
Cherry Velvet loves to showcase customer photos on social media. In fact, they recently ran a promotion called the the #staydressedchallenge.
“Our customers really enjoyed it. We had people tell us how it really lifted their spirits to get dressed and send us photos. We had some great photos.” One was of a woman in her backyard chopping wood in her dress. Others channeled their “Suzie Homemaker” side.
The Retro Vibe
Shop Kennedy’s website, cherryvelvetplus.com, and two things will hit you: the retro vibe of the cuts and the incredibly colorful and fun patterns of the fabric.
“I spend hours picking out prints,” Kennedy says. “You don’t get the full glory of the prints until you see the dress in question.” One example is the “Bug Dress,” which is covered in brilliantly colored dragonflies. Online, you can’t really see the gold edging, but it’s there.
“Our prints are different from a lot of companies because we mostly use one-way prints. You can have apples spilling in every direction. But a skeleton mermaid has to be right-side up. They have to be cut with things all going in one direction. We’re not afraid of buying those unique fabrics. They take more fabric and they’re harder to work with.” She goes for the most unique patterns she can find and gets them from multiple American companies.
One thing you won’t see from the pictures, but we’re going to point it out for you: If you’re a woman who appreciates pockets, you should know that “100 percent of our dresses have pockets. It was never a question. We just always had them from the very beginning.” That wasn’t a conscious plan, it just worked out that way. “For me it was never, ‘Oh, we should put pockets in it’ — it was just always there.”
Clothes That Fit
Kennedy’s frustration with being unable to shop off the rack and find dresses that fit her shorter plus-sized body spurred her to create her company.
“I was bigger than an XL. I was shopping in regular stores in a mall, and nothing fit me. Before this whole plus-size revolution, I could never, ever find dresses that fit me.”
In an unusual turn, Kennedy started off designing for plus-size women like herself, and retailers loved the designs so much they asked her to start offering them in smaller sizes as well. So she did.
“I make two completely different patterns. You can’t take a sample size 6 or 8 and make it bigger. The fit will not be right. There’s no way around that. The only way to have a proper fit for a plus-size woman is to make a pattern for a plus-size woman.” If you’ve tried on a garment that was originally patterned for a non-plus-size woman and then simply scaled up to a plus size and wondered why it didn’t fit right, well, now you know.
“I have a really good understanding of sizing. It works really well. We really fit the regular sizes and plus sizes the way people expect them to fit.”
Her most popular sizes are XL, 0X and 1X. XXL and 2X, she points out, are not the same thing. “A lot of dress brands will go XL and then they go XXL. But XXL in our brand is a 0X.” That OX fills in the gap between non-plus-size and plus-size clothing. If you happen to fall in that area, you will know what she means. The website has a very detailed fit guide on how to measure yourself and get the right size.
If you are still unsure what size to get, email the company with your measurements. “We want the dress to fit when you get the dress. We want a happy customer. Without proper measurements, there really is no way to guess.”
“These are 100 percent cotton. They are not stretch. So they do need to fit properly.”
If you shop online, you’ve probably noticed that a lot of clothing companies are based in Asian countries, where many of the designers do not understand the American body. Many a woman has ordered a 2X outfit online and received a garment so small she’s passed it to her prepubescent daughter.
“Their body type is generally different,” Kennedy notes. So there’s value in wearing clothing designed by a professional pattern maker who is plus-sized herself.
That ‘50s Closet
Kennedy’s mother’s wardrobe has always been a big inspiration for her.
“I grew up with her wardrobe to look at. Not too long ago, I picked up a box in my garage” and began looking at some clothing that had been her mother’s. “She always had beautiful fabrics.” The clothing her mother wore in the 1950s is still beautiful.
If see yourself as the reincarnation of a pin-up girl or just love a classic, retro look, you’ll appreciate the silhouettes of Cherry Velvet’s clothing.
The retro look “was pretty subconscious” at first. “I wanted to design dresses that I could wear as a plus-size woman. I wanted to do them in cotton. I’m a big advocate of natural fabrics.”
“When we started our brand, we went for a very pin-up, rockabilly look,” Kennedy says. Based on customer feedback, she’s dialed that back a little bit, but it’s still there for those who are looking for that vibe.
“I have a quite vast catalog of different styles. They all have girls’ names.” She will repeat them in different seasons. “When we make a dress, say the Brooke for example, it’s going to come out in five prints. All of the prints that we choose are very limited. Generally speaking, when a print comes out, it’s a small run, we do it once, and when it’s done it’s done. When the dress comes back, it’s almost certain to be in a different print.”
The Leanne was actually named for a customer who loves and collects the dresses.
“She literally buys stacks of dresses at a time. She’ll pile up 12 dresses on the counter.” Or she did, before the pandemic temporarily closed the shop, which is currently only offering its clothing online.
“We have a lot of customers who collect our dresses. They’ll have their favorites, and they’ll get them in different patterns. One will get a new dress and take them home to introduce them to their ‘sisters.’”
“This is what I was meant to do. When I was 4 years old I got my first sewing machine,” Kennedy says, and she started sewing her own clothes from a young age. She was the girl always making her friends’ prom and wedding dresses.
She studied fashion design in college and in 1996 began working with Lululemon, making their original patterns.
“This is what I’ve always wanted to do my entire life so I’m happy I get to do that.
I design the garments, I work on the patterns.” She has a small team of employees who handle the website, social media and marketing.
Her fabrics come from American companies and the sewing is done in Vancouver, where Kennedy and her company are located.
And Fun Accessories to Match
Cherry Velvet also sells jewelry, which is made by a local designer.
“We work together,” so if you have had the thought that the jewelry the models are wearing seems perfect for the outfits, that’s why.
“They’re all made, probably 95 percent, of glass, not plastic. They’re all hand-made. That’s really the accessories that we mostly put with our dresses.”
Dish on Diane Kennedy
Kennedy is in her mid-50s and 5’ 2” and describes herself as “certainly not a model or a fashion icon,” but she includes herself in their social media because she knows her customers relate to her. “They like to see me wearing my clothes.” But she prefers to be “more behind the scenes.”
She’s single with a 25-year-old son who is a computer programmer who just graduated from a university and got his first job. She doesn’t have any pets.
“My company is my pet. It takes all my time,” she said. Asked about her other hobbies, she said, “I love to garden. I love to read. Oh my God, this sounds so cliche: Walks on the beach!” She laughs. “I work pretty hard. The company and designing is definitely a big part of who I am.”