My most favorite time of the year! Nature sheds its boring whites and browns for a vivid palette of color; beast sheds its stocky fur for a lighter, sleeker coat; and man sheds his winter layers for (dare I say it?!!?) big skirts, bold prints and two-toned shoes. Of course, as spring approaches, it is expected that one must also approach one’s closet to refurbish one’s wardrobe. And, as mama used to say, “There’s nothing like a much anticipated shopping trip to bring the love from the chest to the cheeks.” Hear! hear! mama!

In honor of the coming season, we’ve taken the time to chat with some of our local merchants on shifting styles, upcoming trends and what excites them about spring.

Modern Times is a store for “forward-thinking women who know the trends but aren’t slaves to them,” according to store owner Hillary Fisher. Frequented by college women and “post-grad, hip, professional women and/or moms who are looking to make a statement with their wardrobe,” this Chapel Hill gem is the place to–as shoppers in the know can affirm–get your fashion on.

Ms. Fisher, whose goal for Valentine’s Day was to “not wear anything at all,” advises that for women’s fashion, “color” is the key and abiding word.

“Color continues to be in,” she says. Also in are “bold stripes and patterns in silk, cut to flatter the body. Feminine was in last spring and continues this spring. It’s nice to be girly, but pair ultra-feminine pieces with something less girly for a combination that gives it the right attitude. For example, [a] pretty camisole, cute cropped cardigan paired with a sexy, fitted, destroyed denim.”

And for the big skirt that we spoke of earlier, Ms. Fisher recommends: “They’re not your mother’s skirt from the ’50s. Look for artsy prints like street scenes or cool, geo patterns.”

Find these and more fashions at 402 W. Franklin St. or Call 929-8119 for info.

Up the street and walking distance from Modern Times is sporty boutique The Cat Shack, which bills itself as “Chapel Hill’s Puma Footwear and Apparel Store.” And what better time than now to outfit your feet–those oft neglected members–with some stylish and much deserved footwear?

Owner Nancy Hogg says she is excited about the unique colors and styles in footwear, and describes her merchandise as “Puma, Onitsuka Tiger and Paul Frank footwear, apparel and accessories.” For those who want to be in on the fun, fashionable sporting party, she says: “Puma has so many style options for spring for both men and women. The colors are bold and combined quite nice.” Trek into the Shack at 128 E. Franklin St. or Call 933-8989 for info.

Raleigh’s Wardrobbe is a literal walk-in closet of choices for Triangle shoppers. Manager Wes Smith describes the store’s merchandise as “anywhere from conservative to edgy/fashion-forward” for guys and gals “from 15 to 55 years old.” Mr. Smith, who gets a rush from “fashion in general,” has this to say about what’s currently in vogue:

“Aside from green dominating the color pallette, personal style is what’s really being pushed. It’s an eclectic era right now. Obviously the ’80s had everything from punk to Member’s Only jackets [and] the early ’90s was all about bright colors, but today it’s all about personal style; it’s all about being comfortable. That’s why I’m excited. So many companies are staying true to themselves as opposed to pushing a fad, so it makes it nice for people to pick styles from great companies rather than conforming to a couple of trends.”

In addition to green, green and more green, Mr. Smith advises shoppers to look for clean lines, distressed denim, and white or off-white shoes and belts for men. For these and more “comfortable fabrications” in a stunning variety of brands, visit your neighborhood Wardrobbe (they’re having a huge sale folks!) at 430 Daniels St. Call 828-8700 for more info.

The word is out: Holly Aiken makes a heck’uva bag. A graduate of North Carolina State University’s school of design and owner of the local studio and showroom Stitch, Ms. Aiken’s work has been featured in a plethora of national media including health, Parenting, Teen Vogue, Cosmopolitan, Lucky and New York Metro magazines, as well as being spotlighted in local news sources News & Observer and ABC Eyewitness News.

Stitch’s merchandise is exclusively Aiken and includes bags and accesories “made of colored vinyl and styled with stripes, die cuts and topstitching.” All products are designed and assembled in-store, where customers can choose custom colors and view the manufacturing process in the shop’s design and manufacturing studio.

Ms. Aiken says Stitch’s clientele includes “men and women of all ages who appreciate buying something bold and unique,” and she forecasts for upcoming fashion: “bright, tone-on-tone patterns” and “more vintage colors in totes for laptop computers, gym bags and diaper bags.” Look for two new syles in Ms. Aiken’s expandable doctor bags with short handles and accessories and bags detailed with nickel-plated grommet designs.

Get sacked at 521 W. North St. in Raleigh. or 833-8770 for info.

Allison Preston, in addition to being the style editor for the delightful online fashion magazine She She Me (, is the manager at the Raleigh boutique Scout & Molly’s.

Ms. Preston, who could be spotted in a “silk Trina Turk dress from Scout & Molly’s” for Valentine’s Day, is most excited about full skirts and wedge heels for spring. Ms. Preston advises that shoppers pair those skirts with slim tops for an “ultimate spring ensemble.”

“Nautical is huge again this spring,” she says. “In bold stripes and wide-leg trousers. Spring is also welcoming back bohemian style, but in a luxe way. Femininity is still the tone of the season’s trends and clothing.”

“When shopping at Scout & Molly’s, you will feel like you just stepped into a fabulous closet complete with vintage furnishings and accessories,” promises the store’s Web site. Cash in on a season of promises in the Shops of Falls Village, 6675 Falls of the Neuse Road, Ste. 121, Raleigh. or 848-8732 for info.

Also of note are two Triangle events worth mentioning: the opening of the designer fashions clothing store Rouge in North Hills Shopping Center ( or 788-6410) and The Fashion Show benefit and fundraiser for the Cornucopia House of Chapel Hill, which will be held on Monday, March 21 at Carr Mill Mall. Call 880-1336 for more information.

I hope these fashion tidbits give you ample ideas for putting a spring in your stylish step this season! Now remember folks, let’s go out there and look fabulous!