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The newest romantics

Love is in the air (and on the runway)

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Love always lends itself to fine-crafting a work of art. We think of romance as something between two people, but romanticism is an exciting and mysterious quality that can describe a look or a sound.

In ruffles and feathers and makeup, effeminate glamour defined The New Romantics in the 1980s. This spring, many designers are blending romantic elegance with a historical reference to all things David Bowie and Adam Ant. It seems oversized poufs and exaggerated proportions are on the runway, and designers are taking on the name The New Romantics once again. These styles combine femininity with a boldness that only the confident should sign up for. Plunging necklines, flowing fabric and gigantic flowers grace the clothing designs, daring you to wear them with wild shoes and jewelry.

Locally, Apple Boutique at University Square in Chapel Hill knew this trend was coming. Owner Jamie Holland has a great sense for which new and lesser-known designers will end up making it big, and her shop carries fashions that are fresh off the runway. Holland's love of fashion makes Apple Boutique a stylish place that showcases a diverse selection of up-and-coming designers, many of which fall under this new New Romantic definition.

"We try to showcase designers that are in the beginning of their career, and we've managed to provide clothing lines to our customers that have ultimately been incredibly successful in the world of fashion," Holland explains.

Labels like Grey Ant, Tibi, Marc by Marc Jacobs, Ya-Ya and Lotta Stensson fill the boutique, and provide local fashion-lovers a chance to be the first to rock the latest styles. Skinny pants (yeah, they're sticking around) and even high-waist pants (seriously!) are partnered with ruffled, bold, bright tops and high heels. Oversized flowers and baby-doll style dresses also fall under the current Romantic look, with Victorian jewelry or giant bracelets completing the ensembles. Feel free to powder your wig and make hearty use of your eyeliner to really tie in the old look with the new.

Rocking the local music scene lately, Violet Vector and the Lovely Lovelies have a wink and a nod to the past as well. Describing themselves as having a "sunbeam sugarplum sound," they use words like "groovy" in a totally comfortable way. While their sound is decidedly reflective of '60s love-ins, there's a fresh, modern feeling in songs like "Can You Dig It?" with a hearty helping of handclaps. Bringing a whole lot of love to each song, this band melds the past and the present with rock band standards, plus organs, tambourines, bells and a danceable beat. Their retro sound harkens back to before the days of Flock of Seagulls, but they still manage to concoct a very mod mix of '60s, '80s and now sounds.

From left: Karen wears a green tunic with ruffle by Geren Ford and skinny jeans by Odyn. Amanda wears a cashmere halter top by White & Warren and Indian stovepipe jeans with buttons from Sass & Bide. Cathleen wears a baby doll halter dress with retro flower print from Tibi. And there's Matt. - PHOTO BY DEREK ANDERSON
  • Photo by Derek Anderson
  • From left: Karen wears a green tunic with ruffle by Geren Ford and skinny jeans by Odyn. Amanda wears a cashmere halter top by White & Warren and Indian stovepipe jeans with buttons from Sass & Bide. Cathleen wears a baby doll halter dress with retro flower print from Tibi. And there's Matt.

The band wore the latest designs from Apple Boutique while lounging at the Siena Hotel in Chapel Hill. Their combination of '60s hair, '80s ruffles and '00s style show how there's not only one way to appear romantic, and that if they must be defined, maybe they could be The New Retro Romantics? The Unicorn and Rainbow Romantics? Their confidence and charisma radiating, Violet Vector and the Lovely Lovelies prove you can look like a romantic without all the romance, defining love in your own

About the shoot: Photographs were taken in the Siena Hotel in Chapel Hill (www.sienahotel.com). Clothes courtesy of Apple Boutique (www.appleboutique.com). Makeup by Courtney Buley. The members of Violet Vector and the Lovely Lovelies are Karen Blanco (organ), Amanda Brooks (singing, guitar), Cathleen Keyser (bells, tambourine, recorder) and Matt McCallus (drums). For more on the band and their upcoming seven-inch record, visit www.myspace.com/violetvectorandthelovelylovelies.

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