Style University: Back To School Fashion 101

Though it still feels like summer, shorts and swimsuits are already disappearing from store shelves and being replaced with jeans, sweaters and everything Back to School. And while it isn’t time to swap out your beach towel for a pencil bag just yet, it’s never too early for a little tutoring on what’s going to be cool for kids of all ages, this fall.

So sit back, relax and get ready to take some notes. From fashion, hairstyles and backpacks, we’ve got you covered on everything you need to know on how to be the Salutatorian of Style by the time first bell rings.

[Lead Photo: JC Penney]

Though denim is hardly new, this year everyone’s favorite fabric is exploding onto the scene in a variety of different styles for guys, girls, and kids, too.

“Denim is key,” said Stephanie Muehlhausen, vice president/fashion director at Macy’s. “Denim on denim paired head to toe is a must have for BTS. Chambray shirts and denim shells paired back to baby bell jeans or a denim skirt is a smart look for fall. The shirt reinvents itself in new plaids, patterns and graphics.”

And speaking of plaid, Target has tapped designer Adam Lippes to create more than 50 items inspired by buffalo plaid and is bringing tartan touches to everything from home goods to fashion essentials in their Back to School plaid takeover. “When we started to think about fall, we knew we wanted to do something special,” said Kathee Tesija, Target’s executive vice president and chief merchandising and supply chain officer for Target.

“Plaid has been a defining element of style for every generation, and we felt it would be the perfect centerpiece for this design moment: It can be both fun and fashionable.”

Kids not into checking out can plug their lava lamps in instead, because, according to retailers, things are about to get pretty groovy, baby. This fall it’s a total flashback to the ’70s, said Preston Konrad, of American Eagle Outfitters.

“We are excited for this ’70s style revival. It’s time to embrace the flare, Southwestern prints and Boho-inspired tops,” he said. “Southwestern prints transition into men’s, as well, mixed with tech-inspired pieces.”

But not to worry if you still like your skinny jeans, according to Konrad; they aren’t going anywhere. “A skinny jean will always be a staple.”

Macy’s Muehlhausen agrees with Konrad that Bohemian-inspired fashion is an important trend this fall. “Peasant tops and dresses look newest in off-the-shoulder silhouettes; suede and fringe is a must have.”


Photo: H&M

And don’t forget baby bell bottoms, ponchos and capes, because they are important layering pieces for back to school fashion, Muehlhausen says.

For preschooler and elementary school-aged kids, Lynn Mogielnicki, owner of Over the Moon, a children’s clothing boutique in Avon, said that the look for fall has a hip, European vibe with blacks and grays popular for older kids and bright styles for the younger ones.

“This fall we are offering a tween line with more of an urban edge, an adult feel, yet not inappropriate,” Mogielnicki said.

There’s a preppy movement for boys, she said. “Boys are getting more adventurous in color choice with more turquoise, light shades of blue, and boys feeling more comfortable pushing the boundary.”

And, like many other retailers, Mogielnicki sees a throwback theme in kid’s styles for Back to School. “There’s embroidery on denim and a Bohemian style to go with it.”

With retro being all the rage, hairstyles are following suit with center parts and Woodstock styles on the rise.

Jay Roberts, owner of Blades salon in Wethersfield, said kids of all ages are paying attention to style trends, whether they are looking them up on the Internet or seeing them in magazines, and emulating them.

“With the influence of the Internet, younger kids are able to look at what’s fashionable, cool, and trendy, and seek out those trends,” he said. “And whatever fashion sets up is what fashion will be in hair.”

In addition to ’70s-inspired looks, Roberts said, some girls are choosing to go short like popular young celebrities Miley Cyrus, Demi Lovato and Shailene Woodley, who have all cut their hair in recent months.

Kids are also getting into color, he said, and using various products like hair chalk to temporarily add some bright, bold colors to their look.

For girls and teens, Roberts is seeing a trend toward ornate ponytails and sock-buns. And while younger boys are leaning toward preppy cuts, some of their older counterparts are opting for longer, hippie-inspired styles.

Tawn Dow

Photo: Tawn Dow

Regardless of age, Roberts said that, overall, kids of most ages prefer what’s easiest. “It’s all about time; it’s about more time to stay in bed. They don’t want to fight to get on the bus. They want it to be quick, easy, and still fashionable.”

Finally, there’s one thing that every kid is wearing no matter what’s trending on the fashion circuit: a backpack.

For more than 25 years, L.L. Bean has been outfitting students from preschool to post-graduate with sturdy, well-made packs to help transport their gear from one place to the next.

“We have a wide variety of packs ranging in various styles, shapes, functionality, as we realize that while some students are carrying books, others are carrying athletic gear, tablets, lunch and everything in between,” said L.L. Bean’s Curt Nichols.

To accommodate, L.L. Bean has a backpack for just about everyone. For high school and college kids, they offer the Quad and North Ridge Backpacks, along with the new Classic Campus Pack.

“Organization is key for older students,” Nichols said, “along with aesthetically appealing exteriors.”

Bean also offers the Pal Pack, which incorporates a friendly character into its design, along with the Discovery Backpack, which has glow-in-the-dark graphics. Both are great for preschoolers and younger kids.

Eternally popular for elementary-aged students are L.L. Bean’s Junior, Original, Deluxe and Super Deluxe Book Packs, and their Turbo Transit Pack, as well. And according to Nichols, some of them will have get a new look this fall.

“We are offering new fabrications, prints and solids in these bestselling packs that are fresh, fun and colorful,” he said.

From fashion to accessories, now that you know what to study for, you’re sure to get your degree in Back to School style, and go straight to the head of the class.

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