Back to school may translate to lunch money and school supplies for some kids, but to the true fashion lovers it always means one thing -- new clothes. As fall approaches and the sound of the first school bell can faintly be heard, style-conscious students bombard the malls. Each searches for the gear sure to impress during that first informal fashion show of the school year otherwise known as the first day of school.
"That's what kids notice first on the first day of school," said Jazmin Perez, who will be a junior at Las Vegas High School. "They want to see if you're wearing new stuff or the stuff from last year." Perez already has her first day outfit picked out: "Cute jeans with a sweater and a tank."
To ensure your new school duds have you standing out in those crowded halls, consider these trends.
Denim has always been a prime back-to-school player but this year it takes a dip into your little sister's Crayola box. No shade is off limits, either. Fergie set this trend into motion this summer sporting neon blue and yellow styles.
For non-colored denim, subtlety rules. "Jeans aren't as embellished or destructed as before," said Amy Cafazzi, style expert at Marshall's. "The look is a little more cleaned up." Look for dark washes with sailor influences such as button details on the front. Expect bib style jumpers and thin suspenders to pop up on denim this season as well.
Layering takes on new forms for back-to-schoolers. Leggings or jeans worn under short dresses make a return, but expect a few new options, too. "The clashing combinations of the layers is what singles out the teens (from mainstream fashion)," Cafazzi said. Muted plaids partner with neon polka dots, and graphic prints pair up with animal prints. The more the patterns seem to disagree, the better.
The same goes for T-shirts, tanks and tunics. If you wore it in the summer you, can wear it in the fall underneath something else, unless it's swimwear.
Mini dresses get a nice reception from back-to-schoolers this year. While shorter hemlines may have moms profusely shaking their heads "no," the alternatives make everyone happy. "Baby doll and trapeze-style dresses are really popular with (school girls)," Cafazzi said. The shapeless cuts work well for body-conscious teens, but they also provide a nice foundation for layering.
The hoodie is hotter than ever. One of the most comfortable pieces ever created comes to life this school year in bright pops of color and curious graphic prints. "The hoodie is a little more updated now," said Erin Burke, Cotton Inc.'s product trend analyst. "It's getting a little slimmer and showing the emergence of neon accents."
Gray's influence was so strong off the runways that it makes its way into the classrooms, too. Light to deep grays will show up on the first day, but as the school year progresses, jewel tones will resuscitate the doldrums of grays. Look for other atypical fall colors to find their way onto school grounds as well. "This fall we're seeing a transition of the darker pinks to a palette of off-red, peach and browns," Burke said.
Bangles, long necklaces, headbands and cabbie hats dominate the school scene, Cafazzi said. Each can be worn with statement pieces such as colored jeans and neon hoodies or to punctuate trapeze dresses and gray garments. Backpacks have all but vanished as the favored carryall for school books and book reports. Messenger bags, canvas totes and oversized handbags rule the school.