As the last days of summer count down, the inevitable rush to the mall begins as back-to-school shopping hits full swing.

This year shoppers are expected to spend an average of almost $232 each on clothing and accessories, for a total of $7.6 billion, according to a study by the National Retail Federation. While pre-teens will chip in about $15.38 toward those costs, and teens about $31.19, almost two-thirds of parents say that their children will determine at least half of the back-to-school items purchased.

Probably the biggest trend for both girls and boys this year is layering; it allows not only for a lot of creativity in putting together looks, but is practical as well. For instance, instead of just one big, heavy coat for winter, a medium-warmth jacket can go from fall to winter and then into spring with the addition – or subtraction of layers. A babydoll dress can be worn with tights or leggings, then over jeans when the weather turns cooler.

For the guys, the “athletic lifestyle” look, influenced by the skateboarder and surfer culture, is seen in everything from shoes to shorts, shirts and hoodies.

And as always, jeans and tees – for both girls and boys – continue to be the two wardrobe staples.

With a little planning, kids (and their parents) can get the most from their spending dollars by choosing some key items that will update their wardrobe with the newest looks, while still working with things they already have in their closets.

For Girls:

Babydoll dresses: This is one of the hottest looks for fall, worn alone or layered over a tank or hooded shirt. Prints are bold, and solid colors are muted – think earth tones, black, grey or dusty roses and blues. When paired with leggings or tights, a babydoll top makes a cute mini-dress that’s still appropriate for the classroom. When the mercury starts to dip, slip it over a pair of jeans.

Leggings and tights: This is one of the season’s most versatile layering pieces. Leggings or tights can go under skirts, jumpers, dresses or babydolls to add warmth and coverage, and it will extend the time you can wear the piece well into fall.

Plaids: Whether a skirt, jumper or shirt, plaids are big this fall. Re-invent preppie chic by layering a plaid skirt with leggings and a solid tee under a simple white blouse. Plaids are also showing up in everything from Bermuda shorts to hair accessories.

Jeans: It isn’t all about skinny anymore – this season there are plenty of styles to choose from, including high waisted, classic straight legs or wide-legged trouser. But they all have one thing in common: a dark, inky wash. And detailed pockets continue to be the defining embellishment.

Flats: There’s no end in sight to the popularity of ballet flats, the must-have shoe of the year. For fall, patent leather is popular, as are metallics.

For Guys:

Cargo pants: Cargo pants are still a staple of the guys’ wardrobe, but this season they’ve been stripped of much of the bulk for a cleaner, more classic line denim, twill and corduroy. Look for cargoes that zip at the knee, letting you detach the bottom to convert them into shorts.

Jeans: This season’s jean has a relaxed, not baggy, fit, in dark washes or a softer finish. The five-pocket boot-cut remains a wardrobe classic.

Tees: Forget about logos or phrases, today’s tees feature big graphic prints on solid colors as well as stripes. They are the building block of the guys’ wardrobe, so wear them alone, or layered under a button-down shirt or sweater vest, or over a long-sleeve tee.

Hoodie: The hoodie is a layering essential for guys, whether in light cotton, warm sweatshirt material or soft fleece. The lighter hoodies can be worn underneath a graphic tee or long-sleeved shirt; when the weather turns chillier, fleece hoodies are great for layering under jackets.

Skater-style” Shoes: Both comfortable and functional, the skater-inspired shoe continues to be the footwear of choice for guys.


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