Style File

This Year’s Trend: Buy for Today

by Emily Lambert

As summer winds down, excitement hovers in the air. Is it the cooler days? The start of soccer season? Don’t be silly, it’s the thought of buying the perfect new dress, the coolest new jeans and the hippest sneakers on a back-to-school shopping spree.

Here are the 2007 kids’ fall fashion trends, and some quick tips to make your shopping spree a little less painful.

This year there is no one universal fashion theme, no “70s comeback” or “preppy perfect,” but there is one common approach and that is “wear-now,” says Jeffrey Mitgang, vice president of merchandise for junior sportswear, junior dresses and girls for Boscov’s Department Stores, headquartered in Reading, PA.

In other words, tweens and teens aren’t scooping up chunky wool sweaters in September, they’re buying items they can twirl around in the next day.

Bermudas and Leggings
In Boscov’s junior departments, expect to see an extensive Bermuda shorts selection. Bermudas, which were a major influence for spring and summer, segue straight into cooler weather in dark transitional plaids.

Another popular silhouette taking its cues from this past spring and summer is baby doll dresses over leggings. “We have sold a tremendous amount of these,” says Mitgang. In its 20 area department stores, JCPenney will offer a wide selection of dresses as well, including solid and plaid jumpers and geometric print trapeze dresses.

And don’t forget the essential summer tank top that moves into fall. After all, it’s the perfect layering piece. “Layering is huge with kids,” says Kate Poole, an owner of Oranges & Lemons Children’s Boutique in Wilmington, DE. While teens layer for fashion, kids layer for function. “It’s better to layer to keep them warm and then they can take things off they don’t need,” says Poole.

The newest in junior denim will be the wide leg, says Mitgang. Yes, “skinnies” will still be on the racks but the wide leg is “more universal, more kids can wear it,” he says. Dark washes are also emerging. However, the most important thing is the fit, which is as individual as a teenager’s handwriting. “We are making a big effort in juniors with denim so a girl can get her jean fit down right,” says Mitgang. This means brands like LEI and Paris Blues will come in varying sizes, lengths and washes.

“For girls 7-16, we are making a big effort with our High School Musical and Hannah Montana lines. These are related separates that are “a little more edgy,” says Mitgang.

Also for girls, Poole expects fun skirts and tights with stripes and florals to be big. Linda Berman, co-owner of The Children’s Boutique in Philadelphia, expects to see lots of dresses for girls and lots of tunic tops with slim pants.

Colors and Patterns
Berman predicts gray and chocolate brown to be big colors from babies through teens. Geometric, houndstooth and herringbone prints can be found on skirts and jumpers from Hartstrings, the Strafford, PA wholesaler of children’s clothing.

For boys, along with basic cords, “Surf-wear is in,” such as pants with cargo pockets and vintage T-shirts, says Poole. There are numerous skull-and-cross-bones themes in-spired by Pirates of the Caribbean. From Hartstrings, parents will find oversized motifs on boys’ rugby shirts, such as giant numbers, crests and emblems, says Carol Beck, vice-president of merchandising and retail for Hart-strings. Skate pants will be important, as well, she says.

Jackets for boys will come in many varieties: clean-lined blazers in classic mens-wear fabrics, bomber jackets with details such as unusual zippers and pockets and military jackets in bomber and cargo styles with embellishments, says Kathi Martin, associate professor and director of graduate fashion at Drexel University. In bottoms, cropped pants, some with bungee cords to adjust the length, and knit pants of all lengths with embellishments such as tabs, taping and patches, will be the trend.

When it comes to shoes, Abbey Cohen, owner of Shoe Zoo in Marlton, NJ, says, it’s all about the boot this year — specifically, Gortex boots for boys, and for girls, just about anything in brown and black. “Sneakers that will be a hit will be the very funky Geox, an Italian sneaker, and Pumas will be very popular. Nike is a staple,” she says. Berman’s shoe prediction is ballet slippers in metallic and velvet, and boots, both high and low.

Shopping Tips

• Always check what you have in the closet from the year before and see what fits before you go shopping.

• Buy basics that offer versatility.

• Shop early. The best clothes are in stock now.

• Buy separates. Children can easily coordinate.

• Be sure your child is comfortable. Many pants come with adjustable waists for the best fit.

Money-Savers
When it comes to budget shopping, Natalie Weathers, associate professor of fashion industry manage-ment at Philadelphia University, has the scoop. There’s a new line from actress Sarah Jessica Parker, “Bitten,” available exclusively at Steve & Barry’s stores, with area locations in Philadelphia’s Franklin Mills and in Deptford and Lumber-ton, NJ. The clothes designed for this line are under $20, including jeans, sweaters, jackets and accessories.

The “Starbury,” a basketball sneaker from NBA All Star Stephon Marbury, also is debuting at Steve & Barry’s. This sneaker comes at the low price of $14.98 and is “really taking off well,” says Weathers.

Because today’s buying style is wear-now, many parents and teens hold off and start simply with a few basics. Just don’t wait too long. Many retailers say the best selections are available now. If you truly do want to be the most fashion-forward on your block, you’ve got to be the first one to have it, anyway, right?

Emily Lambert is a local freelance writer and former junior sportswear buyer for Strawbridge & Clothier. Fashion photo courtesy of Forman Mills.