For back-to-school fashion, grunge lovers rejoice: The ’90s are back, with an abundance of denim (ripped and layered), flannel and chunky mules.
Or make that the ’70s, with a reboot of flared jeans and burnt-orange hues.
Or is it the ’80s bringing the bomber jacket back?
Styles for students this fall are going back in time to borrow trends and update them for today, proving that Taylor Swift was right: We’ll never go out of style. Just look at Pokemon. The ’90s fad is not only a ubiquitous game app, but it’s popping up in back-to-school styles as well.
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The Star hit up shops at Oak Park Mall and The Legends, as well as locally owned boutiques, to pinpoint the biggest trends. We browsed store shelves and talked to store employees and customers.
After all, while back-to-school shopping has moved online, physical stores still reign as the preferred method of purchasing. According to a Crowdtap study of 300 Americans, 64 percent said they favor shopping in physical stores for clothing, and the number rises to 70 percent for school supplies.
A National Retail Federation survey found that families with children in grades K-12 will spend an average of $673.57 this back-to-school season, up 9.6 percent from last year. Specifically, 95 percent of respondents said they would purchase clothing, for a grand expected total of $9.54 billion nationwide. RetailMeNot Inc. broke it down further: Its two surveys of 2,018 adults said shoppers plan to spend an average of $273 per child.
If that’s a hard hit to your wallet, the state of Missouri will give you a break this weekend: the Back to School Sales Tax Holiday, Aug. 5-7. The holiday applies to clothing, school supplies and personal computers. See dor.mo.gov/business/sales/taxholiday for more information.
So, if you’re going to drop big bucks on back to school, you might as well get in on the hot trends.
Students can’t get enough of denim. How to get more in your wardrobe? Layer it.
Denim on denim, long the taboo of the fashion world, is coming (back) into style. The style works best with lighter shades — no heavy denim jackets paired with dark denim jeans. Chambray shirts fake the denim look with flexible, breathable fabric. Look for denim pencil skirts as well (they’re a favorite of the Kardashians).
But denim doesn’t have to be as unforgiving as the era of the skinny jean. The bootleg and flared styles from the ’70s are making their way back onto the racks, and the retro distressed, torn look gives an edge to the classic fabric. Dust off those jokes, dads — you’ll once again be able to ask, “Did you get a discount for the holes?”
We put our model in a gray denim skirt ($188) from Standard Style on the Country Club Plaza, where you can also find frayed and cropped flared jeans. Check out American Eagle Outfitters for ripped denim. We found a women’s classic jean jacket there for $59.95.
2. Burnt orange
The color orange screams fall — gourds, leaves and, of course, pumpkin spice lattes. Incorporating it into an outfit automatically puts you in the season, but the brighter burnt orange on racks today also effuses the carefree summer sun beating down on students as school begins.
Men can have the best of both seasons in orange shorts (on sale for $20) we found at Abercrombie & Fitch. For women, the color pops up in accessories, like scarves and earrings, but you can also find simple tank tops and T-shirts from Abercrombie embracing the trend. For a more dressed up look, try a two-piece burnt orange skirt and crop top from Forever 21 ($38 for each piece).
We dressed our model in a burnt orange “Saucy” bodysuit from Wet Seal ($16.95) and topped off the outfit with a scarf to splurge on from Standard Style ($235).
3. Bomber jackets
It has been three decades since bomber jackets last permeated fashion culture, but the ’80s trend is enjoying another style moment (thankfully, without the big hair and parachute pants). The bomber is the perfect transition between summer and fall — not as heavy as a puffer jacket but just dense enough to guard against the chill of October evenings.
Express has thoroughly embraced the new/old trend, as has Charlotte Russe. Express’ women’s jackets can be found in several colors online for about $80, including berry, another shade expected to be big this fall. We also found one at Wet Seal for $34.90, featured on our model.
One of the more interesting trends this year comes from across the Pacific: kimonos.
They’re not the full-length garb from traditional Japan but instead a cardigan-like wrapper, typically adorned with florals. The kimono instantly adds polish and some flowing, 1970s dreaminess to a summer outfit, and its lightweight fabric keeps you cool as the summer comes to an end.
Wet Seal calls the trend “kimono cool” and has an abundance of Japanese-inspired offerings — including maxi dresses, off-the-shoulder tops and plenty of florals. Kimonos, like the one pictured on our model, typically run about $27.
Ankle boots with wide heels aren’t a new trend, but you shouldn’t expect them to go away anytime soon. The “new” trend? Mules, in all their ’90s glory.
While the original iteration of the shoe style was closed-toe, this season’s mules let toes see the light of day. As fall approaches, the trend might move back to its original look, but for now, feel free to incorporate either style.
You can find mules at Standard Style — the ones on our model cost $130 — and Forever 21 sells one pair on its website: buckled peep-toe mules for $19.99.
6. Technology-inspired everything
If there’s one thing this reporter gleaned from talking to kids at shopping centers, it’s that technology is the ultimate cool factor. It’s all about the newest cellphones, fitness trackers and smart watches.
But if that doesn’t fit your budget, you can find technology-inspired trends in clothing and accessories. Stores geared toward younger consumers have stocked up on emoji-themed pillows, patches and stickers. The tween store Justice even has an emoji shop. Kids can decorate their backpacks and binders with a five-pack of adhesive patches for $6.90, featured on our model’s binders.
And with the explosion of Pokemon Go, you can bet there will be more ’90s throwback in apparel. The Bunker in Westport already has shirts proclaiming Team Valor, Mystic and Instinct, stocked for $25.
Other notable trends: flannels, monogram backpacks and layering. An overwhelming feel of this season is casual, so no need for teenagers to break out their heels to wander the school halls. Fashion seems to be moving away from the skintight era into a looser, more romantic style.
So, go ahead this school year — relax and feel the nostalgia.
Behind the scenes
Our model, Akot Riak of Kansas City, will soon start her senior year at Lincoln College Preparatory Academy. Her dream is to attend the University of Chicago next year and study to become a professor of philosophy.
Our photo shoot took place at Belton High School.