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Fashion field trip

By Dennise Smith

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Children's fashions this fall season are fresh and full of attitude!

While tween trends are often edgier and frequently are indiscernible from the junior market, clothes for kids ages 5 to 10 still have a youthful exuberance and whimsy.

What's different this year is the influx of luxe fabrics, such as leather, faux fur and sequins, bright pops of color paired with neutrals, accessories and bold graphics.

For little girls, feminine ruffles still reign supreme, but they now take on a more bohemian look and are generally part of an overall layered ensemble. Accessories such as sparkly scarves and flower headbands add to the "hippie chick" vibe.

Brightly colored jeans leggings -- "jeggings" -- are also popular this year, particularly in floral and animal prints. Animal prints in the traditional neutral are another focus of fall 2013 fashions, whether it be jackets, pants or accent colors. Prints for little girls mimic the junior and adult trends with wild graphics, color-blocking and abstract geometrics.

Little boys' fashions for fall 2013 are heavily influenced by the collegiate look with rugby stripes, plaids and leather varsity jackets. Also popular are puffer vests, grunge-style jeans, cargo pants and retro-printed tees featuring cartoon and pop-culture characters from the '80s.

The color scheme for boys' fall 2013 relies heavily on the standard masculine neutrals such as camel and navy, with splashes of bright orange and chartreuse green.

A fun trend in boys' fashion that is quickly becoming a cross-season favorite is hats. No longer limited to baseball hats, boys' headwear now includes fedoras and newsboy caps. Even baseball hats are sprucing up their act with faux Mohawk styling or dinosaur fins attached.

Unfortunately, back-to-school shopping can be a stressfully expensive time for most parents. Because of growing limbs and feet, it is not a ritual you can generally opt out of.

Further, as any parent or grandparent well knows, a shirt made with only one-quarter of the fabric as an adult-size shirt does not equate to one-quarter the price, or even half the price for that matter. It should be no wonder that the children's apparel segment of the fashion industry remained fairly resilient during depressed economy of recent years.

To ease the damage to your wallet, here are a few tips from local moms (and an aunt):

Lesly Messina spends more on dresses, shirts and sweaters "because you can buy them bigger and they can wear them for two seasons, usually," and less on pants, leggings and shoes as they are easily outgrown. The one exception for her: UGG boots because the quality of the materials are far superior, and they are generally roomier to accommodate growing feet. Similarly, spend less on other basics such as T-shirts, socks and underwear.

Shopping the clearance racks at premier kids' retailers such as Crazy 8, Gymboree and Gap Kids remains a popular moneysaving technique.

Mia Fox and her friends also have an unofficial clothing swap and alert one another via text messages of any sale on kids' clothing that comes across their radars.

Hillary Nibert suggests trying out budget-friendly retailers such as Kohl's, which has many fashion-forward options for kids and near constant sales.

A tip this aunt and writer offers is to join the customer appreciation clubs of kids' retailers that are provided free of cost, such as Justice and Children's Place and Gymboree. You usually qualify for an automatic discount when you apply and receive regular coupons. Yes, you will be bombarded by emails, but I find the discounts are well worth it. Now if only those cute little princess tees would come in women's size 12!

Dennise Smith is a Charleston lawyer, fashion designer and co-founder of the local arts group Nomadic Tribes Collective.


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