"Now more than ever they've got lots of lots of coloured bottoms to choose from," said Gap Inc. spokeswoman Victoria Kirk. "It's a trend that's carried over from last year, but now they've got a huge assortment of colours to choose from, from pink to rose to turquoise to yellow to seafoam green. They've got everything under the rainbow."
Kirk said animal prints are also seeing a re-emergence, with cheetah, leopard, zebra and snake prints punctuating apparel as well as accessories from shoes to socks and backpacks.
While kids may have more of a licence to be whimsical when it comes to combining prints and patterns, Kirk said some may want to be cautious when heeding the call of the wild in updating their fall style.
"I would say have fun, but at the same time...having animal print from head to toe might be a little bit overly ambitious," she said. As an alternative, she suggests teaming a graphic top that compliments the colours featured in the bottom versus wearing a top and pant pairing all in the same print.
A recent study from market research company The NPD Group finds that denim ranks tops in the apparel category during the back-to-school shopping season among teens 13-17.
Winners fashion expert Sarah Smithers said the perennial fall style favourite cuts across all age categories. But for teen girls in particular, new denim offerings will deliver stylish updates to standard basic blues.
Smithers said much of the coloured denim available during spring and summer will re-emerge for fall with highlighter brights among the offerings geared towards teen girls. Their male counterparts will likely favour darker, more autumnal hues such as green, burnt orange or perhaps rusty red, she noted. Distressed washes are also big for boys, said Kirk.
Smithers calls printed skinny jeans "the new kid on the denim block" for September. What's more, young, emerging stars of stage and screen are leaving a stylish blueprint which is being reflected in fashions likely to be coveted by tweens and teens — and printed denim is no exception. Country music sensation Taylor Swift has been spotted out in a polka-dot pair while actress Dakota Fanning has been seen sporting star-printed denim.
Kirk said the slouchy, skinny jeans favoured by homegrown superstar Justin Bieber and British boy band One Direction are also being embraced by boys. And while a more slender silhouette remains on-trend, she said it all boils down to comfort, with the roomier boot-cut fit also on offer.
Smithers said the "denim addiction" extends beyond jeans with kids looking to incorporate and layer pieces such as vests, button-down shirts or jackets with other items.
The collegiate style embraced by homegrown hip-hop star Drake — known for his love of the letterman jacket — remains a familiar presence on the fashion frontlines for teen boys.
"While sweatshirts and hoodies are always going to be popular with this age group, this fall, there's also room for great cardigans and sweaters," said Smithers. Sleek sweaters for boys also feature cable knit details, while layering the look with a brightly-hued polo offers a bold pop of colour, she noted.
Smithers said apparel items for girls also encompass preppy, pretty pieces infused with personality. Blazers are a "big story" for teens and younger kids, doubling as a statement jacket and a stylish, light outerwear option for the first warm weeks back to class. They're also being diversified with colourful contrast panels and trims, she noted.
"It gives it that sort of a ladylike look that a lot of teen girls are going to be going for this September," said Smithers, pointing to blouses punctuated with playful prints like horses, unicorns, dogs, hearts and stars. Teamed with skinny jeans or a pleated skirt, it will give youngsters the "Gossip Girl" prep-school look popularized on the hit teen drama, she noted.
Kirk said classic wardrobe staples such as hoodies and tees are not only great for layering but can also add a lot of mileage to school wardrobes in their ability to be threaded throughout a variety of looks. Leggings are another investment piece that can add longevity for girls wanting to extend the wear of a dress beyond September, she noted.
While sneakers remain popular footwear options for boys, Smithers said those for an eye towards polishing off their collegiate look may want to seek out a preppier alternative such as a suede desert boot.
Smithers said a heeled bootie remains a fail-safe style option for girls, but there are plenty of other options for those favouring flats, including the moccasin. Other tried-and-true favourites are getting an update, with Kirk pointing to sparkle detailing and colour-infused animal-print on ballet flats and colour-blocking on high-tops.
Picking your pack: Selecting the right bag
There are no shortage of stylish school bags in supply for the fall season. From basic black to colourful shades, plaids and florals, bright zippers and reflective strips, there are a myriad options to suit an array of tastes.
But whether you're swinging on a backpack or slinging on a messenger, function should also be front of mind in selecting the bag used to tote your binders and books.
Eric Clifford, community outreach co-ordinator for Mountain Equipment Co-op, said the most important thing parents and kids need to look at prior to purchasing a pack is the prime purpose for its use. Will it be strictly for school? Will they be travelling by bike? Or will it also be used for outside activities?
"The other thing is obviously the safety, making sure it's ergonomically correct, it's the right fit, particularly with little kids," said Clifford. "You want to make sure you're getting one that matches their body type accordingly."
Clifford said a good rule of thumb is that a child shouldn't be carrying more than 10 to 12 per cent of their body weight.
"If your child's 40 kilos, you're looking at like four to five kilos in their bag. And unfortunately, you do see a lot of kids who are just weighted down. So it is something to be conscious of — that's what's going to cause a lot of problems."
For younger children, Clifford said parents will need to select a kids'-specific bag to ensure everything is proportionate: the straps, cushioning and frame shape.
"The cut may look good on paper for their child, but until they have it on them, that's when you start feeling the nuances of the bag and say: `You know what? This strap may be the wrong strap. It's digging in or the way the padding is just not right. So that's really important to try it on."
Clifford recommends younger kids opt for a backpack and use both straps which will better help distribute the weight accordingly and better work with their body's frame, versus a one-strapped bag.
"The one strap puts a lot of pressure on one part of your body," he said. "The messenger bag is definitely popular and it definitely has its function; but particularly for kids, the backpack is the better way to go."