08/16/2013 11:18 EDT | Updated 10/16/2013 05:12 EDT

From camo to rocker and retro styles, variety abounds in fall fashions for kids

TORONTO - From rocker chic to revamped retro, students seeking to refresh or reboot their fall wardrobes can sample from a smorgasbord of stylish choices.

Military-inspired looks have had a longtime presence in boys' fashion, but this coming season, expect to see stylish recruits among both genders with a proliferation of camouflage print adorning tween and teen apparel.

"We're seeing everything from T-shirts to vests to blazers to jackets and accessories like belts, schoolbags and even desert boots updated with a bold camo print," said Winners fashion expert Sarah Smithers, pointing to hip-hop heavyweights like Jay Z and Canada's own Drake among the notable names who've helped popularize the distinctive pattern.

Nancy Dennis, trend director for children's wear at Sears Canada, described camo as "the animal print of boys wear" and said that pants featuring the print — or even a simple cargo-style pair — are "as quintessential as a pair of jeans or sweatpants."

Smithers said the trick to the military-inspired trend is to avoid heading back to class "looking like you're in full-on fatigues" by layering core pieces with other styles, like a camouflage blazer over a graphic T-shirt or teaming a pair of camo skinny jeans with a biker jacket.

Dennis said plaid shirts remain an essential item for boys, with the trend towards lumberjack-style prints versus smaller check patterns which can be sported under a hoodie or vest or atop a tee as the weather cools.

The trend director said the idea of skater or snowboarder styles are always prevalent in boys' wear, perfectly captured in the enduring popularity of the fooler — a one-piece shirt resembling a tee worn atop a long-sleeved shirt. Graphic T-shirts flaunting vibrant prints, bold lettering or striking patterns also remain entrenched as a kids' fashion staple.

"It never goes away, especially in boys' wear. But in girls wear....we've kind of dressed it up a bit and she's kind of channelling her inner '80s rock star," said Dennis, who suggested girls could team their logo tee of choice with a blazer and stylish pair of high-tops or moto boots.

Pretty, patterned jeans — like the leopard print variety —also "adds a level" to existing coloured denim within the wardrobe and rounds out the rocker-inspired look for girls, Dennis noted.

For boys, less brightly hued jean offerings are the standard with Smithers pointing to dark-coated denim as a must-have heading back to class.

"Denim styles are on the preppier side this September with clean washes and finishes and straighter and slimmer cuts."

Beyond more conventional animal prints, Smithers said quirky patterns on knits — like kittens, elephants, unicorns, hearts and stars — will be emerging for fall.

Reinterpretations of grunge looks have made waves on fashion runways, a trend which will trickle down to the school corridors with a fresh take on '90s-era fashions like baby doll dresses and oversized cardigans.

For those seeking to assemble a grunge-inspired ensemble without having it appear sloppy, Smithers suggested incorporating a plaid button-down shirt, leather biker jacket or vest to round out the look, which girls may opt to team with sparkly or printed hosiery.

Keeping in step with some of the more casual fall fashion styles, Smithers said crewneck sweatshirts are making a comeback, albeit with sleek updates like leather trims, studded details, slouchy shapes and bold prints.

But it's not solely about laidback looks: there are alternatives for youngsters seeking more dapper additions to their closets suitable for school or more formal occasions.

Dennis said the idea of vintage is seeping into girls' wear — not unlike the retro prints and feminine frocks favoured by country music sensation Taylor Swift. Vintage fall looks showcase a modern spin on classic styles like full skirts and fit-and-flare dresses featuring contrasting colour trims and collars or contemporary graphic prints. Dennis said retro, rounded Peter Pan collars are also transitioning from womenswear to girls' styles come fall.

As for boys, Dennis said formal blazers and button-down shirts can conjure both sophistication and comfort teamed with jeans or chinos.

"In boys' wear, there used to be this division — just like in menswear — of casual versus tailored or dress-up versus dress down. And that whole idea's gone. It's all this hybrid dressing."

In the accessories category, Smithers said bags offer a way to show personality, be it a messenger-style tote or a colourful pack with eye-catching prints like polka dots, plaid or graffiti-style graphics.

While skate shoes remain a perennial boys' favourite, Smithers said combat and military-inspired boots are also in the mix, while canvas sneakers channel a retro vibe and pair well with preppier ensembles.

Smithers said strap-on sneaker wedges offer a fun update to traditional lace-up runners. But girls are still borrowing from the boys with menswear-inspired oxfords and brogues emerging as a popular alternative for teens.

"You can pair them with everything from boyfriend jeans to flouncy skirts. They're quite a versatile option in footwear."