Gone are the red and green holiday uniforms of starched taffeta and reindeer ski sweaters. Instead, teen-agers are choosing dress-up clothes with a casual appeal, not so different from everyday wear.
"If teen-age girls get their druthers, they're wearing snug leggings and wide stretchy '60s-style headbands in matching prints," said Ed Razek, the executive vice president of marketing for the 786 Limited stores. Over the leggings, they wear long blazers or oversize sweaters.
The Limited sells cotton-Lycra leggings in 12 prints that range from florals on a black ground to harlequin and tweed prints, as well as leggings at $34 with different colored legs black and fuchsia, say. Headbands, at $10, can be worn with V-neck sweaters of cotton and ramie ($24) over mock turtleneck sweaters in solids ($19) or matching prints ($29).
Richard Crisman, the director of public relations for the Gap Inc., agreed that "comfortable basics" are favored holiday purchases. At Gap stores, these include cotton-Lycra leggings in solids ($30) or prints ($36), made dressy with oversize white shirts ($34 to $38) under bright V-neck sweaters in red, green, gold and indigo ($38).
Dresses over leggings are brisk sellers at Saks Fifth Avenue. One popular look is Vanity's sheer black button-front and sequined baby-doll top ($80), worn over a footless and sleeveless black unitard ($62) by Necessary Objects in cotton Lycra.
"Teen-agers don't want to look like they work for Santa Claus or something," said Linda Beauchamp, the fashion merchandising director for men and boys at Saks. "There's a delicate balance with teen-age boys. "They want to look as if they didn't dress up."
A Saks alternative to the blue blazer is Perry Ellis' bomber jacket of washed silk ($135) in rust or dusty purple. It has two gussets in the back for roominess when, say, the wearer is helping throw logs on the fire. It works well with a Perry Ellis cotton paisley printed shirt ($65).
A more casual outfit combines Girbaud jeans ($68) with a white button-down shirt by Hey Max that looks anything but buttoned down. The shirt's left panel is printed with whimsical themes, like the Cyrillic alphabet, stars and hammer and sickle in red and green with black and white accents.
The New Kids on the Block inspired Joe Da Han's rayon shirt with alternating panels of ivory and black at the shoulder, sleeves and front. Some styles have appliqued stars and stripes.