IF STUDENTS ARE as bright as their clothes this year, test scores will take off.
With fuchsias and purples, screaming yellows and tumultuous teals, this is not the year for the timid of taste in children's and teen's clothing.
Even coats and jackets are besieged with color blocking -- a patchwork of rectangular swatches of hues -- and prints too -- that used to be considered at war with one another. Black accents often prevent a total color collision.
This color bonanza applies to boys' as well as girls' wear. Primary colors are still good in boys' and young men's clothing, but they're being joined by purple, orange and black -- often on the same shirt.
Even traditional fall wear, such as corduroy, is coming out in bold prints of yellow, pink and aqua. But color is not the only hot item this season. Take a look at these looks, too:
* DENIM. Although a staple in most wardrobes, denim is playing more than one role this season: It is both basic and high-fashion. Basic as in overalls, jeans and skirts, but "embellished" with plaid cuffs or collars and trimmed with bows and swatches of high color.
There is also black denim and the rinsed denims that yield a lighter blue hue. Jean jackets are big again -- and so are their prices. "There is interest again in denim because there is interesting denim," says Nancy Kastellini, vice president of creative advertising at Hecht's.
* PLAIDS. These are the hot patterns this fall. Some are traditional, such as the tartans; others feature more contemporary colors -- raspberry and blue, for instance. "We're seeing plaid in places we have not seen it before," such as on denim jackets and flippy little skirts for girls, says Carol Steinkrauss of T.J. Maxx.
* LEGGINGS. Introduced last year, leggings will be strong again -- for little girls, grade-schoolers and teens. Many are in outrageously colorful prints and geometrics and are being worn with big tops. And "skeggings," leggings with a skirt attached, will be seen on many little girls.
* BAGGY IS BETTER. Jeans for everyone are looser-fitting. And for boys, there are plenty of pleats and pull-on pants.
* BACK TO CLASSICS. In the midst of all this color and print, there are the traditional plaids and paisleys, corduroys, jumpers, cardigans and polo shirts. Preppy is making a comeback, with khakis and cardigans for boys and pleats and plaids for girls.
"When times get tough, people go back to the values they know," says Jean Speice, business planning manager for the children's division of J.C. Penney Co. in Baltimore and Washington. The beauty of this fall's fashions is that there is "no uniform," she says.