Covered Girl

This fall, we will be Ladies. We will be Demure and Modest, Pretty and Classy, and we will Layer.

Focus On Fashion

August 08, 2004|By Tanika White | Tanika White,Sun Staff

There's only so much skin the world can stand to see -- and it appears the threshold has been reached.

Thank goodness.

By the time school starts, the days of low-rise, low-slung, peek-a-boo thongs and bared midriffs will be slipping away like the minutes of sunlight in each passing day.

Girls, pack those camis and skinny tanks away with your shorty-shorts and flip-flops. This fall you'll be covering your belly-button ring with more clothes, more fabrics, more patterns than perhaps ever before.

Fall's wardrobe for girls trades flimsy for feminine, scanty for classy. The choices are many, but the season's theme is singular: ladylike is back.

Ruffles, velvet, tweeds and jewels. Short skirts with tights. Long skirts with flats. Fitted blazers and soft cardigan sweaters.

Grandma would be so proud.

"It's the return to 'pretty'," said David Hacker, trends director for J.C. Penney department stores. "We went through what I call the casualization of America. I think we're now seeing the return to refined dressing."

Skirts with pleats, pants in plaids and jackets with faux furs are in. Anything too skimpy, too low or too worn and torn is on its way out.

Waistlines are creeping -- slowly -- back up. Tops are not quite so shamelessly cropped.

At least in what they're choosing to wear, young girls are saying "Bye-bye, Britney, bye-bye."

More is more

"There's been a paradigm shift in terms of what is sexy," said David Morrison, author of Marketing to the Campus Crowd. "And so now 'more' is more becoming."

To that end, layering clothes will be big this fall -- whether it's throwing a blazer or sweater over a blouse, turtleneck or fitted T-shirt, or pairing a brightly colored polo shirt with a long-sleeved one.

"We're seeing girls taking a break from the Britney-style -- midriff-baring, minimal clothing, super sexy thing," said Brandon Holley, editor in chief of ELLEgirl magazine. "The style icons that they're sort of drifting toward are a little more demure."

Today's girl now wants to emulate rocker Avril Lavigne, with her funky, multilayered look. Or pop star Gwen Stefani, who, like Lavigne, often dons a lot of menswear -- long pants, neckties -- but has a 1940s glamorous flair.

So, like Stefani, girls will be dolling up their tweed or patterned jackets with antique-looking brooches -- or like Lavigne, wearing a pretty, ruffly top with a jean jacket and Converse sneakers.

"It's kind of a girlie grunge," Holley said.

And this season, fashion is allowing girls more freedom to mix and match, said Erica Archambault, a spokeswoman for Gap Kids.

"Fall's wardrobe for girls features whimsical styles with a hint of tomboy -- [such as] taking a really frilly skirt that's really feminine and matching it with a classic denim jacket," Archambault said.

"A lot of stuff out there is sort of vintagey and pretty, not so much sporty and street and hip-hop. We're kind of getting away from that," said Tara McBratney, fashion director at Cosmogirl magazine. "It's more about that individual style, where it looks like you sort of rummaged through your attic, through some of your mom and your grandmom's stuff."

Still sexy, but classy

For many teenage girls, fashion has always been about "individual style" -- and so fall's offerings will just give them more choices.

"Yeah, I think people are tired of seeing everybody's guts hanging all out and everything," said Artemia Webber, 15, who was shopping recently at The Mall in Columbia. "It'll be good if people start putting on more clothes."

Fall's fashion trends for girls don't try to eliminate sexy, observers said.

Sexiness will have a stronghold on young girls' fashion-consciousness for quite a while, even as waistlines go up and tops go down.

But it'll be classy sexy. Not Christina Aguilera sexy.

"You might still see minis, but they'll be worn with thick tights," said ELLEgirl's Holley. "Sexy doesn't mean showing a ton of leg, or showing your midriff. You can look sexy or good and attractive by wearing layers, and not baring all."

That theme even applies to younger girls. For them this fall, the look is girlier, and with hints of classy thrown in alongside the obligatory cute.

Khani Adams-Young, design director for Gymboree, said that the chain tones down runway styles for their primary-school-age customers.

Adams-Young said fall's shows were heavy on "demure and lady-like, with a lot of '40s-inspired looks."

So Gymboree will be offering lots of tweed-like prints (actual tweed is too itchy for little girls), velveteens and faux furs for back-to-school.

Leslie Kamali, co-owner of Raw Sugar, a children's store in Belvedere Square, said many of the clothes she's ordered for fall are Katharine Hepburn-esque -- pretty pants with a satin ribbon tied around the waist, accompanied by a jacket and a very feminine blouse, for instance.

"I think it's for the adults, actually; it's kind of nostalgic for us," Kamali said, of fall's clothes for little girls. "It's taking us back to a gentler time in our childhood."

10 Trends for Back-to-School

Pretty: Ribbons, ruffles, lace

Classy: Cardigans, Mary Janes, lower hemlines, higher waistlines

Skirts: Ladylike and knee-length. Or, longer with flats, or short with tights

Jackets: Fitted blazers, jean jackets, bombers

Layers: Two T-shirts, one long-sleeved, one short-sleeved. Fitted jackets and tank tops. Lacy camisoles with jean jackets

Details: Buttons, brooches, sequins, rhinestones, bows

Plush: Velvet trims, faux fur on collars, lush shrugs

Textured: Tweeds, boucle, cords, tartan

Retro, vintage: "Cleaned-up" denim, plaids, leather

Green and purple: Paired, like summer's pink and black

-- Tanika White

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