Mix lace with leather. Put ballet colors with military khakis. Plaids and stripes. Masculine with feminine.
Whether we're picking out a single accessory to perk up last year's look or forced by that growth spurt to plunk down for a whole new wardrobe, all of us are looking for clues to what's hot and what's (so very very) not.
I've surveyed young people's fashion experts at some major retailers — Kohl's, Nordstrom and Macy's — to help make sense of the trends for the new school year.
Bear in mind that tweens and teens today want to dress like their friends — but not exactly like their friends.
"The younger customer doesn't want to see herself coming and going," says Kohl's David Hacker, vice president of trend and color.
Today's school-age shopper, whether cruising the mall with her friends or on a back-to-school mission with mom, "takes these trends and makes them her own," observes Adam Moon, Macy's juniors fashion director.
Fall's top looks include skinny bottoms and big tops, putting biker-tough bracelets next to girlie bows, and "anything goes" striped color combos, says Tiffany Hoffman, national sportswear buyer for Nordstrom's teen department, BP. "The ying and yang," she says.
So take a look at the fashions and accessories in our photos, and let them be your guide — remember, there are no rules — to help you put together a unique classroom style.