Pulling off fall's fashions

Tuesday, August 8, 2006
Zach Bays of DeSoto, Mo., selected clothing while on a back-to-school shopping trip Saturday at West Park Mall. (Fred Lynch)

I once heard a friend say that girls who wear pointy shoes are high maintenance, after which I vowed that I would never buy anything "fashionable" again.

I'm not from around here. I come from a land of knee-length shorts and sweaters, and I'm not ashamed of that. All that being said, I can honestly say that I never saw myself wearing black leggings with skulls and crossbones on them -- not in a million years.

Last year I decided I wanted to be a journalist when I grew up. I started as an intern recently at the Southeast Missourian and set out to take on my first project -- an article on back-to-school fashion. When I learned I'd be writing about fashion, my life flashed before my eyes. I'm 20. I'm not really old enough to be taken seriously, but I feel too old to call myself "hip."

Still, I thought, I know clothes, I can do this.

My little brother laughed when I told him I was writing about fall fashion. Then he realized it wasn't a joke and gave me the classic insincere encouragement that's supposed to be helpful.

Okay, maybe I don't live the life of a fashion guru, but I have observed the impressive shift in styles from one year to the next.

With the first day of school just a few short weeks away, many teens are anxiously cleaning out their closets and frequenting West Park Mall in search of the newest styles, colors and trends. So, I headed there to see for myself.

Teens shuffled in and out of stores and past windows displaying all of the newest styles: leggings, polka dots, costume jewelry and layers.

One teen, Shelby Seabaugh, a 16-year-old who attends Jackson High School, was excited about the fall fashions.

"The bigger, chunkier jewelry is in," she said, explaining that bolder necklaces have become a recent craze. Neutrals, she added, are also in, because "they look good on about anybody."

As I entered one store I was overwhelmed by belts. Outrageous belts are a new fad that seems to be spanning the nation.

Even I know that blue jeans are the staple of almost any teen's wardrobe. That's why I was a bit surprised to see that the classic jean is undergoing a make-over. The once popular boot-leg cut is now being overrun by slimmer, tapered cuts. I've tried on a pair and I'll be the first to admit, they just don't work for me. Several of the teens I talked to shared my anti-tapered jean sentiments. I guess teens somewhere must be pulling this style off because tapered jeans are becoming quite the rage among top fashionistas. Maybe, like most new styles, they will just take some getting used to.

According to fashion experts, denim is also going darker. Soon, dark denim and even black jeans will add a little zest to our collections.

Kelly Reed, a sales associate at West Park Mall, explained that mixing casual with dressy is becoming more popular. Girls will layer a more casual graphic tee with a nicer sweater over the top, she said.

According to Reed, layers in general are popular right now.

In nearly every display at the mall, shirts are layered. Most of the teens I saw shopping were wearing layers. I was even wearing layers. Shirts are getting longer, necklines are varying and nearly anything goes with layering. Many of the displays I saw mixed different colors, prints and even textures to create a complete ensemble.

Back-to-school teens are also shopping for shoes and purses. The stores I visited had a variety of shoes from ballet flats to printed slip-ons. Abby Holloway, a 15-year-old from Essex, Mo., said if she had to narrow her back-to-school fashion list down to one item, she'd choose shoes. Black and white converse tennis shoes would be her shoe of choice, she said.

Store walls were also crowded with the season's newest purses, most in bright and bold solid colors. Breanna Shelton, a 15-year-old from Dexter, Mo., said that bags and purses are a favorite of hers and the new Louis Vuitton shoulder bag would be No. 1 on her wish list.

After an hour or so, I had seen all there was to see of the back-to-school fashions, and I still hadn't tried anything on. I decided to go a little bit out of my comfort zone and try on something that was so "hip" I'd never really wear it.

I picked up a neutral gray tunic, a thick red patent leather belt (complete with bow) and skull and cross bones leggings. I headed to the dressing room with a smile on my face, secretly laughing at myself.

Thankfully, I didn't take any pictures. But I will say this much: I'll never be cool enough to pull that off.

Melissa Sirrine lives in Jackson and is a student at Brigham Young University.

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