Schoolhouse Frocks: Back-to-School Fashion

All work and no play makes Jack an unstylish third-grader.

In the same way dressing for a job interview or a first date would be important to you, back-to-school clothes are significant to your child. You want your little one to feel confident, comfortable and stylish. has compiled the top styles of the season and some reasonably priced examples that will fit the bill and fit in on the bus as you kids head back to school.

Retro Preppy

Nothing says classic fall fashion like preppy tweed and plaid — and these looks don't have to be conservative. This fall, they're much more funky and fun. Expect to see girls wearing corduroy, tweed and plaid blazers.

Late in the season, velvet blazers will make an appearance on the gutsiest of girls. Old Navy puts a playful spin on the look with a hooded blazer, and Gymboree makes a sugary pink blazer with rosette detailing.

Short-sleeved and long-sleeved retro polo shirts and rugby shirts for boys will be showing up all over the place, in a variety of colors, solids and stripes. L.L.Bean has several reasonably priced styles with a sporty design, so the shirts won’t constrain tree climbers. Abercrombie Kids makes a more refined and dressy version of the long-sleeved polo.

Girls can try a shrunken cardigan to dress up a simple jeans and T-shirt ensemble. Cardigans with beaded or embroidered embellishments and jeweled pins will be especially popular this fall.

Tie-front shrugs are also a fun spin on the classic cardigan and a very flattering style for little ones or juniors.

Layering different types of fabrics and styles continues to be a major trend in adult and children’s fashion. Boys may want to layer a track jacket over a polo shirt with jeans and classic sneakers — it's this season's must-have item.

Athleisure shoes will continue to be a major part of boys’ wardrobes as well. The hip sneakers are part bowling shoe, part running shoe and part skateboard shoe. Look for them in brown, dark green and grey.

Western Grunge

Native American detailing, cowboy boots and fringe have found a home off the range and in kids' closets. In recent years, the denim jacket has been more popular for girls. But this fall, boys will be wearing jean jackets as well.

Jean jackets for boys come in a variety of styles, but the best ones look “lived in” — faded, distressed and rugged. Boys' jean jackets should be relaxed, not stiff and confining.

Tiny floral prints are showing up on prairie skirts and tops. Try a dainty floral camisole with a Western-cut jean jacket. Another cute look is the corduroy or denim prairie skirt with floral detailing. Also look for dress shirts with a Western cut and floral detailing.

Western accessories are a nice way to add flair to an outfit without overdoing it. Detailed leather belts with large rustic buckles can go with any graphic T-and-jeans combo for boys or girls.

If your junior wants a little Western flair but isn’t ready for a cowboy boot bonanza, look for collections that have tamer Western styles, like patchwork skirts, cropped jean jackets and turquoise jewelry.

Globally Inspired

The global trend in clothing will continue this fall in the wake of spring's tunics and summer’s bohemian beaded tops.

Gauzy tunics are back for girls, but try to stay away from the bright colors from the spring tunics and opt for a simple white or cream.

Jeans are the staple of back-to-school looks as always, but peasant skirts are also hot this season for girls.

The bohemian tiered skirts for girls that debuted this spring are back in richer, earthier colors.

There’s also a Russian influence in the air as cooler temperatures approach. Fur trim isn’t just for winter coats this season — it’s on sweaters and boots, too. This fun and bold look is for the more daring girls on the playground.

Kids can also try the funky U.K.-inspired pieces that are new this season. Some have a more conservative and classic cut, others have a crest, a large rose pattern or a dignified plaid that sets them apart.

Whether you decide to go earthy, Wild West or retro preppy, there are a variety of styles that your kids can get excited about this year. Now if you could only get them excited about school ...