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DRESSY STYLES MAKE FOR CLASSY KIDS.

Byline: SANDRA BARRERA

>LA.COM

Parisian schoolgirls. English equestrians. Race-car drivers from Monaco.

When it comes to back-to-school trends, vintage European-inspired looks are some of the biggest among the elementary-school set.

"Everything is really proper," says Jennifer Smith, fashion director of Cookie magazine, rattling off the season's essentials in neutral colors with hints of red and plaid.

Among the more refined pieces for girls -- in what the National Retail Federation estimates will be an $18 million back-to-school shopping season -- are flouncy jumpers with puffy-sleeved tops, tights and Mary Janes. For him, the look is about tailored trousers, oxford shirts with a knit vest and a pair of driving mocs.

"Again, we are seeing boys dressing like their father by pairing a great pair of jeans with an earth-tone corduroy blazer," says Jamie Falkowski of Janie and Jack stores.

The children's retailer has embraced the prim, proper European style, offering English country-inspired kilts for girls and Brooks Brothers coats for boys.

And the well-dressed trend is equally prominent at Gymboree, says its corporate chief, Kip Garcia.

Gymboree's hot look for girls? Equestrian boots paired with embroidered split-cuff jeans, a floral tuxedo shirt and a velveteen riding hat.

"For boys, I really think we are seeing a return to preppy, classic dressing ... updated and made more casual when paired with jeans and a great pair of lace-less sneakers."

"It's basically uniform dressing, where everything is crisp and clean and neat-looking," adds Smith, contrasting it with the season's less-refined looks. Also in vogue: the "rocker" look, defined by skinny jeans paired with menswear-inspired vests or blazers for boys and girls. "Everything is so dressy. It's nice to see kids enjoying it."

Sandra Barrera, (818) 713-3728;

sandra.barrera@dailynews.com

FALL'S MUST-HAVES

4 DENIM

Back in March, when Ciara popped by "TRL" dressed in Grey Ant high-waist jeans, fashionistas predicted the denim trend would explode.

And they were right.

Jennifer Lopez, Jessica Simpson and Mischa Barton all have been spotted in high waisters, this back-to-school season's skinny jean.

"It's actually an amazing fit for someone who's short, or someone who's long-waisted, because it makes your legs look like they go on forever," says Gina Kelly, fashion editor for Seventeen magazine. But she adds, "you definitely need to have a certain body type to pull it off, not unlike the skinny or low-waist jeans."

But don't go throwing out your skinny jeans just yet.

The sprayed-on, tapered-ankle look continues into '08 alongside other new and forgiving silhouettes, including jeans in wide legs and a return to the boot cut -- probably the most universally flattering fit for all.

Denim even comes in bright colors such as red, yellow, orange and even metallics.

"I don't think that everyone is going to sport the colored denim. It's more of a fashion-forward look, but lots of mainstream stores are carrying it," says Gigi Hooghkirk, fashion editor at Teen magazine.

MENSWEAR

Think tailored jackets, vests and wide-leg pants in traditional menswear fabrics. Mary Janes add a touch of femininity. And for a real fashion-forward look, top your outfit with a fedora a la Ashlee Simpson.

TOTES

Like backpacks, totes now come in different fabrics and prints.

The Disney Store has jumped on the trend with its black nylon

Studio Tote ($24.50), featuring a collage of sketches of classic

Disney characters such as Dumbo, Bambi and Snow White.

GRAY-JERSEY CHIC

Designers have been getting creative with sweat-shirt material these days. And it's everywhere this fall, from boots and bags to baby-doll tops.

GRAPHIC PRINTS

Plain T-shirts are so over. This fall is all about ultra-cute T's and hoodies in bright colors with fun sayings and cool graphics.

BACKPACKS

Backpacks are a necessity, not a fashion accessory.

Or are they?

Today's backpacks are so ultra-stylish, you'll want a different one for every outfit, as you would a purse.

"What's great about backpacks now is they're really colorful and they have great prints, so you don't have to settle for black or navy blue," says Gina Kelly, fashion editor for Seventeen magazine.

Think argyle, skulls, florals and Disney favorites, from Tinker Bell to "Pirates of the Caribbean."

Besides great looks, many backpacks come with useful features such as in-line skate wheels, flashing lights, oversize compartments and detachable lunch bags. There are even bullet-proof backpacks ($175 at www.mychildspack.com).

>S.B.

CAPTION(S):

9 photos, box

Photo:

(1 -- 2 -- cover -- color) Janie and Jack sells the "English Countryside" look for girls while boys go preppy at Gymboree. (3 -- color) With Gymboree's back-to-school equestrian ensemble, all that's missing is the horse. Riding-style boots are matched with a plaid skort, a vest and an equestrian bag.

(4 -- color) At Janie and Jack, preppy styles, center, including argyle sweaters, are popular again for children. "Everything is really proper," says Jennifer Smith of Cookie magazine.

(5 -- color) It's back to the classics, near left, at stores such as Gymboree, which are showing plaids, tailored jackets and Mary Janes this fall.

PHOTOS BY TINA BURCH AND JOHN McCOY>LA.COM

(6 -- color) Ciara in the season's latest: high-waisted jeans.

(7 -- color) Disney characters decorate this school tote.

(8 -- color) Hannah Montana on a T? All the girls will want one.

(9 -- color) Today's packs are useful and stylish.

Box:

FALL'S MUST-HAVES (see text)
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Title Annotation:LA.COM
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Aug 21, 2007
Words:876
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