When Lisa Brown went to UCLA orientation this summer, she expected to see at least someone looking collegiate.
"Everyone was basically in sweats," says the 18-year-old grad from Beverly Hills High, who regards herself as a rarity on campus: "I like wearing outfits."
On ultra-casual campuses of California's high schools and colleges--where one person's jogging tog is another's class uniform--back-to-school shopping no longer implies a one-time expedition meant to dress a student for half a year.
"Kids today buy all the time. Back-to-school is just another excuse to buy some hot new clothes," said Monte Ventura, Bullock's fashion director.
For those who will be shopping--and for more than sweats--hot is the operative term for the new back-to-school fashions. The season is built on clingy fabrics and ever-shortening skirts.
"Everything is abbreviated--short skirts, short jackets, short crop tops. Even leggings are cropped and short, from cycling length to below the knee," said Ventura, who sees the fall fashion season as "charming, but sexy."
And somehow, it's legal.
The L.A. Unified School District gives these sparse guidelines: "The general rule of thumb is that as long as clothing worn by a student is not disruptive to the instructional program, then it's acceptable," said Dan Isaacs, assistant superintendent over senior high schools.
As fall fashions push up the leg quotient on campus, they also endorse some humor. The latest sendup of preppy--known as "Euro-prep" or "nouveau prep"--gives collegiate classics new sizes, shapes and exaggerated proportions: An oversize argyle sweater worn over a thigh-high pleated skirt, for instance, or roomy man-style tweed pants worn with a classic blouse, cut to the waist.
Fall '87 also pairs a kind of '50s school-spirit innocence with '80s sophistication. In decades past, only cheerleaders had the nerve to wear little circle skirts with varsity jackets.
Now it's a look.
So is gnarly, as in distressed leathers, acid-washed denims and even distressed jerseys and rayons--beat-up styles that give teens a seen-it-all air. "Over-washing," a much-discussed fabric treatment, involves dipping a distressed fabric, such as acid-washed denim, back in the dye for an overlay of pastel color.
With so many new spandex-injected stretch fabrics out this fall, skintight proportions also will invade campus. Shirring, tucks, tiered skirts and hook-and-eyes give fall its sense of detail. In prints, expect to see plaids, stripes and animal images.
If the miniskirt has become obligatory, a waistline is merely optional. High-waisted skirts with short tops affirm the waistline, but there is just as much interest in a shapeless alternative: a baggy top over a short, tight mini.
With fewer trends to track, the teen-age male will likely be dressing in playful prep--classics in offbeat combinations, with the outdoorsy touch of a hiking boot.
At South Gate High, one of L.A. city's year-round campuses, career-guidance counselor Pat Curtis sees long-sleeve dress shirts with jeans as a trend among males.
She senses a new mood of dressing "very feminine and traditionally masculine."
As last year's undershirt fad fades, a newer concern is the misuse of the mini, says Curtis, who sees a few students wearing minis "tight, tight, when the figure doesn't warrant it."
Aware that campuses are nothing if not liberal about clothes, one Beverly Hills parent hopes her daughter's affection for tank tops and boxer shorts runs its course before Stephanie Bloomberg, 18, heads for Syracuse University this week.
"I'm keeping my blond hair, but I'm going to try to fit into their look," Bloomberg pronounces.
"I also bought a pair of penny loafers, something I wouldn't wear back here."
See, Mom? Strictly wholesome.