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THEIR WAY : By Themselves, Kids Pick Fashions That Are Colorful, Comfortable and Fun

August 13, 1989|BARBARA FOLEY | Barbara Foley is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer

THIS TIME EVERY year, children and parents reluctantly loosen their grip on summer and take hold of the immediate future: fall. It's back to school next month, and that means new wardrobes to suit growing bodies and ever-changing trends.

One might think that when left to their own devices, the young might choose outrageous and impractical things to wear, but we recently let kids dress themselves and found that their choices make sense. These young models dug into our trunk of treasures and picked vibrant colors, feel-good fabrics (that are durable too), and comfortable, action-packed shapes. Dull is out, tight is out, and bright-witted humor is in. Many children's-wear designers, such as Michael Sui of Mrs. Taki's Kids and Malina Gerber of Malina's, admit that their design cues often come from the kids rather than from high-fashion runways.

Choice is also a major component of this season's well-schooled looks. Variations on the theme of jeans and T-shirts have given way to the demand for more style. Overall, there are more boyish looks for boys and girlish looks for girls. It's back to tradition but with a slew of style twists and turns that say modern, progressive and clever.

Boys, from tiny to tall, still love denim, but this fall they can choose pinstripes, patterns, patches and ripped and ragged edges. Patches on flight jackets and jumpsuits are also de rigueur, as are grown-up sweaters that mimic their collegiate counterparts. Baggy shapes are best, tie-dye is the pattern choice of the moment, and the more logos, especially on T-shirts, the better. Sports inspirations keep picking up speed and new followers, with surfing and skateboarding motifs leading the California pack back to school.

Girls are exercising their options, too. They love short straight skirts and skirts with feminine flounces. Or they might opt for the perennial favorite, pants, worn baggy or skin-tight (as leggings under shorter skirts). Layers of autumn-hued cotton knits in oversized shapes are a cozy California choice, perfect for mild weather changes with just the right degree of sloppiness. Polka dots, stripes, flowers and tie-dye are the popular patterns, and suspendered jumpsuits are a favored new shape. Barrettes and scarves are all but indispensable, as are earrings for older girls.

So the class of '89 has its own style. It's taking a little inspiration from the peace-loving, tie-dying '60s, mixing it with the innocent, all-American '50s, and bringing the influences all up-to-date with the easy shapes and technologically perfected fabrics of the '80s. The result is a spirited, young look that makes a lot of day-to-day sense while earning high marks for creativity.

Styling by Claude Deloffre and Tamar/hair and makeup by Terry Akins for Celestine/Cloutier / models: Cameron Collard, Caitlin Gregory, Breegan Heuer, Nathan Dickinson--Colleen Cler; Norman Le Vesque--Eastwest Prima;Crystal Cass--Nina Blanchard.

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