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A Good Dressing Down : Sloppy is a neat look, kids say. The silver lining is that grunge can be created on the cheap.

July 02, 1993|CINDY LaFAVRE YORKS | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES; Cindy LaFavre Yorks is a regular contributor to Valley Life

Parents who are tired of investing in Guess? jeans for their kids, take heart. Ostentation is uncool now.

"It's the look more than the name now," affirms 16-year-old Amy Rust of West Hills, who attends El Camino High School.

"Nobody cares about designer names anymore," admits Gabrielle Condo, owner of Cracker Jacks, a Van Nuys children's boutique. "I can't remember the last time someone came in and asked for a name brand."

Perhaps one of the reasons that labels are on the way out is because shirts are almost always left untucked--particularly on teen-age boys--so that no one can see the jeans labels anyway. This and the other sloppy new trends fall under the disgusting-sounding label of "grunge."

For the uninitiated, grunge is reminiscent of '60s chic, complete with bell-bottom jeans, crocheted tops, platform shoes and lots of T-shirts. Flower power is also in full bloom, as is layering, a mainstay of the '60s and '70s. Condo says her customers are building their summer wardrobes around one hot look: a baggy, long-sleeved shirt atop a T-shirt worn over either bell-bottoms or pants purchased one or two sizes larger. And when girls' sizes aren't large enough, they are raiding the boys' section.

"There is a fine line with the girls. They want something unusual, but they don't want anything that makes them stand out too much."

Blame the decline of pint-size chic--and the increasing desire of kids to dress to look older--on any number of social issues. But the dress-down trend isn't all bad for parents.

"Grunge may not embody the image a mother has in mind for her little girl or boy, but it is a money-saving look," says Elaine Fallenberg, co-owner of the Kid's Store, a resale consignment shop in North Hills. Fallenberg says business is booming, in part because the grunge look is so inexpensively duplicated there. Shorts sell for about $3.50, while big shirts go for $2.50 to $4.50.

Fallenberg says kids are coming in and buying clothing "two sizes bigger." T-shirts and short-sleeved shirts must also be extremely loose, and boys are wearing shorts at the knee. But for many, scorching temperatures have everything to do with what is worn, especially in the San Fernando Valley area.

"Out here, it will be shorts and T-shirts for the summer," Becca Hoover says of the wardrobe she assembled for her two daughters. "It's just too hot for anything else."

Hoover, who lives in Calabasas, says her girls are wearing adult clothing--and not for dress-up purposes. Eleven-year-old Lauren is wearing T-shirts from Eddie Bauer in women's sizes, with better-fitting colored jeans from Gap Kids. The hottest look is to combine compatible but not necessarily matching colors. Lauren, who attends Arthur E. Wright Middle School in Calabasas, says she isn't wearing bell-bottoms, but some girls at school are.

Rust is also readying her array of short shorts and tank-top bodysuits for summer. A thick leather belt with a silver buckle cinches the look. Birkenstocks are still hot, she says, but so are Converse low-top sneakers in navy, maroon and black. Rust and her crowd also wear mini-tank top sun dresses with strappy Roman sandals when something dressier is preferred.

The fresh ensembles for boys this summer are less varied. Josh Fradis of Chatsworth, who attends Lawrence Middle School, has his school and recreational wardrobes down to a science. Like most of the guys in his class, Josh is wearing long, baggy denim shorts by Cross Colours. The hottest shirt with the shorts: short-sleeved T's with multicolored horizontal stripes.

While Josh and friends are not allowed to wear hats at school, many slip on baseball caps when the bell rings. Chicago teams such as the White Sox and Bulls, along with the Dallas Cowboys, are popular with his classmates now.

Josh is already preparing his hot-weather uniform for looking cool at the beach. He'll wear a pair of baggy, checked flannel shorts with a white or purple tank top and his black Birkenstock sandals with black straps. No matter how hot the weather, Josh will wear white socks. Style before comfort is all-important.

"I'm into my clothes," Josh admits.

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