Campus fashion goes back to the future

This season, styling oversized cardigans with dresses is on trend as seen with this Arizona varsity cardigan, $34, paired with Arizona mixed print dress, $46, from JCPenney. Adding combat boots to this girly dress is a surprising twist on a feminine look.
This season, styling oversized cardigans with dresses is on trend as seen with this Arizona varsity cardigan, $34, paired with Arizona mixed print dress, $46, from JCPenney. Adding combat boots to this girly dress is a surprising twist on a feminine look. JCPenney

The style this fall is all about standing out – and looking back. From high-waisted denim and puffer vests to plaid shirts and combat boots, teens and college kids heading back to school are sure to inspire pangs of nostalgia in their children-of-the-’80s-and-’90s parents.

But as always, there’s a fresh twist on the old looks. Teen Vogue and Seventeen magazines are highlighting kitschy prints and bright button-downs, while cozy cardigans and patterned, flowy pants can’t fail for comfort and style.

Here’s more to keep in mind as you round out those back-to-school wardrobes.

Acid-wash, high-rise jeans? Cool!

Don’t be afraid to rethink your denim, maybe even go a little retro.

Those old reliable jeans, perfect for those mornings when you hit the snooze button more times than you should, also are nodding to the ’80s and ’90s. That’s right, high-rise jeans are back, and (gulp) they’re looking particularly funky in acid wash.

“We’re seeing the emergence of the overall,” says Arlene Goldstein, vice president of trend merchandising and fashion direction for Belk. “We’re seeing ripped and repaired, and that looks fresh to me. I still love the classic denim jacket, and that looks good with everything. It looks great with overalls and wonderful with skater skirts.”

Teen Vogue suggests pairing jeans with one of your favorite summer crop tops for a girly hourglass shape. Keep it casual in cooler weather by adding a jacket, or for a more polished style, tuck in a sheer blouse and slip on some ballet flats.

Break out the boots

“This is definitely a boot season,” Goldstein said. “The ankle boot and lace-up boot are really important, so is the high-shaft boot. The over-the-knee boot is like the new kid on the block.”

JC Penney styles a girly fall dress with combat boots for a surprising twist on a feminine look. You can also slip on your favorite high-shaft boots over a pair of skinny jeans.

Sweater weather

Don’t forget this fuzzy staple, a necessity for drafty lecture halls and chilly walks to class.

Style a loose, varsity-striped sweater with skinny jeans, or an oversized cardigan with a skater skirt. If you’re feeling a little bolder, try one in a boho or Aztec print, or experiment with lengths.

“The longer duster length cardigan is happening,” Goldstein said. “You can wear that with a pair of shorts and a cool T-shirt, and that creates a look.”

Plaid, plaid, plaid

What’s fall – a retro fall at that – without plaid?

“Plaid is definitely going to be out there. We have sort of a take on tartans,” Goldstein said. “So there may be new color combinations. This trend is sort of borrowed from the boys, but always done with a feminine look.”

You might style a menswear-inspired fitted plaid button-down shirt with a pair of skinny pants for a polished look, or tie a plaid shirt around your waist for that ’90s grunge feel. Plaid skater skirts are also cool. Try pairing it with a cropped denim jacket.

‘Borrowed from the gym’

If you think sweatshirts should only be seen in gym class, think again.

“The new sweatshirt, which has a ‘borrowed from the gym’ silhouette, has very much a fashion personality,” says Goldstein. “That’s certainly something that will turn up the fashion volume in your wardrobe. It may be color-blocked, it may have repurposed sleeves, it may have lace trim. It looks great with everything – skinny jeans, shorts, skater skirts.”

Gym-inspired pants or harem-style cotton pants, a summer music festival staple, are also big for fall. Try styling them with neutral slouchy tank tops and strappy sandals; throw on a boxy jacket in olive or black for those chillier autumn nights.

A puffer vest

Vests are making a big comeback for guys, Goldstein said. Especially that Mork from Ork-style puffer.

“The puffer vest is a good completer piece,” she said. “It’s so lightweight and you can wear it to school in the morning when it’s cooler and then wad it up and put it in your backpack when the temperature changes – because in the Carolinas, the temperatures do vary, so it’s nice to have that option.”

Keep it slim

Guys need something in their style arsenal besides jeans. Just remember to keep the leg slim.

“There are denim alternatives for guys, such as the five-pocket pant, the chino, and those twill pants,” Goldstein said. “The slim look is very in right now.”

Button it up

Finally, a versatile button-up shirt that functions as a light jacket is a must-have for both guys and girls. Button-up shirts in a light denim or chambray wash go well with printed shorts and skirts for girls, while short-sleeved button-ups with interesting patterns are big now for guys.