Parents, the checkbook-bearers on back-to-school shopping trips, will smile to hear daughters talking dresses, ruffles and pleated skirts and boys checking out the flannel shirts, work boots and denim. Those are traditional, familiar clothes, right?
There's not a teen out there worth the shoe budget who's going to go along with any of mom's old-fashioned thoughts on "nice" school outfits.
Instead, youngsters are mixing up ideas from the streets and grandma and grandpa's trunks for some of the newest ways to dress.
And why not? Way-back styling has fresh appeal to the generation that is more likely to see mother pumping gas than crocheting.
It's the way youngsters toss bits and pieces gathered from the past eight decades that makes a look. It's their time in the fashion limelight again -- and it's only fair.
It was touch-and-go for a while. The tossed-and-tumbled grunge style, which the young had so carefully invented as their very own, was stolen by top designers.
The kids had cause to worry. Grandma in grunge? Puhleeese! They were hard-pressed to take "their" look any farther, because those ill-fitting, unflattering thrift shop elements that made for grunge were as outrageous as they could get.
Mercifully for both sides, grunge was just a blip in the high-fashion picture, coming back to the kids in a cleaned-up, cute version.
Equally mercifully, youth fashion continues to be such a mixed bag that the young can dress just as individually and creatively as they please. They don't have to to choose between funk or prep in this season of fashion tolerance.
Here are the looks:
* THE GRUNGIES
It's a look that's changeable and carries over into other attitudes -- but you'll know it when you see it. Look for plaid flannel shirts with the worn and faded look of grandpa's old garage work shirts. They're not necessarily meant to be worn as shirts, but can be tied at the waist as a cool weather reserve, worn over hooded shirts or thermal T's or as a topper over a floral dress. Flannel shirts are the one wardrobe basic for the young set.
Look for layers, as in shirt over turtleneck,under vest. Obligatory grunge footwear are the heavy shoes by Doc Martens or any of his relatives out on the market.
* THE ROMANTICS
Vintage shops have long been a style mecca for girls looking for a different fashion slant. Now junior departments have picked up where second-hand ran out. Crochet is seen in vests and trims. Velvet in a crushed state makes tops, pants and tunics. Long granny dresses in little floral prints look like a tea-party gone rave.
But youngsters have their own way with dresses. They wear them unbuttoned over snug T-shirts and jeans, or trailing under an oversized lumberjack shirt. They may even be worn as a dress, but finished with clunky combat boots to keep sweetness in check.
Flowing bell-bottoms and flowing hair are there for the romantic flower child, as are long skirts in soft, faded fabrics and washed-out colors.
The modern girl also wears other-century styles -- pretty dandy vests, white blouses with a ruffles and big cuffs, or even princess puffed sleeves. It's very in to look old.
BTC * THE DENIMS
Denim can't miss. It still covers the entire school picture. This year it doesn't have to be blue -- it also comes in black, deep indigo, gold, brown, cranberry and hunter green. Denim vests and jackets may be embroidered or tattered. In jeans, it's still the five-pocket, but this year the look is oversized and baggy.
* THE GEAR
The extras really count. Hats are sprouting everywhere and a whole new generation is having fun with them.
Look for little crocheted skull caps, newsboys with visors, velvety Mad Hatter toppers, knit watch caps and, of course, the baseball cap.
Shoes have to be clunky, with even some sneakers built on a thick platform base. An alternative: boots of the combat or expedition sort, for boys and girls.
Girls will wear ribbon chokers and beads with a retro feel.
And the backpack endures, in leather, denim, nylon, plastic or ethnic prints.
Here are some places where you can gather clues on the ways fashion experts are putting school looks together:
* Aug. 21
A back-to-school fashion show featuring designs and shoes for girls, boys and infants will begin at 9 a.m. in Plum Avenue on the second level at Nordstrom at Towson Town Center. (410) 296-2111, Ext. 1690 for reservations.
* Aug. 28
Models chosen in the Seventeen magazine model search will be featured in a back-to-school fashion show at Macy's, Owings Mills, beginning at 1 p.m. in the juniors department. (410) 363-7400.