Elena Wilson already knows what she'll be wearing on her first day of eighth grade: a high-waisted skirt with yellow ruffles and a black "Sugarlips" tank top. The 12-year-old in the Harborfields School District will be at the height of back-to-school fashion, as both pieces are on this year's "must-have" list for girls.
Though the start of school is still a month away, shopping has begun in earnest as stores - from the big box stores such as Target to smaller boutiques such as Delia's - have launched sales meant to bring in the traffic. Elena shopped at the Walt Whitman Mall recently with a group of nine girlfriends who left lugging bags from Macy's, Aéropostale, Butter, Abercrombie and Delia's. Here's some of what was inside their bags and what else kids will be seeing on the racks:
HIGH-WAISTED SKIRTS: The skirts have a thick, black, belt-like waistband, and the material below varies from floral prints to ruffles. Dresses are also sold in this style, with a shirt attached. "They're dressy, but not too dressy," says Jenna Kaufman, 11, of Huntington.
SUGARLIPS: These sleeveless undershirts come in basic black as well as bright colors such as turquoise and pink. "They fit your body and they're soft," Jenna says.
CONVERSE: Neon-colored sneakers with a double row of laces are in, says Kaitlin. The more "obnoxiously colored" the better, she says. Some also have a "double tongue" that can be folded over to show a pattern.
BERMUDA SHORTS: These are retaining their place as the go-to bottoms for boys. Usually worn with long graphic T-shirts.
VOLCOM STRIPED SWEATSHIRT: The hood can be zipped all the way in the front to form a mask with mesh at the eyes and mouth for $60 at Lester's in Huntington Station.
WACKY PACKAGES T-SHIRTS: What's old is new again - Wacky Packages on T-shirts for boys, from 10againclothing.com. "Mice Krispies" and other parodies sold at Lester's stores for $27.90.
NIKES: Neon colors are in - orange, blue, red and combinations of them all. Customize your own pair of Nikes at Nike.com for $115.
JOHNNY CUPCAKES: These T-shirts come in a variety of styles; this one is the baseball crossbones; $35.99 at johnnycupcakes.com.
JEGGINGS: These leggings look like blue jeans, but they're soft and stretchy. "They're really comfortable, and they're really stylish," says Kaitlin Shore, 15, a soon-to-be 10th grader from Huntington.
ROMPERS: One-piece outfits that look like shorts and a shirt combined; often look like a dress.
GLADIATORS: These sandals have straps that wrap up the leg, either to the ankle or up the shin.
UNDER ARMOUR: Under Armour was known primarily for keeping kids warm during fall and winter outdoor sporting activities. But Under Armour also has T-shirts that have become fashionable for boys, says fourth-grader Eric Werbitsky of Huntington.
LEBRON JAMES: The James No. 6 jersey is the hot sports shirt; runners-up are teammates Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. Jerseys are $44.99 at nbastore.com; Lester's in Huntington Station has a T-shirt with all three for $36.