Dressier clothes make the grade in high schools

High school students are looking good these days. The rumpled, frumpy look of baggy blue jeans and too big shirts is long gone. Students are dressing up.

That means double belts, suits with box shoulders, skinny leg pants, hats, bright colors, and lots of accessories. Skirts and dresses are making a comeback after nearly disappearing when dress codes were abolished in the early '70s. The jeans students do wear are often new looking, and the shirts are tucked in.

"The fashion are nicer," says a group of girls at West Broxbury High School near Boston. "They are prettier and more expensive looking."

Dressing up is not limited to the female gender. Although there are plenty of boys that still stick with jeans and sneakers, they are definitely showing more interest in clothes.

Darrell Nelson, a West Roxbury student who sews much of his wardrobe, says, "Clothes express a lot about a person. Have you ever noticed when you dress up you feel energetic? People say 'You like you feel good.' I'd like to hear that every day."

The trend towards dressing up began about four years ago, according to Karin Mahlberg Mills of Seventeen magazine.

"Personally, I think disco styles have had a lot to do with it," she says. "It also reflects on what's happening with attitudes both among teens and adults. "People are interested in fitnes -- looking good and feeling good. They take pride in how they look."

Polls taken by the fashion magazine for girls show that teens are buying more suits, skirts, and dresses and fewer jeans than just two years ago.

Most students admit that the dressier clothes are a fad, just as blue jeans were. But they are happy for the change. "I know I feel better in nicer clothes," says Phyllis D'Amelio from West Roxbury.

They take advantage of the styles for several reasons. "People want their own identity, and not just the uniform look of jeans. You feel more proud," says one student.

Robin Kilmarx of Reading, Mass., adds: "It's 'in' to be successful, and clothes are part of it."

Styles differ more by schools than by regions.

"It varies from school to school," says Alan Godfrey of Laguna Beach, Calif. "AT Corona del Mar guys are wearing nice pants, sports shirts, and sweaters. At Laguna, it's totally different because it's a beach school. They wear short pants, shirts, and beach walkers all year round. A minority wears nicer clothes."

Students from Centennial High School in Gresham, Ore., notice how differently their counterparts dress in the city of Portland, only 12 miles away.

"They dress like New York vogue," says Nancy Hall, a Centennial senior, wearing more casual pants and blouse.

Designer jeans have captured the teen and adult market. And some students in more affluent areas, such as Laguna Beach, wear designer label clothes to school. And although most teens do not have enough money to buy designer clothes regularly, students are more conscious of brand names, such as Famolare shoes.

Students say that they are spending more money on clothes and using money from parttime jobs to buy their wardrobe. They read fashion magazines, watch styles on television, and notice clothes at department stores.

West Roxbury student Terri Watkins thinks that students are more mature today , and want to make a good impression. "We feel better about ourselves," she says.

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