BACK TO SCHOOL: EXPERTS OFFER FASHION ADVICE FOR OLDER STUDENTS

Writer: Melanie Maxcey (979) 845-2895,m-maxcey@tamu.edu

Jacqueline Harris is looking forward to her freshman year at Texas Tech University in Lubbock this fall. She has already declared her major — human sciences. What she can’t decide on is what to wear her first day!

“I don’t know what I will wear. I think to myself, ‘what will I wear the first day?’ I went and got a backpack yesterday because they were on sale. … I wanted a black and red one because it was so pretty. But I could just see me wearing everything red and black — red and black backpack, red and black shoe laces and every thing.”

Fortunately for Harris, her granddaughter, who also happens to be a student at Tech, advised her against dressing in school colors.

Like a growing number of older adults, Harris is going back to college after being retired for many years. And she, like many of her friends, isn’t sure which clothes are considered chic on campuses for men and women who are no longer in their early 20’s.

Pamela Brown, clothing specialist with the Texas Agricultural Extension Service, said students should focus on finding clothes that are comfortable and low maintenance.

“If you’re having to walk across campus, get comfortable shoes. Get easy-care clothes — no dry cleaning. Cotton and polyester are things you can wash and wear, as are knits. If you pick separates that mix and match, you can stretch your wardrobe,” she said.

Rachel Austin, an assistant manager at Midland’s Old Navy store, said students need to stick to the basics this fall. Neutrals and denim are the colors to look for.

“I would get two denim shirts, one with short sleeves that’s casual and one with long sleeves that can buttoned up for a dressier look or worn over a T-shirt or tied around the waste for a layered look,” Austin recommended. “Get a pair of jeans, a khaki skirt, a pair of flat-front khaki pants and a pair of comfortable black pants.”

For cooler days, or cold classrooms, a blazer, light jacket or cardigan will look great. “Sweaters and sweater sets — cardigans and the matching sweater shells that go underneath them — are also great for fall,” she added.

The same concept works for men.

“White T-shirts, jeans, khaki pants, polos and denim shirts layered with a T-shirt,” said Austin.

When shopping for a pair of pants or jeans, Austin advised, shoppers should allow for shrinkage.

“Be sure that after they are washed and dried, they’ll still be comfortable. Also make sure that all the buttons on the clothes you purchase are sewn on.”

“Don’t dress up too much,” was the advice of Elizabeth Kennard, 55, and a sales associate at Beall’s Department Store in College Station.

“Wear anything comfortable, unless you’re giving a report or presentation — then dress up. But tennis shoes, jeans and a T-shirt or fleece jogging sets will be nice for fall,” she said.

Kennard also said that rusts, gold and dark olive greens are great colors this season.

John Recio, who works in menswear at Beall’s, said men shouldn’t be afraid to be hip if they want to blend in with the college crowd.

When this 20-year-old Texas A&M student was asked what he would dress his father in to go back to school, Recio didn’t hesitate when he answered button-up cargo pants, Dr. Marten boots and polo shirts by Tommy Hilfiger and Bugle Boy.

For the less adventurous, Levi jeans and tennis shoes were his other suggestions. “Addidas brand shoes are in right now, preferably white with blue.”

Recio also recommended that men carry backpacks: “In college, wear both straps.”

Fall is bringing a fashion revival for older women, said Arshiya Ahmad, women’s manager at a Houston Mervyn’s California store.

“What’s hot now are the twin sets with capri pants. A lot of older women are enjoying wearing them — something they grew up with in the 60’s,” noted Ahmad.

“Long skirts, twin sets and anything made from jersey are also in. For fall, expect to see twin sets in wool and other warm materials. And you can never go wrong with a pair of Dockers or Docker-like pants.”

For accessories, Austin recommended everyone get one black and one brown belt. And yes, your belts still have to match your shoes. Ahmad suggested using scarves, belts and earrings to change the look of an outfit or to dress it up. Backpacks are still popular on campus, especially for students who carry several heavy books at a time. But satchels and brief cases are also seeing a resurgence.

Fifty-three-year-old Kay Goldman is working on her doctorate in history at Texas A&M. In addition to teaching, she serves as president of the graduate student council. Her advice to older students is that if you’re working, it’s fine to dress professionally on campus. Just remember that concrete is hard on heels!

“I know that more and more people are working and going to school — the most important thing that they do is feel comfortable about what they’re doing and feel secure that the way they dress is the way it is for them.”

Goldman usually wears dresses and suits to school but as an undergrad, before she started teaching and attending meetings, she dressed more casually.

“I would wear jeans to the library if I was doing research. You can also take some elements of what’s popular and make them your own. I used to wear broomstick skirts with silk blouses, younger students would wear them with a t-shirt.”

If you’re still unsure about what to wear or what will look good on you, several outfitters have great Web sites that allow you to choose clothes, colors and fit.

Dockers — select USA site. There are so many types of pants to choose from! This site helps you narrow down all the styles. It also features sale items and a “dressing room” where you can pick the clothes in the colors you want and see how they’ll look when you mix and match. If you’re unsure about your selections, you can even e-mail them to a friend for a second opinion. http://store.us.dockers.com:80/

Go to Eddie Bauer’s site and click on Campus Collection, which features apparel and cool campus gear, like backpacks and lunch sacks. http://www.eddiebauer.com/

Lands’ End is one of the few sites advertising fall clothes. The site even has measuring tips under Services. http://www.landsend.com.

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