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Great First-Day Clothes: Girl’s Edition

Get a grade-school gal dressed with back-to-school clothes and accessories that will work now and later. We’ve built our ensembles around plaid, an always trustworthy trend in the fall season.

Back to School Guide

Tips From the Pros

Greening Your Back-to-School Shopping List

What to Do After School

Back to School 2.0: Gadgets for Students

Great First Day Clothes for Girls

Great First Day Clothes for Boys

Spicing Up Brown Bag Lunches

Getting In To Top CollegesNo matter what grade she’s headed to, a stellar outfit is as necessary as notebooks and pencils when a girl goes back to school. Understanding the need to be noticed when she walks into a room, we found pieces that pick up on trends without losing the parental seal of approval. Look below to find classic plaid for every age group, suggestions that won’t go out of style anytime soon, and fashionable compromises that will satisfy parents, teachers, and students.

Elementary School

The plaid: Bright Plaid Ruffle Shirt, $34.50, American Eagle

The rest:
Blue Stretch Twill Uniform Shorts, $14.50, Old Navy
Jessica Simpson Vanessa Moccasin, $45, Stride Rite
Lime Junior Original Book Pack, $22.95, L.L. Bean

Dress-code imposed outfit restrictions don’t mean she has to sacrifice showcasing her bright personality on the first day of school. The navy chino Bermuda shorts will pass regulation length tests and can be worn in as many different ways as her favorite jeans. Roll up the sleeves of the collegiate-inspired tunic/button-down hybrid for a hot first day, and then pair it with leggings, boots, and a scarf when the weather gets colder—the pattern’s many colors ensure that it’ll coordinate well with multiple bottoms. A cute pair of fringed moccasins amplify the hippy-meets-preppy effect. And the impossible-to-miss lime of this L.L. Bean backpack—a top pick among both parents and students for its multiple pockets and padded straps—will help her stand out among her peers.

>> Next page: Middle school fashion

Middle School

The plaid: Pizazz Plaid Superbreak Backpack, $29.99, Jansport

The rest:
Black Jack Button Front Sweater Vest, $24.50, Old Navy
Tiered Colorblock Tank Dress, $22.80, Forever 21
Chuck Taylor Purple Passion All Star Specialty Converse, $45, Converse
Charter Club Signature Reversible Belt, $32, Macy's
Glittered Black Bangle Set, $3.80, Forever 21

With the right accessories, even a cheery yellow sundress can turn punk rock. Here, we extended the life of a big summer trend—color-blocking—by piling on black accent pieces that will help her channel her favorite rockers without going overboard. Emo-girl jelly bracelets are replaced with dressy bangles, a sweater vest—worn unbuttoned—smartens her up and covers her shoulders, and the whole ensemble gets a kick from punchy purple sneakers. The backpack’s classic black-and-white color combo is versatile: It can turn punk with patches and pins or go preppy when she feels like experimenting with new identities.>> Next page: High school fashion

High School

The plaid: Tulip Overlay skirt, $26.00,

The rest:
Navy Alexandria Boyfriend Blazer, $69.50, Delia's
Ashes Grey Goldie Slub V-neck, $16.50, Delia's
Cognac Citrone Gladiator Sandal, $40, Aldo
Cordovan Leather Town & Field Tote, $129, L.L. Bean
Mixed-Metal Camera Necklace, $28, Urban Outfitters
Metal Pyramid Stud Earrings, $12, Urban Outfitters

Budding fashionistas can embrace multiple fads while staying age- and school-appropriate in this cheeky mix-up of grays, navys, and neutrals. The relaxed fit of the boyfriend blazer, a solid investment for fall, lends a casual edge to an otherwise formal piece; plus, the extra coverage will extend the life of her summer dresses. Arty details, such as the tulip overlay of the Tulle mini-skirt, camera pendant, and gladiator sandals, keep the ensemble from looking like a school uniform. And we simply cannot say enough good things about the Town & Field tote. Nothing says “grown-up” quite like ditching the backpack for a roomy shoulder bag, and the sturdy material and make of this classic tote will carry her books well through college and her first internship. To personalize it without ruining the leather, tie favorite keychains, fabric strips, or scarves to the brass handle attachments.

Sarah is the Editor-in-Chief of Washingtonian Bride & Groom, and writes about weddings, fashion, and shopping. Her work has also appeared in Refinery29, Bethesda Magazine, and Washington City Paper, among others. She is a Georgetown University graduate, lives in Columbia Heights, and you can find her on Instagram at @washbridegroom and @sarahzlot.