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Tartan times for trendy types

By Helen Holmes
Published: December 2010

Last week, I was struck with a bolt of inspiration that only an extra-adorable outfit can inspire.
Devoid, as I was, of any clean pants or a t-shirt, I decided to be literal to the point of excess and dress like a schoolgirl.
This look required a button-down shirt fastened all the way to the collar (check), an old reject tie from my dad’s closet (check), a kilt I found in a local church sale (check), and a pair of heels.
Unfortunately, the heels were nowhere to be found, so I had to improvise and wear my old, black combat boots with a broken zipper.
I walked around feeling like a cross between a punk and a Hogwarts student.
Humorously enough, the schoolgirl look is sweeping the nation. The Spring 2011 collections of Alexander Wang, Philip Lim, and Erdem are chock-full of fresh faces and prim, peter-pan collars.
Alexa Chung, host of the popular MTV show It’s On with Alexa Chung, is the authority on tastefully mixing rock n’ roll and English schoolboy aesthetics. Vogue has even named her as one of the ten best-dressed women of the year in its latest edition.
Personally, I’m nothing short of thrilled that demureness is making comebacks in an industry that so often turns to exposed skin and miniscule hems.
In an age when impressionable young girls are exposed to an unending onslaught of sexualized media, innocence is a welcome relief.
Unfortunately, I’m pretty sure that a complete revolution in the fashion industry is impossible.
I’ll still see girls walking down the hallways in low-cut tank tops and itty-bitty denim miniskirts because the problem with teenagers is that they often have no idea how to strike a balance between being sexual and sensual.
Overt sexuality, if done incorrectly, can often be vulgar rather than appealing. (Case in point: Taylor Momsen’s nipple tape. Ew.)
Another school-clothes “don’t is heavy makeup. No one wants to see you walking around at nine in the morning looking like an underfed raccoon, so ditch the black eye shadow.
Experimentation with color is always an option when one is young and in high school. My personal favorite is green-winged eyeliner: understated, flattering, and not overly sexy.
Sensuality, however, comes in many forms, many of them school-appropriate!
Instead of those super-low-rise jeans that you fit into two years ago, why not try a cropped (but not TOO cropped!) t-shirt and a pair of high-waisted pants?
Trust me, these will not make you look like a middle aged mother if you get the proportions right.
If you’re still watching Jersey Shore, ditch the guidettes and TiVo Mad Men instead – the impeccable, early sixties outfits are the perfect inspiration for a modern woman’s wardrobe.
To be clear, Mad Men is not a source to directly copy – if you wear pearls and kitten heels every day, you might be mistaken for a state senator. Youth is something to be embraced, not rejected, so give your mom’s pencil skirt back and put on some jeans. It won’t kill you.
Of course, your best bet for the quintessential age-appropriate, cheekily demure outfit is that of the schoolgirl.
With a little cash for thrift store bargains and a lot of panache, this look is as easy as sleeping late on a Sunday.
I could almost feel my IQ rising a few points when I put on my tartan skirt and father’s tie.

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