This year's back-to-school look is modern - with a personal touch

(L-R) Nailah Robinson, 10, of Woodbury, PA, wears a graphic print sweat shirt, Only Yours $52; jeans, Blank NYC, $68, both at Bloomindale's. Saeed Castro, 11, of Newark, Del, wears an orange and white striped polo, LaCoste $40, at Bloomingdale's; jeans, DBurner, $24.99, at Century 21. Navy blue slip-ons, Jay and Mario, $39.99. Isabelle Gordon, 15, of Villanova, wears a printed blouse, Aqua, $68, at Bloomingdale's; jeans, Ernest Sewn, $68, at Bloomingdale's. Jake Pavlow, 16, of Wynnewood, wears a short-sleeved blue button-up, Penguin, $25, at Century 21; distressed jeans True Religion, $79, at Bloomingdale's.

After almost a decade of bohemian-inspired back-to-school fashions, this year's young trendsetters are blending classically preppy looks - appropriate plaids, pastels, and khakis - into their fringe and graphic-print-filled wardrobes.

"How much longer could we send our kids to school in track pants and hoodies?" asked Lisa Lent of New York, a children's clothing buyer for Century 21.

Can't say I disagree.

This fall's pull toward preppy is fueled by a resurgence of Nantucket-friendly labels like Vineyard Vines, now in the business of making duds for little people, and collaborations between brands like classic J.Crew and sporty Adidas.

Also, preppy is a natural draw for kids because the color palette - saturated pastels and bold primaries - is eye-catching, and plaids and stripes are a fun way to experiment with patterns.

Then there are the superheroes: Weekly TV dramas and box office hits star invincible characters whose mild-mannered alter egos happen to wear collegiate looks.

Take Kara Danvers, Supergirl's alter ego on the WB series. After watching a few episodes, even I wanted to go out and buy a few boxy plaid skirts.

"The characters inspire a clean cut," said Amanda Hill, spokeswoman for Bloomingdale's at the King of Prussia and Willow Grove Park malls.

How can your kids add their personal touches to classically preppy looks? We dressed some local school-age kids and had them show us their ways.