The inevitable happens with annual regularity - kids keep growing. And the predictable corollary to predictable growth - time to buy new clothes.

With any kind of luck, you may be able to correlate your purchases within the growth spurt, allowing maybe six-months wear on a pair of jeans. Typically, however, you organize, carefully inventory the present closet contents and make the cool-weather purchases in the heat of the summer.The next obvious discovery: The body's outgrown the item before the weather allows it to be worn. This is one of the frustration of school shopping briefly described from a parent's point of view.

Another frustration - trying to select appropriate, wearable items from the myriad of choices available in children's clothing.

Basic gear always includes jeans, but this year's crop is covered with pockets, extra zippers and assorted fasteners. Stone-washed fabrics still steal the show, but they're disguised with design details or Old West emphasis.

The "Cowboy" and "Out West" lines from OshKosh B' Gosh hit the trail with distressed denim and saddle denim styles coordinated with prairie plaid shirtings or use accents of fringe, leather patches or Western-themed screen prints.

Joe Sapienza, J.C. Penney vice president and fashion director, described his company's new Arizona jeans: "It's not just jeans but a complete denim wardrobe concept that includes denim jackets and jeans skirts to expand the Western trend."

Basic slim-cut jean styling expands for fall to a fuller leg and a looser fit.

"A new looser fit is coming on in jeans, along with a very strong emergency of overalls and other new pieces in denim," explained Lucile Klein, fashion director for Penney's women's division.

Local retailer, Lisa Rider, who owns Strawberry Patch locations at Foothill Village, Valley Fair Mall and 6900 S. Highland Drive, agreed with the national trends but emphasized the importance of layering to the Salt Lake market.

"Girls will put a legging layer under shorts or a skirt," Rider said, "then put one T-shirt over another, folding back the sleeve to reveala color accent. They'll grab a sweatshirt or sweater to tie around the waist or flop over the shoulder. The `Flapdoddle' line at Strawberry Patch contains a wide selection of separate pieces, T-shirts, tanks, cardigans, legging and pull-on pants that coordinate the layered look with color and print."

Color is the important ingredient is combining fall layers.

According to Rider, "Black is still a basic color in kids' clothes, much to the dismay of mothers. We'll see a lot of that mustard brown that was hot in women's wear last season. It's moved down to children's wear but has been softened some.

"Even with these basic colors, there's no substitute for a bold mix of bright colors. Nothing is subtle in kid's clothes."

In the opinion of the children, however, school shopping is an adventure in trying to outguess the parents.

Parents are guessing, too: Will our children outgrown these clothes before or after they are paid for?

Note: Preschool and elementary school clothes pictured with this story are available at the Strawberry Patch. Teenage wardrobe additions can be found at ZCMI.