In addition to finding clothes that are "cute and affordable," Ashley James wants her back-to-school wardrobe to look unique.
The 15-year-old sophomore is headed to Viewmont High School next week for the start of school. She is looking for jeans, necklaces and brightly colored shirts to wear.
"I want something that not everyone will have that's unique," James said. "It's not super important ... but I still want to look cute."
More than in previous years, this back-to-school season is about showcasing individual style. Denim jeans are again hot (perhaps the top trend this season), but the styles are unique, with some jeans being stylized and other jeans designed to look sleek and fit "skinny."
Other top trends include clothing with a more "vintage" look and multiple layers of shirts. Accessories such as watches, belts and necklaces are also fashionable, allowing a student to add something new to the mix of items they already have in their closet, said Heather Nash, director of marketing for The Gateway in downtown Salt Lake City.
For the most part, students say it doesn't matter so much the brand of clothing they buy, as long as what they purchase is different and looks good.
Even guys are getting into the fun.
"Three years ago, guys would have never touched this," said Isaac Kline, manager of the Buckle at The Gateway, as he pointed to a pair of stylized MEK jeans. "Guys are more trendy than ever before."
Kline's store is filled with hundreds of pairs of stylized jeans, long-sleeved "vintage" button-down shirts, trendy high-heeled pumps and flats for girls, belts that can be reversed for multiple uses and also "burnout" shirts that are designed to be layered over a couple of undershirts.
Melody Quinney of West Jordan said her four sons are into the layered look. They'll wear a T-shirt over the top of another T-shirt but refuse to throw on a button-down shirt to wear over the T-shirts (one popular trend).
"It's just layering one T-shirt on top of the other T-shirt," she said.
Jordan Nash, 12, said he likes Nike-brand shoes and also casual graphic T-shirts. During a recent photo shoot at The Gateway, he was wearing a bright blue graphic T-shirt from Quiksilver with a button-down shirt and jacket.
He decided to keep the T-shirt (which was described as a bit of a throwback to the '80s after wearing it for the shoot.
"I think it's cool," he said, later adding that he prefers his clothes to be comfortable and not "stuffy."
Michele Casper, spokeswoman for Lands' End, said for children around Nash's age or younger, it's important to have items that are personalized and also fit comfortably. Girls are looking for embellishments and fun graphics on their clothes, while the style for boys includes casual layers with polo shirts, hoodies or basic T-shirts.
Girls can get the layered look by wearing leggings under a knit dress or skort, Casper said. One of her favorite styles is a knit dress with leggings and Mary Jane shoes.
Debbie Hoskin of West Jordan said her two girls, ages 11 and 8, are into items inspired by celebrities, including Miley Cyrus or "High School Musical" T-shirts.
For Brittany Roeder, 12, it's important to look feminine.
"I'm a girly-girl," Roeder said. "I really like flowers and prints."
Roeder also participated in a photo shoot at The Gateway. She was wearing a T-shirt and shorts from Roxy made with organic and recycled materials. Being "green" is another top trend for students this back-to-school season, according to Heather Nash.
But all-in-all, it's important for students to showcase their style, Casper said."You may not all have large budgets, but with what you are able to purchase, it's important to make it your own," Casper said.