By  on July 13, 2006

NEW YORK — For back-to-school 2006, it's time to give ripped jeans a rest and go skinny instead.

Looks will be less flashy, with more tailored, tighter silhouettes, analysts said. Colors will be darker for tops and bottoms, with tops seeing longer lengths. The inspiration: Seventies with a dash of fashion sophistication.

Although denim will continue to be a major focus for fall, styles will be cleaner, darker and skinnier. Graphic Ts will be an important item, but instead of youthful, bright colors, they will come in shades of dark brown, with silver, gray and gold accents.

Overall, consumers will see more neutral colors, grays and an emergence of shades of purple, analysts predicted. One of the most influential trends will be the rocker style.

"It isn't punk; think Mick Jagger — straight, narrow pants, with early Seventies inspiration," said Jane Hali, vice president and director of retail consulting at Coleman Research Group. "We already see this trend in Europe with Kate Moss and Sienna Miller."

Here, bands such as the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and the Scissor Sisters, as well as their fans, are embracing this look. And for the 2006 b-t-s season, it's a look retailers are betting on to drive sales. Stores are also rolling out b-t-s merchandise earlier to gauge reaction to their offerings so they can tweak the mix before the season peaks. Back-to-school is becoming a strategically vital season to retailers, who see it not only as a critical transition into the fall season, but as a way to grab interest for the all-important holiday shopping season.

Analysts anticipate a solid b-t-s season, with sales rising 3 to 4 percent. The fashion crowd faces the perennial challenge of merchandising to the eternally fickle teen.

"We remain comfortable that by the start of the fall season demand for these new trends will be much stronger then it was when these trends were launched this past spring," Elizabeth Pierce, senior vice president at Sanders Morris Harris Group, wrote in a research note.

Pierce said the stronger demand is likely to be the result of improved awareness of these trends among consumers. She expects retailers will be doing a better job of explaining b-t-s and fall fashions through more understandable visual presentations and displays, which also will help promote a higher level of comfort in exploring these items.

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