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Closet Patrol

When it comes to back-to-school shopping, buying the right clothes is key for these three East Coast teens.<br><br><br><br>ATLANTA — The annual task of back-to-school shopping can be a nightmare for any teenager. Just ask 17-year-old Caitlin...

When it comes to back-to-school shopping, buying the right clothes is key for these three East Coast teens.

ATLANTA — The annual task of back-to-school shopping can be a nightmare for any teenager. Just ask 17-year-old Caitlin O’Keefe, who only a week before classes started in late August finished the last of her end-of-summer shopping jaunts.

“I have just about everything I need,” O’Keefe said, thumbing through her large bedroom closet. “There are still a few items I have left to get, but it can be hard since my school has such a strict dress code.”

O’Keefe is a senior at the eminent Westminster School, a private co-ed institution in the heart of Buckhead, an area of Atlanta defined by wealth, lavish homes and the latest in style.

“At school, we have to keep it pretty conservative and basic with what we wear,” she said. “Everyone looks the same and it can get a bit boring.”

Not always wanting to blend in with the crowd, O’Keefe scours the city’s trendy East Atlanta and Midtown shopping areas for the most interesting looks she can find. One of her favorite stores is Luna, a hip specialty shop in Virginia Highlands where she found a creme scoop neck peasant top by Laundry for $100.

“I enjoy the smaller, more quaint boutiques around town much more than the mall,” she said, holding up a pair of $170 black flare-cut pants also from Laundry. “I can always find something a little different there and I like to stand out.”

She admits, though, that she does rely on nearby Lenox Square and Perimeter Malls for the bulk of her b-t-s gear, shopping at Neiman Marcus, Abercrombie & Fitch and Gap for most of her basic items, such as T-shirts and jeans.

O’Keefe also regularly visits the North Georgia Premium Outlets in Dawsonville for great deals at BCBG Max Azria and Banana Republic.

“Sometimes it’s just easier to go to the mall and pick everything out at once than it is to spend the entire day going from store to store,” she said.

O’Keefe’s closet is a neatly arranged walk-in array of contrasting hues and styles, color coordinated from shelf to shelf like a well-merchandised boutique of her own. Not overly evident of her school’s restrictive and conventional style, her closet is filled with loud and quirky Michael Stars T-shirts, a $75 rhinestone-studded top by Joomi Joolz and a massive collection of jeans and pants by Earl Jean and Laundry. Other pieces include a $50 pink lace-up T-shirt by Three Dots and a black-and-white Nanette Lepore day dress she bought this year for $350.

“For the most part,” she said, picking out a favorite $60 screen-printed Michael Stars T-shirt and a pair of $120 indigo jeans by Seven Jeans, “I guess I have a mixture of styles, but I think I’m pretty much a casual, easy-going girl. I love anything by Ralph Lauren. It has a simple, clean look and it’s very comfortable.”

She said she’s driven to shop mainly by necessity, visiting her favorite stores only when she has something particular in mind. Going to the mall, however, is a regular social event.

“I love to shop, but definitely in moderation,” she said. “It’s fun sometimes to hang out with my friends and window-shop and just browse through the mall, not necessarily buying anything at all.”

When she’s not busy shopping for school, O’Keefe is busy at school. As a graduating senior, she is heavily involved in extracurricular activities, including the debate and swim teams. This year, she will also serve as the French editor of Crossroads, a multilanguage student newspaper.