NEW YORK — With cold weather, backpacks and books right around the corner, two college student interns from Cornell University and Northwestern University, respectively, visited some leading retailers to shop for their back-to-school wardrobes. Restricted by tight student budgets, as well as needs to be both warm and stylish, here’s what they discovered at stores such as Abercrombie & Fitch, Scoop, Banana Republic, Urban Outfitters, Anthropologie and H&M.

Abercrombie & Fitch

The rock music blaring from A&F’s speakers hit shoppers’ ears well before the sparsely dressed hunks on larger-than-life posters were even in eyeshot. Shaggy-haired frat boys home for the summer stood by the door and lured in customers to the Paramus Park Mall unit in Paramus, N.J. Junior high-aged teens arrived in gaggles to puzzle over the meanings of the witty sexual innuendos printed on fitted cotton Ts.

The fall offerings indicated that an older, slightly more sophisticated look is on the horizon for A&F. In lieu of last year’s chunky wool sweaters and pocketed polo shirts, open-knit ponchos and cowlneck cashmeres covered the display tables. Although the color array, from navy to bright pink, held constant from seasons past, I was disappointed to note that prices have skyrocketed. Nevertheless, I grabbed a white poncho with rainbow stripes, for $49.50, and a baby blue velvet blazer with a ribbon tie, for $99.50.

The Ezra Fitch collection, which is Abercrombie’s premiere venture into high-end denim, was prominently displayed on the girls’ side of the store. Marked by decorative back-pocket stitching and the “Ezra Fitch” logo emblazoned in dark yellow on the inner waist, the collection featured jeans and skirts, which are slightly longer than A&F’s trademark superminis. Both the sizing (Ezra Fitch jeans were available in 24 to 32, a deviation from A&F’s typical 00 to 12) and the price tags ($98 to $133, rather than the usual $70 or so), echoed the influence of companies such as Seven and Paper Denim & Cloth. I was pleased to find, however, that for the first time, denim from Abercrombie fit me well in all the right places, and I loved the boot-cut style and darker washes.

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