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Back-to-School Outfits and Trends Your Kids Will Love for 2022

Back-to-School Outfits and Trends Your Kids Will Love for 2022

Whether you have a preschooler or a preteen, getting them dressed for school can be fun – and a challenge. Some kids might want the latest trends. Some might march to the beat of their own drum a style that is uniquely theirs. Others want you to pick out their entire wardrobe for them. No matter how involved your kid is in back-to-school clothes shopping, help them feel confident to take on their first day with this year’s trends in back-to-school outfits.

Last year, loungewear was everyone’s go-to. This year, though, as school is back in full swing with the return of regular routines and activities, kids are gravitating toward 90s- and Y2K-inspired looks, activewear paired with streetwear, and rural/farm-chic cottagecore, among other trends. Whether your child is into classic varsity looks, something artsy – or even just gaming, dinosaurs, or LEGO® tees – the goal is to find the looks that allow them to express and celebrate themselves.

Expect To See These Clothes and Shoe Trends In 2022

First impressions can be defining moments in a kid’s social life. The fun part about trends is that you can pick and choose from different styles to create a uniquely personalized look with your child. They’ll be the coolest kid on the playground in these styles.

The 90s and Y2k Are Back

Expect to see 90s and 2000s throwback styles, like checkerboard prints, yellow smiley faces, chunky soles, ringer tees with contrasting bands of fabric around the sleeves and collar, and flared jeans. Birkenstocks and chunky boots will be everywhere for kids (and for you, too). In fact, Zulily’s senior buyer of children’s merchandise, Nicole Silva, says “You’ll see graphic tees with 90s musicians and bands you loved when you were growing up.”

Kids will be able to express themselves by adding colorful, embroidered patches to their clothes and drawn-on designs and phrases with Sharpies. Encourage the kids to decorate and customize their backpacks this way, too.

MillieLovesLilly Checkered Pastel Dress
90s Fashion for Kids Checkerboard

Athleisure — Emphasis On The Athletic

This year is still about comfort, make no mistake — but let’s call it active comfort: Fitted athletic tops, joggers and sneakers all day every day. But this time, there’s a twist: you’ll see lots of cool detail on fabric prints, like paint splatter and tie die. Plus, prominent logos are back. Think an oversized single logo or patterns of logos on athletic shirts.

Layer onto that the return of Gorpcore, utilitarian outdoors-inspired gear combined with casual athleisure but way cooler. Imagine streetwear cool goes on a camping trip. First coined by The Cut writer Jason Chen, the term Gorpcore is a nod to the trail mix (“Good Ol’ Raisins and Peanuts”) that hikers usually pack. This time around, the key components of the trend include:

  • Bright color block clothes paired with earth tones
  • Voluminous outerwear paired with form-fitting base layers
  • Hiking gear-inspired details (toggles and cinches)

Think earth-tone ribbed leggings paired with Crocs and a fleece in a bright color or a stretchy long sleeve with a tech fleece and puffy jacket. You’ll also see denim joggers, high-top basketball shoes, and lots of sherpa fleece.

Athleisure Fashion for Kids
Boys Fashion Trends Athleisure

Cottagecore Goes To The American West

The prairie-chic cottagecore trend is not going away any time soon and this year it’s combined with looks from American western classics, too. Think dresses with floral print, frills, tiered ruffles, neutral tones, and western boots or stacked wood clogs. There’s an emphasis on smocking (gathered, stitched and puckered technique that makes the garment stretchy), patchwork, and quilting — but nothing as extreme as Little House on Prairie.

Two smiling young girls in ruffle cottagecore dresses
Stella Bean Floral and Ruffle Girls Dress

Varsity Vibes, Collegiate Cool

This year, kids are also embracing back to school by going full-on collegiate. Gone are the days of “preppy;” now it’s all about varsity swagger. This classic trend embraces school-cool with heritage check blazers, sleek leather sneakers, varsity jackets with snap buttons and stripe details and a personal twist: embroidered patches and customizations.

You will see wide-engineered striped sweaters in cozy fabrics, sweater vests, and pleated skirts for girls.

Penny loafers, oxfords, and t-strap Mary-janes (yes, the kind from the 90s!) will give you a dose of nostalgia and keep your kids on-trend.

Mary Jane Shoes With Socks
Preppy Kids Outfit

Sensory and Adaptive Kid’s Clothing Are More Inclusive Than Ever

Dealing with the added stress of post-pandemic living and adapting to in-person classes, kids are also embracing stress relief activities to help them cope. Expect to see stress-relieving tools built-in to fashion accessories like pop-it purses and tactile details.

You’ll also see functional practicality and utilitarian design in clothing and shoes that incorporate zippers and elastic toggles for kids with sensory, dexterity, or mobility needs. Look for sensory-smart clothing, as well, including tagless clothes, itch-free labels, covered elastic waistbands and flat seams.

For example, beloved brand Billy Footwear offers adaptable shoes featuring zippers that run from underneath the laces, which can stay permanently tied, to the top of the tongue, so kids can get them on and off easily.

Billy Adaptable Footwear

Get Your Kicks: The Shoes Your Kids Want

When it comes to shoes, trends ebb and flow just as they do with clothing.

Chunky and lugged soles on sneakers, boots and sandals are popular with kids, tweens and teens alike. The kids will also be asking for beloved, timeless brands, like Adidas, Crocs and Puma. You’ll also see a focus on earth-friendly products made using recycled and biodegradable materials.

Running, jumping, going out to dinner, band practice – kids do it all in sneakers year, it’s all about bold sneakers featuring neon, color pop and platform soles. You’ll also see lots of classic high-tops and basketball-style sneakers.

Burgundy Patent Leather Chunky Boots

Online shopping tip:Download our shoe sizing guide to get the right fit for your kids’ sneakers.

Add Some Personality To School Uniforms

Is it possible to go from plain uniform to back-to-school cool? Check! A stylish twist can give your kid the ability to stand out in a uniformed crowd. But first, make sure to check what’s allowed beyond the uniform with your child’s school. Once you know the uniform rules, let your kids add their own personal style with accessories like:

  • Backpacks
  • Slip-on sneakers
  • Printed belts
  • Colorful socks
  • Glittery headbands

Pump Up that Personal Style

As kids get older, they are also learning who they are and what they like to wear, so their strong opinions about clothing are starting to show (if they haven’t already at a young age!). For older kids, it’s important to feel like they belong, to express their personality, explore their own sense of style and feel confident in their clothes. Take Zulily’s kid designers, for example: their picks for back to school looks prove that kids have style to spare.

If your kid is begging for a certain trend, it’s likely that they know it’s what’s popular at school. But it’s also helpful to show them that new clothes shouldn’t come at the expense of getting carried away and overspending. And above all, it’s a great teachable opportunity to remind them that the unique person wearing the clothes is what really makes the outfit.

The 2022 Back-to-School Planner

Get a perfect grade this year with back-to-school ideas, our backpack guide, organizing tips and more

Now that their first-day outfits are set, do you have everything else you need? Backpack, lunch box? Sloth stickers for the kids’ water bottles?

About The Author

Becca Luna

Becca Risa Luna is a senior creative copywriter, designer and content strategist for Zulily's blog, The Find. With over a decade working in ecommerce, Becca is passionate about the intersection of technology and storytelling. She spends her free time traveling, advocating for mental health awareness, and writing about her favorite things: content marketing and designer handbags. An alumni of California State University at Chico, Becca currently lives in Seattle, Wash., with her partner and their rescued mini schnauzer, Huxley.

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