Clothing companies are salivating over this year's back-to-school buying binge. And why not? Brand Keys, a market research company, forecasts a 15 percent rise in back-to-school clothing sales. The jump looks to be directly tied to the heightened sartorial tastes of buyers, in this case teenagers who would now much rather spend their parents' cash on the latest styles from Marc Jacobs than the latest iPod from Steve Jobs. Technology is out; looking good is so in. Further, as Gloria Baume of Teen Vogue explains, the blurring of fashion distinctions between "what is ‘child' and what is ‘adult'" means that the same styles modeled by 20-year-old runway vixens are suddenly appropriate for 13-year-old playground divas, such as Tessa Sprauer. "I never wear anything literally like basic," Sprauer said. And why would she? It's a known fact that fancy designer clothing leads to academic success. Look at Elle Woods, the sorority ingénue of Legally Blonde, who, dressing with unparalleled panache and in blinding shades of pink, establishes herself at Harvard Law School and ends up giving the class commencement address. Remember, kids: Confidence never goes out of style.

"An Impressionable Age," by Ruth La Ferla, New York Times, August 10, 2006

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