It’s time to say “ta-ta” to the summer job of delivering pizzas or attending park district camp and “hello” to iPad chargers, a stack of tee-shirts and a new park of kicks that will take you through the last chunk of 2014. See a previous year’s class list of fashionable ideas here.

The Red Balloon Co.
1940 N. Damen Ave.
Chicago, IL 60647
(773) 489-9800

5407 N. Clark St.
Chicago, IL 60640
(773) 989-8500

The 16-and-under set has fashion issues too and they can be solved at either of the two outposts of The Red Balloon. Offering the sweetest fall threads by Nano, Little Traveler, Stella, Hatley and others, the unique store for kids offers cute initial tee shirts and leggings, super hero capes, personalized sweaters for girls and boys and Spooner Boards for all. The boards allow young kids to replicate their older sibs’ board sport moves on any surface safely.

5216 N. Clark St.
Chicago, IL 60640
(773) 989-4420

You’ll hear lots of “amazing” and “awesome” utterances at Presence, an Andersonville shop attracting students tired of Forever 21 and Gap and into brands such as Everly, Tulle and YA California. Accessories like scarves, belts, shoes, bags, jewelry and hats top off unique shorts, dresses, tees, leggings, sweaters, jeans and tops. Perhaps best of all, prices hover in the “pretty reasonable” range.

Akira Chicago
5228 N. Clark St.
Chicago IL 60640
(773) 275-3664

Akira Chicago opened its first apparel boutique in Wicker Park/Bucktown in 2002 and now there are more than 18 locations including Lincoln Park, Water Tower and a ton in the Chicago suburbs. It’s easy to see why because the local shops stock everything a girl might need in terms of back to school fashion from rompers and jumpsuits to denim and jackets, plus shoes and accessories. Snag some real end-of-the-season bargains for the first warm months of school under $25, $15 and even under $5. When it gets too chilly for crochet and midriff tops, check out Akira’s booties and boots, jackets and cool weather accessories.

Related:  Ask A Chicago Expert: How To Distress Your Jeans

Strange Cargo
3448 N. Clark St.
Chicago, IL 60618
(773) 327-8090

It’s not strange but rather the stuff college students need: sneakers, retro patches to adorn jackets, messenger bags to tote books and countless tee-shirts and hoodies. The music tees, with images of Muddy Waters, Cheap Trick and Elvis, will mark you as cool and in the know while the beer and drinking shirts identify you as a typical college student. Socks, bags, scarves and a bar key sporting the Chicago flag will take you through the first semester.

Belmont Army
855 W. Belmont Ave.
Chicago, IL 60657
(773) 549-1038

Skate shop, thrift shop, vintage shop – Belmont Army is four floors of classic kicks, surplus stuff like military tees, vintage items from hideous 80s sweaters and loud Hawaiian shirts to bohemian dresses that would make elderly hippies swoon. In other words, every ironic piece of back-to-school-fashion that a 21st century high school or college student could dream for. You’re going to need that longboard to get to and from class, so check out the skate shop floor at Chicago’s largest independent fashion boutique in biz since 1975.

Related: Best Outdoor Gear Stores In Chicago

Jacky Runice has been a columnist with the Daily Herald Chicago since grunge music and flannel was the new black. Her fingers and gray matter have been busy as travel editor of Reunions Magazine; penning a column that was syndicated around the nation via Tribune Media Services. Her work can be found at