Join us now for the time-honored August tradition of fighting with your mother in department store dressing rooms during back-to-school wardrobe negotiations. Repeat after us: Moooooooommmmmmmm! (Or: Mo-ther!) Pity the poor teen who simply cannot attend school without (add the tears here) this exact shirt/shoe/skirt.

Everyone put down the Fair Isle-print cardigans. Here's your primer:

"One of the most important things is to keep communication open between parents and kids," says Jorge Ramon, Teen People's fashion director. That means create a budget, so "you're not shopping in a vacuum." And, says Ramon, a common parental faux pas is to start any sentence with the following: "When I was your age . . ." It shuts down a lot of creative outlets. Clothes are how kids express themselves, he says. "Style is their story."

The look for fall is "very casual comfortable," says Ramon. Sweaters are big, chunky-knit and belted. Denim is huge -- lots of embellishments, splatters, holes that are sewn or embroidered, pocket details. This time around blazers are cropped and fitted -- in tweeds, corduroy and velvet. And shoes? Wedges are hot. (And easy to walk in, notes Ramon.) "Clogs are really fun," he says. And sneakers are always super popular. Go for bright, punchy colors.

Says Ramon, "Back-to-school is all about having your trends, looking good, catching up again -- and of course focusing on studies." Yes, right, of course.

-- Janelle Erlichman Diamond

Center: Embellished hipster flare jeans, $58 at American Eagle stores or Clockwise from top right: White lace camisole, $69.50 at Abercrombie & Fitch stores or Sanctuary Gaucho pants ($109) with Brave pony metallic belt ($68) at BScene, 7725 Tuckerman Lane, Potomac. Soft suede pull-on boots in bitter chocolate ($198) and embroidered folksy skirt in biscuit ($98) at or 866-206-9508. LaRok cashmere-cotton blend sweater, $278 at BScene. Fun Tank Top in fern argyle, $58 at or 866-206-9508.