proof styles Jeanna Duerscherl The Roanoke Times Jacki Lucki uses an index card to measure Megan Epperley's straps before the Knights in Training Fashion Show held at Cave Spring. A dress code at some school districts requires students to wear tops with straps wider than 3 inches and shorts or skirts no higher than 5 inches from the knee. This was Conner Sprinkle, a student at Botetourt's Central Academy Middle School, on a recent weekday shopping trip. The 13 year old was standing in a store that sells short shorts (and skirts), the kind that make teachers frown. Her complaint will be repeated 37 bajillion times as Virginia students go back to school. A dress code now in fashion at school districts including Roanoke, Franklin and Bedford counties requires students (read: girls) to wear tops with straps wider than 3 inches and shorts or skirts no higher than 5 inches from the knee. The code is easily enforced by a 3 by 5 inch index card. "We're just asking for our kids to use common sense," said Chuck Lionberger, spokesman for Roanoke County Public Schools. So as trendy young Virginians dress for the first day of class, they will find their style choices governed not just by personal taste, but also by school rules, prompting the question: How can I school proof my style? Barret Wertz, a Cave Spring nike qs High School grad and now Manhattan wardrobe stylist, offered pointers for adding flash with less flesh. "Throw on some great chains, some bangles," he said. Vintage sneakers, too Wertz, 25, prefers Chuck Taylors or Nike Dunks. In the safe zone: A tunic belt combo ("SoHo chic") and dresses to the knee ("a length I'm seeing"). And layering tanks on top can keep the shoulders covered. "Layering is huge" for adding flair and making an outfit "pop," said Diana Swayze, manager of the American Eagle Outfitters at Roanoke's Valley View Mall. For the beginner, she suggested this: Camisole under a polo, matched with a "flirty" skirt. "Our skirts unfortunately aren't going to make it at school," Swayze said, considering the index card. "Unless you wore leggings, and those are very popular." Standing at the register, her co worker Marcus Phelps, 20, advised against too much skin. "I don't normally go for the skimpy," he said. Rather, he likes a classic pairing that his girlfriend was nike 3.0 wearing when they met: A T shirt and jeans ("dark washes are popular"). And Swayze said that the old school prep look, one Roanoke seems to prefer anyway, will always be school proof: Vests, ties, collared shirts and trousers with nike 6.0 backpack suspenders. "But if they want to show something off, they'll show something off," Wertz said, admitting over the phone that he was wearing a potential dress code breaker, a tank top. Those unwilling to forgo spaghetti straps have learned to finesse the rules. "You just take a little jacket to school. That's what I do," said Molly Satterfield, 16, a rising junior at Salem High School. Swayze suggested lightweight cardigans or hoodies in beiges or strong colors like maroon and teal. John Martinez, 14, a soon to be Cave Spring High School freshman, noted that girls conceal thin straps with their hair. "Exactly like that," he said, pointing to a girl whose hair spilled onto her tank top as she strolled the mall. Dress codes typically target girls' clothes. But boys who rely on popped collar polos and flip flops, while school safe, are derivative. "Don't pop your collar just because you see other people do it," Wertz advised. Instead, he said boys can make a more stylish statement with unique country club items like Madras shorts, or even seersucker. "Plaid shorts have been an event this year," Swayze said, though she added that some shoppers were exchanging traditional cut shorts for slightly looser ones.