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Ashley Tisdale, Monique Coleman and Vanessa Hudgens star in the Disney movie, ‘High School Musical 2.’ The three stars are considered fashion trendsetters for pre-teens.

Ap photo

NEW YORK — If imitation is a form of flattery, it’s likely we’ll see a lot of girls dressed like Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Tisdale and Monique Coleman this fall.

They’re the female leads of “High School Musical.” And many tween girls eagerly counted down to the premiere of the new “High School Musical 2,” which premiered Aug. 17 on the Disney Channel.

Each of the three young women stars has a distinct style: bohemian, high-style and body-conscious.

It’s a bit different from what they wear on the screen: For example, Tisdale’s Sharpay is all glitz and sparkle, but for an interview the real Tisdale shows up in a sophisticated Rebecca Taylor crocheted minidress and Moschino red platform sandals.

The success of the original “High School Musical” went far beyond Disney’s original intention to keep connected with tweens during the dreary winter months of 2006. The movie has been seen by more than 160 million people in more than 100 countries; its soundtrack was the best-selling album of 2006; and its stars became bona fide big names and trendsetters.

The red dress with a ruffle around the bustline that Hudgens’ Gabriella wore in the movie’s finale was actually a copy of a vintage dress the actress owned in white. Similar styles were then offered by retailers for prom dresses and Halloween costumes, and it’s what Mattel chose to dress its new singing Gabriella Barbie in.

Disney’s Consumer Products division rushed out branded T-shirts, pajamas and backpacks into stores after failing to anticipate the initial demand for products, but this time there’s a more cohesive marketing plan now with major retailers including Wal-Mart and Macy’s, among others.

Potential breakout looks from the new movie include Sharpay’s shiny star necklace or Gabriella’s girlie white eyelet pieces.

Hudgens, Tisdale and Coleman talked with the AP about their own personal style — and even gushed like the high-school girls they portray about how much they liked each other’s looks:

VANESSA HUDGENS

Hudgens looks older than her 18 years when she’s dressed up in an Alice McCall silver sleeveless blouse with a green ribbon around the neckline and Jimmy Choo snakeskin heels. She acknowledges, though, that as much fun as it’s been having access to designer clothes and the occasions to wear them, she also likes to wear more comfortable bohemian-style clothes that match her personality.

Aside from the fedora moment she’s having, she’s been wearing a lot of minidresses and oversize off-the-shoulder T-shirts. She also loves clunky, chunky boots. But since she’s in Los Angeles most of the time, she mostly wears sandals.

“Growing up, most of my clothes were hand-me-downs, or from Goodwill or a tag sale, but I didn’t really care about my clothes,” Hudgens says.

Or, at least she didn’t care until she was on the verge of being a teenager.

“At 12 I got my first pair of Frankie Bs, my first pair of cool jeans,” she recalls.

Hudgens met Tisdale on the set of a back-to-school Sears TV commercial long before they were reunited at East Side High. Hudgens said she always admired Tisdale’s style even though she went through what they’ve dubbed her “fairy phase,” wearing more than the norm of sparkly clothing.

Both Hudgens and Tisdale discourage their fans, especially young ones, from spending their money on pricey things with a fancy label.

“It’s all about finding one cool piece — that’s what I do at vintage shops, it’s what I do at home. I pick one thing I really want to wear and plan everything around it,” Hudgens says.

ASHLEY TISDALE

“Everyone goes through an awkward stage,” announced Tisdale, who at 22 is clearly past hers.

She looks every bit the Hollywood starlet with perfectly styled hair and dark Chanel sunglasses, but Tisdale also seems very aware of all the ups and downs tween and teen girls go through, especially when it comes to their appearance.

She likes to see everyone put a bit of their personality into their look. She and Hudgens could walk into the same store, choose the same item but look totally different from each other. In fact, it’s happened.

“One day we wore the same dress — it was a white summer dress. She wore it with these cute wedges and I wore it with shorts and a belt,” she says.

Tisdale already started shopping for fall, picking up a parachute jacket from Ruehl No. 925 on this recent trip to New York.

Shopping for back-to-school clothes was a highlight of the year, she says, it was an annual tradition for herself, her sister and her grandmother when she still lived in New Jersey before moving to California. “I’d find that perfect outfit. It was a chance to be the new you — who you wanted to be.”

MONIQUE COLEMAN

She’s the oldest of the bunch at 26, but Coleman says she’s learned a lot about confidence and how to carry herself from her co-stars.

When she first began riding the “High School Musical” bandwagon, she took the word of her stylist as gospel. She looked great, but she didn’t think she looked like herself.

“You know your body better than anyone, and you know what you feel comfortable in,” Coleman says. She plays the brainy character Taylor.

For her, key pieces include empire waist dresses (she’s wearing a black silk one by Joie on this day) and shorts. She’s very aware of her curvy figure and takes care to balance her outfit with a conservative bottom or top if her dress has a revealing neckline or her shorts are particularly short.

Coleman also knows what doesn’t work: the loose bohemian styles Hudgens favors. “I look like a balloon,” Coleman says. That doesn’t mean she has to be completely left out of the look, though. “I can always find one element of a trend that works,” she says.

An off-the-shoulder top is her nod to boho.

Coleman says she can still play a high-schooler because “my truest, most naked face looks 15 ... and without extensions I look 12.

She adds: “When I try to look older, I feel like I’m playing dress up.”

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