When you get right down to it, sweaters are the essential part of most back-to-school wardrobes. Clothes have become so seasonless that the sweater is needed to carry most summer items into the fall, particularly Washington's usually mild early fall.

Some sweater shapes, once saved for grown-ups, are part of kids' collections these days. Fisherman knit sweaters, even the authentic variety, cheerleader sweaters, argyles, yachting sweaters, ski sweaters, Fair Isles--all of those and more can provide comfort and warmth for kids as well as brighten the wardrobe.

Bright colors are still around and thanks to the preppy phenomena, little boys, too, can now choose pink or purple sweaters as freely as they once selected from a range that stopped at navy or gray.

Like their elders, boys have found sweaters an ideal way to make a suit, once relegated to just special-occasion wear, more informal by putting a sweater underneath. It promotes getting extra wear out of a sweater that has gotten a bit too snug or the sleeves too short, a practical extension of sweaters that girls can adopt too. Pictured is a varied collection of kids sweaters, photographed in a place where kids love to collect and try everything from computers to cars, the Capital Children's Museum, 800 Third St. NE.