When 17-year-old Mikki Graves starts class this September, she won't have to spend a fortune on a new wardrobe: "My mother says she will volunteer her high school wardrobe to me so that I can be in style!" Graves says.

This year's back-to-school look, not unlike that of last year, both straddles and combines '50s chic and preppie comfort. Somewhere in between, the revival of the Western look is shouting for -- and getting -- attention.

Graves, a senior at Woodrow Wilson High School, plans to build her back-to-school look around brightly colored Shetland wool sweaters, shirts with round collars and little ribbon ties, pleated pants and skirts -- "pleats are in" -- and flat shoes.

"I also want a pair of Bermuda shorts, to wear with knee socks and loafers," she says, "but my mother said 'No way.'"

And what about jeans? "Oh, yes. Tight, tight jeans that fit, with straight legs. Not necessarily designer's but they -- and everything I wear -- will have to have quality," says Graves.

Quality is the key to fashion this year, according to Niki Dupin, fashion merchandising coordinator for juniors, sportswear and children at Woodward & Lothrop. "Basically for fall, everything is very classic; there's a nice refinement to dressing for the younger person this season that wasn't there last year," said Dupin.

Dupin's view is that last year's strict preppie look survives among the school-age set. "This year, it's basically the same, only with feminine touches, like soft, romantic colors," she said. "'The Feminine Touch' is the newest fashion statement and will probably be an ongoing trend."

Shonda Harris will be a senior at Calvin Coolidge High School this year. Her work on the Woodies teen board -- a group of young women from area high schools selected by the store to do informal modeling of its fall fashions -- lets her know exactly which fall clothes she will pick to wear.

"The cowboy look," she says. "Cowboy boots, a hat and moccasins" to go with her wardrobe staples, corduroy pants and sweaters.

For young men, a fashionable four-letter word has become a major concern: "Izod," says Melvia Carlyle, a saleswoman in the Hecht's menswear department.

"The [students] buy Izod shirts, socks. We don't carry the belts, but they ask for them -- anything with that alligator on it. They also buy designer jeans, mostly Jordache and Calvin Klein."

Darrell Spears, a 16-year-old Woodson Junior High School sophomore, bought corduroy pants and button-down corduroy shirts along with Brittania jeans at Hecht's Saturday. Michael Bell, a Spingarn High School senior, was buying casual slacks, button-down cotton shirts and Bonjour and Paldine jeans.

The labels and lines of designer denim is all the rage for most students, but for those who attend Catholic schools, having to wear uniforms can provide a study in scholastic depression.

Donna Young, a 15-year-old sophomore at St. Anthony's High School, laments that she has been sentenced to three more years of blue-and-white plaid skirts and navy blue polyester blazers. Back-to-school fashion for fall is something she can only muse about.

"This year the [school authorities] have added plaid pants and culottes," says Young, with disdain.

Her heart -- if not her body -- will be in "tweed blazers, sweaters in bright colors and preppie shoes," she says. "That's what I'd like to wear."