Peasants, preppies, punks, pirates -- they're all part of the mix of looks for back-to-books fashions that will turn up in high school corridors this fall.

Like the cost of school lunches, clothing costs are up from last year. In some households, the one fall purchase for a student may consist of a new pair of jeans, still the unofficial uniform of most students regardless of age.

But at many local high schools, like the Duke Ellington School of the Arts, the first day of school is likely to find classrooms awash with corduroy knickers, bomber jackets, patterned sweaters, metallic shoes and belts, leather riding boots and challis skirts.

"A lot of people say Ellington is where all the freaks go," says Micheala Davis, 17, a senior. "But it's really the high school where you are really able to be yourself."

"Being yourself" at Ellington, says Davis, can mean being "into polo and lacross, into new wave space clothing, looking punk with a row of safety pins holding up your pants, looking like a little girl with ribbons in your hair or just wearing jeans, an old sweatshirt and tennis shoes for a week."

Davis says that people change their looks from day to day. "Everyone mixes everything and some kids are preppie one day and new wave the next."

Kym Beverly, 17, also a senior, says that at Ellington, there's not as much pressure to dress in the "absolutely latest fashion" as there is at other District high schools. "You go to another school and it's just like a store fashion show," says Beverly. "And people don't want to be too far out of the crowd. But here we have a real mix of all different scenes."

Though Davis and Beverly already have made some clothing purchases for this fall, both admit that jeans are still the staple of their wardrobes, as they are for most of their classmates.

"If I wake up late, I just dust my jeans off and pull them on," says Davis. Some students, she says, own six pairs of designer jeans. "That's about $300 worth of jeans."

"You can wear them three or four times without washing them," says Robin Lindsay, 17, a senior. Students, like Beverly, cherish their jeans so much they have their favorite pairs dry-cleaned.

Myron Alston, 18, a senior, says he owns three pairs of jeans and has just sprung for a new pair of Movin' On black jeans for the new school year.

Alston says he prefers the dress atmosphere at Ellington to that of other schools. "I used to go to McKinley High and there everyone is really trying to stay in fashion. Here there's still lots of fashion but everyone likes to do their own thing."

Beverly adds, "The main concern of many of my friends at other high schools is 'What am I going to wear to school tomorrow?' It's more important than their homework. Here it's not that way, but people still look great."