With the increasing cost of clothes, updating them is becoming an essential art.

Now that the swing is to a slimmer, neater style, it's fairly easy to re-define last year's garments. If you can't sew, it's worth the investment in a skilled seamstress to do the work for you. It's sill cheaper than buying something new.

Here are some suggestions for both sewing and accessorizing:

Narrow lapels. This is a big job and should be done only on a jacket (man's or woman's) that is in good condition. (The whole jacket must be taken apart.)

Shorten shirt collars. This is far easier, since you only have to remove the band.

Wear a T-shirt instead of a bow blouse and cut back on jewelry. An uncluttered, open neckline is not only newer, it is far more comfortable as the weather gets warmer.

Slim down an old skirt.

Take the fullness out of pants legs. Remember to start tapering above the knee and chalk out the new silhouette before you sew.

Add a bright-color accent such as a belt, T-shirt or even a pocket hankie.

Substitute pumps or sandals for boots. They look better with shorter lenghts, and you can liven up an old look with colored or textured hose.

Don't discard anything. A suit jacket with huge lapels may not be for the day you want to look your trendiest, but it's fine as an extra.

And then there's the New York designer already testing wide-leg pants.

Here we go again. CAPTION: Picture, Details make the difference in transforming last-year's look into today's. Photo by Vanessa Barnes: design by Alice Kreese - The Washington Post