The inimitable Dolly Parton once said, "You'd be surprised how expensive it is to look this cheap!" French novelist Gustave Flaubert said essentially the same thing when he said, "One arrives at style only with atrocious effort, with fanatical and devoted stubbornness." When I need help with the heavy lifting, here is where I turn for inspiration:
THE SARTORIALIST: The ne plus ultra of the street-style photoblogs, The Sartorialist features exquisite photographs of stylish pedestrians the world over. Learn about nonchalant ways to wear a faux fur chubby, match plaids to eye color, fit your stuff in a tiny electric blue clutch, and don a jumpsuit with insouciance. As one reader wrote about one London gamine featured here, love the haircut, red lipstick, denim shorts, socks over leggings, everything!
GARANCE DORE: Garance is a French blogger, fashion illustrator, journalist and impossibly chic girl around town. Her website is full of pictures of people as impossibly chic as she is. Unlike Scott Schuman of The Sartorialist, Garance focuses on faces instead of outfits. Hers betrays its ultimate bliss when tipping back a pain au chocolat and a duhbull expwesso.
GO FUG YOURSELF: Because somebody has to call Gwyneth Paltrow on her plastic mommy shorts and giant gray hoof shoes. And Katharine Heigl for dressing like a Wackadoo Old Broad Just Exiting Manhattan Divorce Court. Because blogmistresses Heather and Jessica love Chloe Sevigny (The Sev. Chloe Sofugny, Madame Fugigny) and Tilda Swinton (SWINTON, always in caps). Because any way you slice it, fugly is the new pretty.
MORDBID OUTLOOK: This website has the most downloaded article on the Internet devoted to my favorite Gothic Lolitas, who wear elaborate ensembles cobbled together from sources including Victorian children's wear, the French rococo, Goth-inspired darkness and Japanese anime. Originating in Tokyo's Harajuku quarter, this subcultural teenaged street style has trickled up to all sorts of interesting places, including Carrie Bradshaw's ubiquitous thigh-high knee socks and Betsey Johnson's entire Spring 2009 collection.
LA COQUETTE: Don't hate her because she lives in Paris. When La Coquette is not thinking about shoes, she's reading Dostoevsky. Mon dieu, I wish I could say the same.
AN AESTHETE'S LAMENT: "I ponder, I study, I separate the wheat from the chaff. Isn't that what style is all about?" This fantastic blog pays homage to the 1963 Pontiac Maharani show car, all things Napoleon III, George Clooney's preferred hotel steak house decor, and Gloria Vanderbilt's Pernod cocktails.
THE OFFICIAL WEBSITE OF THE BRITISH MONARCHY: You can find out via Google Maps where Queen Elizabeth is at any given moment in time. And god knows, nobody can wear a handbag like she does.
DIARY OF A VINTAGE GIRL: Fleur de Guerre lives in small town Surrey in the U.K. and dresses exclusively in vintage 1930s and 1940s style, from her hair down to her shoes. After immersing myself in her site, I learned that only a bonnet dryer will get your pin curls right and the best gift to receive from visiting GIs is a pair of stockings. Toodle pip!
ADVENTURES IN BENTOMAKING: Bento is the Japanese style of packing a lunch to go in a small box, i.e., another competitive mommy sport. Everything cute you can do with edamame, fish cake, curry croquettes and cucumber kimchee.
SOFIA COPPOLA: Lastly, I pay homage to the ultimate girly girl. Check out any of her three films (The Virgin Suicides, Lost in Translation, Marie Antoinette); her 1998 short, Lick the Star; and her recent commercial for Miss Dior Cherie, which features a soundtrack by Brigitte Bardot (latter two available on YouTube). This year, the magnificent Sofia designed a range of handbags and shoes for Louis Vuitton. Even the sparkling wine named after her is wonderful, with its delicate perfume of ripe apricots, tangerine, and pear.