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Make it look effortless

Date

Achieving that ''Oh, this? I just threw it together'' understated elegance is equal parts science and luck, writes Maggie Alderson.

Olivia Palermo works random glam with ease while shopping in Brooklyn.

Olivia Palermo works random glam with ease while shopping in Brooklyn.

I almost got all neggo on you this week. First I saw a picture of Rachel Zoe glammed up in one of her signature daywear maxi sundresses, with a big floppy hat, flatforms and TV-screen shades - with the added accessory of a great big drink carton. About a pint of cranberry juice with a straw in it, like an oversize sippy cup.

Instantly, the looming figure of Sister Mary Mark strode into my brain, reminding me that it was against the rules to be seen in the street eating or drinking while wearing the uniform of St Dominic's Priory School.

She was so right. Ms Zoe looked like a demented toddler with her big dwink.

But then I thought, nah - beyond the sippy cup, there was nothing else interesting to say about Rachel's rig-out. She always wears versions of the same thing and it looks great for the Malibu Beach life she lives. That's it.

Next up, trawling through my archive of pics saved for possible future use, I found two of lady celebrities - actor Busy Philipps (Cougar Town) and American TV presenter (i.e. former model) Jenn Brown - with a striking common feature.

Both are posing at red-carpet events - gussied up in statement frocks - and both have at least an inch of black roots in the partings of their blow-dried blonde hairdos.

I couldn't Adam and Eve it. If your job is to look glamorous - and checking Ms Brown on Google, I see she's more than happy to throw on a bikini and strike an unnatural stance for the camera - isn't getting your dye job updated fairly fundamental stuff?

I confess, I'm not the greatest one for the rigorous grooming upkeep myself.

Shellac pedicures, which grow out before they even start to chip off, are the best thing to happen to me since, well, the Big Hair rotating brush home blow-dryer.

Sitting in a salon getting primped makes me feel guilty that I'm not doing proper work - but if looking good is your work, surely it would be at the top of your to-do list to get the roots done before a big event?

So there was all that stuff to criticise and carp about, but then I came across this picture of Olivia Palermo and just sighed. Such perfection, such easy elegance, such effortless-looking glamour, and it all reminded me why I prefer to stay on the positive side as much as possible.

I can't even tell if it's a dress or a long skirt with a jumper that features the same print on the trim.

I don't really understand what's going on with that inny-outy belt. I don't care, though. None of it matters: the overall effect is so serene.

The oversize bag worn cross body (is it Chanel? The chain strap looks it, but I can't see the clasp well enough) stops the ensemble from looking too floaty-beachside. As do the ballerina pumps.

Then she finishes it off with the most classic black sunnies and a nice chunky gold bracelet for a little accent. Perfection.

I even love the bog-standard white plastic shopping bag, which suggests she's just been into some cack-ordinary pharmacy for some dreary necessity.

The same outfit would have been wrecked by a fistful of designer carrier bags - the kind of thing that recently tempted me to write a very negative Rule about Tamara Ecclestone. So vulgar.

So, Ms Palermo, you have made my life a little bit sweeter just by nipping to the shop. Thank-you.

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