On a particularly interesting (read: grossly disturbing) episode of the reality TV show Sunset Tan, a mom pushes her daughter into a salon to prepare the girl for her upcoming elementary school pictures. Nodding her head like a puppet, the girl agrees yes, she does want the $1,300 Lindsay Lohan spray-on tan package.
"Make sure you get her cheekbones! She wants to look just like Lindsay," instructs the oh-so-concerned mother.
A series in the same vein as Dr. 90210, on which celebrity wannabes go under the plastic surgeon's knife to get sliced and diced just like a star, Sunset Tan takes an intimate look into the twisted world of tanning that begs the question: How far are we willing to go to look like celebrities?
Surprisingly, People and US Weekly weren't the first publications to fuel the fame-infused fire of pop culture obsession. One of the earliest versions of a "celebrity tell-all" was Italian poet Petrarch's 1346 De Viris Illustribus (On Famous Men), which followed the lives of military and political heroes.
In 1550, Italian painter Giorgio Vasari—a celebrity in his own right for coining the word "Renaissance" in print—published Lives of the Artists, a detailed account of not only famous artists' works, but also their personalities and anecdotes.
But alas, Jessica Simpson is no Leonardo da Vinci, and Paris Hilton isn't exactly Joan of Arc. These women show few signs of genius, have inspired no armies and have painted no masterpieces. What they do have are swarms of stylists at their disposal, designer friends and loads of spare change. A $1,500 Miu Miu leather Coffer bag? They'll take two. Some $900 red-soled Christian Louboutins? Oui oui.
In this spirit, I hereby set out to juxtapose garish celebrity worship and commercial overindulgence with about $40 and a list of Triangle thrift stores in my pocket.
Along with Laura and Adrian Boyes, a local mother-daughter designing duo, I make my best attempts at replicating five celebrity looks at Durham's Electric Blender, where owner Michelle Lee offers up several thrifty tips.
"I always look at texture first," Lee says. "I just feel like if it's 50 years old and it still stands up, then it's well made."
Lee has seen a good deal of celebrity trends pass through her store in Durham's 305 South Anti-Mall. She notes that the smock dresses, A-line shapes and cut-off overall dresses recently seen on Hollywood starlets have become extremely popular.
"Inspiration is good, but at the same time you can't go to a thrift store looking for an exact piece," Lee says. "Keep an open mind, and don't limit yourself to certain colors or time periods. You can find the 1920s and '40s looks popular with girls now in the drop-waists of '80s clothes. It's all one big cycle."
To get the looks just right, Adrian and Laura snipped, tucked and stenciled a few key pieces to match our photos of Mary-Kate Olsen, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Lindsay Lohan, Jennifer Lopez and Sienna Miller.
You can check out the photographs that inspired me, brought to you by the dedicated paparazzi of New York and L.A., by clicking on the celeb's name in the cutlines below.
Where to hit thrift stores in the Triangle, whether or not you're itching to look like a star
Chapel Hill/ Carrboro/ Pittsboro