Let’s Discuss the Merits of Anthropologie (The Clothing Store, Not the Discipline)
Miranda Popkey and I decided to spend some time talking about Anthropologie.
Logan Sachon: This image, which we’ve screencapped, is on the front page of the Anthropologie website. The fact that they’re using “for days” in their headline makes me feel like they know what’s up …. which makes me love and also hate them. Miranda, how much would you pay for that dress, versus how much do you think it actually costs?
Miranda Popkey: Well, to start with your easiest question: How much would I pay for that dress? I think, like, $30? Because it actually flatters no ladies’ bodies, at all. SO MANY SLEEVES. Where is my waist? Here are my upper thighs, enjoy them! But probably they’re trying to sell that for $120, because if you’re willing to look that dumb, probably you have a lot of money. That’s like, the Anthropologie thing, I think
LS: Oh I think that’s lowballing it. $120 at Anthropologie is AFFORDABLE. That’s like the sale section. Or a tank top. I’m guessing $250.
MP: True story. Really? LET’S CLICK AND FIND OUT.
LS: TWO HUNDRED AND EIGHTY EIGHT DOLLARS!
MP: Okay, clearly I have been out of the shopping game for too long. THAT IS RIDONCUBALLZ.
LS: Also it claims a “polyester lining.”
LS: Which: you can get at Forever 21. FOR PENNIES.
MP: Yeah. Or, like H&M if you’re trying to save face.
LS: Yeah, why is it that H&M feels better than Forever 21 when they basically are the same?
MP: I feel like Forever 21 = pounding disco music and fashions that are too current, while H&M is … disco music at a lower volume, and slightly fewer things. Like there’s been some curating. Okay, but actually, what is it about Anthropologie that makes it think it can charge these prices, for this crap?
LS: Well the store feels amazing. Just walking in that place. Feels. Amazing.
MP: Yes, walking into Anthropologie is like walking into a nice country home. You’re not buying a dress, you’re buying a lifestyle.
LS: I mean those huge wood double doors. They MEAN something. It’s like a new world.
MP: And the fact that they ALSO sell candles. When I was younger, I felt like it meant Anthropologie was for slightly older people, but NOW I feel like it’s aspirational. Like, buy this muslin dress for $250 dollars.
LS: I am always so attracted to the cutesy measuring cups of porcelain. I can imagine an alternate universe in which I live in a cottage and bake things using them. And have crystal doorknobs everywhere.
MP: Add these $30 candles and you will have an amazing life. Cottage living, that smells great.
LS: And they are not that Yankee Candle bullshit.
MP: That’s true. But also, they do not cost $30 to make. Let’s be real. You’re not paying for candles. You’re paying to live in an Anthropologie catalog. On Fiji.
LS: When is the last time you were in an Anthropologie?
MP: I walk past one all the time, but actually (and this probably influences my thoughts a lot) the last time I was actually IN an Anthropologie was when my mom was here about a year ago and I was looking for a bathing suit. (Backstory: My mom is a thrifty immigrant.) So we walk in, and I’m looking at pretty tops and what not, and she’s just looking at price tags and straight up laughing. Because OF COURSE she would never spend $75 on a faux silk sleeveless crop top.
LS: You must have been in the sale section.
MP: Yeah, we probably were. But still, she was like, giggling, and I was embarrassed! Like, MOM, don’t you know you have to pay a bunch of money to buy into this fantasy here!?
LS: But wait. I thought your mom was from Italy, where people pay lots of dollars to have well-made, quality things that last a lifetime?
MP: Truth. But Anthropologie is not that. Also: Being Italian is a lot about being crafty and able to bargain. I mean, it is not about buying into this chain store that is lying to you about a lifestyle.
LS: But don’t you think some of the people who shop there ACTUALLY HAVE that lifestyle???!?!
MP: I don’t think anyone ACTUALLY has that lifestyle. Or at least I have to believe that, to live.
LS: Um you’re from California, so I know you have encountered people that people actually do have that lifestyle.
MP: Okay, but the women who look like they have the Anthropolgie lifestyle, I guarantee you those girls do not buy anything from Anthropologie. They buy shit from Miu Miu sample sales and shoes from J. Crew occasionally.
LS: Their river shoes are from J. Crew.
MP: J. Crew is also a different thing because it weirdly feels more legit than Anthropologie. It’s an affordable version of an actual lifestyle. The J.Crew lifestyle is an actual thing — preppy people, living in maine, drinking martinis. It feels all of a piece, but just a little cheaper. Whereas Anthro is like, clothes for no one. A hobo living in the bahamas? A fancy forty-year-old woman who’s had too much white wine and is on vacation in the tropics? Someone who only rides bicycles while wearing espadrilles? It’s a fantasy about the fabulous island life that no one who would ever wear anything like that is actually living. But it’s high priced, so it’s fooling you into thinking that someone is living that, and if you had more money, you could, too.
LS: So what we’re saying is that actually rich people don’t shop at Anthropologie. Or if they do it’s, like, their version of Forever 21.
MP: How many people who shop there actually own farm houses in Provence? Zero? I feel like Anthropologie is only aspirational for people who don’t have the means to buy their stuff.
LS: RICH PEOPLE.
MP: Yeah. THEY’RE THE WORST. Slash we want to be them.
LS: Have you ever purchased anything from Anthropologie?
MP: Yes. Let me tell you about my Anthropologie purchases.
LS: can’t wait/won’t wait
MP: Okay so, when I was pretty young, I got the best pair of black slacks there ever. I was in high school maybe 16 and they were like $60. And they were Joe’s Jeans black skinny legged slacks and they were THE BEST. Truly an amazing garment. I wrecked them my junior year of college. I also had a lime green pair of cords with unfashionably wide legs that I got at some point during high school, but they were too big and not that awesome.
LS: Okay can I just say that wide legs are flattering and great? Not JNCO wide, but regular wide.
MP: Noooo, lies.
LS: Totally great. And Anthro has been a consistent source for them.
MP: Yeah, I’m not onboard.
LS: They are SLIMMING.
MP: No, I feel they are NOT.
LS: Because they show off your waist and then it’s like …. look! Look at these hidden legs! Maybe they are sticks, in comparison with my waist!
MP: High waisted and wide-legged all the way down possibly yes, but not flares, which just make you look horsey.
LS: “Horsey.” Which is a synonym for RICH. I feel like the points we have established so far are: Rich people don’t actually shop at Anthropologie, based on our very intimate knowledge of rich people by having seen some before. And also: We may or may not have some body issues. Are the pants the only thing? No frilly aprons?
MP: There’s more. When I living in Texas and had ALL OF THE DOLLARS because my apartment cost $225 a month and I was making a living wage, I spent a lot of money on clothes online, because SURPRISE, there are no Anthropologies in Mcallen Texas. But even then, when I was making almost $10,000 more than I make now and paying much less in rent, I didn’t feel like I could comfortably afford a dress from Anthropologie.
LS: I think it’s because we KNOW that these dresses are not actually of a higher quality. Like, it feels like a splurge on something that isn’t worth it. These are not TIMELESS PIECES.
MP: YES. Mostly iIfeel like they charge way too much money. I bought a BEAUTIFUL blouse at a second hand store, made by Lyell for $90 and that seemed reasonable because it was beautiful and well made. But I would NEVER spend that much money on an Anthropologie top because I know it’s not worth that much.
LS: IDK what Lyell is. Good brand? Good stuff?
MP: Ha, actually an internet search reveals that they’ve done collaborations with Anthropologie!
LS: I have purchased two dresses from Anthropologie. And also some skirts and blouses from the sale rack when I couldn’t afford the watercolor dresses or whatever that I actually wanted. I no longer have any of this stuff. The first dress was an Anna Sui collab that was blue with flowers that for whatever reason obsessed with. I used to go visit it at the store after work when I lived in San Diego. And then when it went on sale I bought it. It was still $150 and I don’t know that I ever actually wore it out of the house because if I bent over you could see my nipples.
MP: NIPPLES ARE GREAT. I actually think that I’m way more comfortable showing my breasts than any other part of my body, because they’re not that impressive, so it’s like, eh, whatevss, you’re not getting that much. ENJOY.
LS: SHUTTUP MIRANDA YOU HAVE BEAUTIFUL BREASTS IVE SEEN THEM. Anyway the other dress I bought totally full price. IDK what I was thinking. AT ALL. I wore it once to a wedding and … who knows where it is now. It had WRITING ON IT in like, French, and drawings of shells.
MP: Sounds great.
LS: Nope! So I had wanted to go through the Anthropologie website and talk about more things, but it’s too sad. And I can’t. The longing is like, palpable. I just want it all so bad. Even though we’ve already established it’s for ersatz fanciness.
MP: Yeah, I’m not going to lie. I would buy all of their clothes, even though I know it’s a dumb impulse.
LS: I just bought a Real Simple magazine, despite not having: a house, a job requiring any kind of “work” uniform, a desire to cook, a desire to have an organized closet, a closet, the cover price. I feel like these things are related.
MP: Yess. I feel like you are more likely to buy a Real Simple magazine if you are attracted to the Anthropologie aesthetic. And vice versa. It’s this kind of homegrown DIY aesthetic, for people who don’t want to D.
LS: I def don’t want to D.
MP: Let me just say one more thing about Anthro. I think the things you see in their stores never look as good on you as they do on the rack, and like, with legit designer things, I think it’s the opposite problem. Like they’re selling you a lie and it’s clear as soon as you leave this store.
LS: I think that’s a very good point. And also: One item isn’t enough. You can’t get the Anthro experience and Anthro lifestyle by buying one dress. It just doesn’t work unless you have the dress and the bed in the rainforest and the reclaimed glass lamp and the Morroccan wedding blanket (imitation).
MP: It’s just enough within your reach that the expectation is that you can have all of it. That’s the joke. Like, with a real “designer,” it’s clear you’re going to spend all of your dollars on one dress. But with Anthro, you feel dumb spending so much money on one thing that is only part of a larger lifestyle that seems like it SHOULD be attainable.
LS: Right now I’m remembering a study I read and the study said: Walking around with a designer bag makes you feel great (science says), but walking around with a fake designer bag makes you feel like shit (because you know you’re a fraud). I wonder if somehow, we KNOW that Anthropologie goods are like fake designer bags.
MP: Yes, I think that’s true
LS: That’s one thing I remember about my Anthro dresses: NEVER FEELING LIKE A MILLION BUCKS. And trying them on so many times to wear and never wearing them out because it was like ugh why does this dress suck, it was so expensive.
MP: Yes. I feel like Anthro is one of those stores that is ONLY aspirational. Like, if you are shopping there it’s because you are trying to be the kind of person who shops there. But there is none of that person, actually!
LS: Um is the fact that we even drool over their stuff sometimes a HUGE MISTAKE?!
MP: No, not a huge mistake. I think spending all our money there would be a huge mistake. Instead I just think we should use it as a template for things we can find elsewhere. Let’s take this lifestyle and replicate it at the goodwill and with the occasional designer item you find at a second hand shop.
LS: Are we agreeing not to covet their things anymore?
MP: No. But at least we’ve acknowledged it’s only the first step in a cycle of pain and recrimination.
Miranda Popkey is an editorial assistant and also a writer.
Support The Billfold