Reviews: Reversible Racerback

Friday, July 31, 2009

One trend I am not afraid to love is the reversible trend. As a kid I coveted many items in this style. My all-time favorite was a Rainbow Brite reversible tee that had her on the front and Twink sliding down a rainbow on the other side. I'm a bit more grown up now I suppose but the idea still remains close to my heart. Bravo to the Reversible Racerback ($68) for being my favorite execution so far.

Porridge has also given us the Reversible Knotted Tank ($68) which is perfect for summer but the knot makes it hard to wear as a layer. With the Reversible Racerback I can slip on a cardigan and voila it's a transitional season piece. The wide waistband means you decide whether the shirt lays flat or bloused out. I chose slightly bloused.

This top is very cute. I like the bow in the back (especially since it can be untied lest you look like the Hunchback of Manhattan Island) but I feel like the price is a bit steep for what you get. Yes OK it's two tops in one. At $38 I would grab this right away. $68 gives me a bit more pause.

Also worth noting is that when you flip this to the geometric pattern the bolder side is still visible at the trim. It's only noticable close up but that may drive some people away. I will stalk this one to the sale room.

Reviews: Chalco Tunic

I like tunics but I try to avoid ones with ruffles or any kind of floof at the bottom. Unless of course that tunic is the Chalco Tunic ($118) by Velvet. From the rack the embellished front called to me until I grabbed it try on. Anthro calls the color navy...I'm gonna go with navy purple. Nurple?

No, I would not wear this as a dress. But I'm 5'8" so ladies more petite than I could successfully dress this one. For me I'll need leggings underneath to make it work (or crops for now). I am honestly surprised by how decent this looks on. True that Anthropologie's dressing room mirrors slim a good 10 lbs off of me but I don't look like I'm wearing a tent or a muumuu.

I actually think it looks pretty good in the medium. Note that the tunic is completely sheer; I just happened to be wearing a really long cami when I tried this on. The pockets didn't add heft at the hips and the Aztec pattern at the neck is really cool looking. I kind of wish I'd bought this when I tried it on. Then again I'm on a budget and all good things come to those who wait.

Reviews: Geometric Fields Dress

Another dress I had high hopes for was the Geometric Fields Dress ($498) from Plenty by Tracey Reese. The Soho Anthropologie had all sizes in stock earlier this week. So wonderful on the model I knew I was going to have a hard time with this one due to the square top. It was too pretty not to try on though.

The reviews on the product page are way harsh. And I have to agree. The plaid did not line up at the seams on the size 8 I tried. The underlayer is attached very cheaply and I struggled to get this on correctly. I was pretty shocked. You'd expect much better from a $500 dress.

I think my body posture pretty much says it all. Another short dress (I know, it's the style this season. Consider me officially grumped about it). Despite the different patterns there was no waist definition and the skirt said kind of limply in my opinion. The dress is sheer with a slip underlayer that is just meh. This is the complete opposite of the Bungalow Dress is terms of wantability.

Reviews: Inky Quills Dress

Hi model. You are lovely and huh, funny that I'm just noticing now how the Inky Quills Dress ($158) looks kinda shapeless even on you. I can totally ignore that though because I really like the colors that remind me of bumblebees.

Oh lord. What a disaster in real life. It's all about dressing your body shape and I am many things but sad sack is not one of them. This dress was a big bag of sigh. Too short. No shape. Stupid tie waist that has zero effect. Vertical lines adding bulk at the chest. In a 6 or an 8, it was sad sad sad.

I can see some starlet flitting around this with no problem. Me though? I would prefer this dress if it were re-made with a structured top and an a-line skirt.

Reviews: Bold Boutonniere Dress

Doesn't the model look like she's scared that someone off camera is about to grab her? Maybe it's because she grabbed the last Bold Boutonniere Dress ($128) -- lord knows I would be scared if I'd made off with the last one too.

Oddly, I think the rosette is actually bigger in real life than it looks on the product shot. But maybe that's because the product shot is probably a XS and this is a M. You will notice that the waist is sitting much higher on the waist than it is on the model shot. Sizing up to an L might fix this. But I am hesitant to (more on why below). Overall I like the look.

Here's a closeup of the rosette. Cottony, not stiff, just a pretty touch. I also adore the stripes on the skirt which straddle the line between casual and slightly dressed up.

I do have one quibble with the dress and that is the floofiness of the skirt. I don't know if it's really clear from the photo above but this dress made my tush look like it stuck out a foot from my back. The dress I tried on really needed to be steamed which may have exacerbated the problem. There is an awful lot of skirt material...maybe a bit too much. I took one look at myself from behind and said, Whoa Burlapp...just whoa...

It's not enough to stop me from buying this dress though. I will probably stick to the M lest the L have even more skirt floof. A good steam and I'll be set. Have you tried this one on yet? What did you think?

Metapost: OK I lied, reviewing is addictive

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Last week I mused that I am only motivated to do product reviews in exchange for something tactile, like a gift card or a pat on the back from Glen Senk or something like that. And while I hope that either of those (or both!) come to pass one day it turns out I was totally lying to myself.

AL, you had it right. It's cool seeing a ranking next to your name. So sometime last night around midnight I was tired but not sleepy and being the Internet nerd that I am I dropped 5 or 6 reviews on Anthro. I will probably never make the Top 10 because I'm not reviewing any items that have more than one page as of now. But it's fun. Addictive even.

Here's my profile...I chose a very creative name I know. Please link to your reviews in the comments! I can't wait until it goes Gawker-style and people get stars and they can promote each other and there's a review execution once a week.

Stream of consciousness: Anthropologie August catalogue

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Want to flip through the August catalogue on your own? Here it is. I am interested to see what Anthropologie has to say about the idea behind this month's shoot. There are photos from Paris, New York and London (which is just a bit disordered and a Munich shy of "Pop Muzik"). It's very Satorialist meets On the Street meets the kissing cam. I like it.

Diaphanous Tunic ($88) & Puckered and Pleated Cardigan ($128)
Oh, no! Romance! And clothing? Together?

Tessera Necklace ($80) & Texture Study Dress ($148)
But of course some Parisian chic includes white, grey and black.

Boucle Cape ($148), Flabellum Blouse ($228)
& Joe's Knit Chelsea ($138)
I spy with my little eye a monument to color and shape.

Crushed Petiole Blouse ($198) &
Fluttering Pencil Skirt ($158)
...her outfit looks incomplete to me,
yet it's still a lot of look!

Bengal Stripe Skirt ($148)
Flouncy yet satisfying. Maybe a little short.

Furrowed Fields Bag ($178)
Let this be a lesson to all you young bags.
If you lay out in the sun for too long
this could be your leathery trim!

Revelations Skirt ($98) & Cross Your T-Straps ($90)
I am having flashbacks to last October

Water & Roses Dress ($148),
Mellifluous Collar ($158) &
Teardrop T-Straps ($138)
Easily my favorite shot in the catalogue.
She looks stunning and he's just hot.

Havana Sweatercoat ($198)
Welcome back, Sleeping on Snow.

Tawny Acres Boots ($248)
The product shot makes these look
a lot less broken-in.

Adorations Curtain ($158-$198)
Poetry filtered by sunlight, or vice versa?

On the Fringe Sweatercoat ($168)
Pity them shooting this on a 90-degree day
with humidity in NYC.

Brona Sweater Dress ($128)
Before First Friday at the Gugg perhaps?
I would never have guessed this to be
a sweater dress.

Emerald Estuary Tunic ($88),
Washed Leather Racer ($248),
Joe's Ankle Cigarette ($158)
& Distant Constellation Boots ($428)
Oh hi Prince St. One of my favorite lunch spots
(Olive's) is right down the street
and uh, my office is nearby too!

Crisp Air Vest ($88) & Tiers-Of-Goldenrod Dress ($138)
This is bohemian chic I just can't get into.

Settling Petals Cardi ($168)
Wait, where are you going? Come back
so I see the front of that awesome cardi!!

Buoyant Chiffon Blouse ($98),
Mercurial Crochet Necklace ($128)
& Myriad Sweater Skirt (not online yet)
Such a cute and dandy outfit. Fall for work? Yes.

London Calling, please hold for this outfit!

Miss Albright, meet Miss Roxy's closet

I am not embarrassed to admit that I have been drooling over Miss Albright's latest offerings at Anthropologie. Shoes to die for and bags to match this season. I hope to grab some IRL shots this weekend but in the meantime I had a chance to try on some of the shoes currently available.

The Lilac Ombre Heels ($148) are a bit intimidating with their 3.5" stacked heels. I, however, truly believe that the higher the heel the more comfortable the shoe. (Up to 4.5" at least.) These pumps have a 1/2" platform to alleviate any potential arch stress. Not that it was a problem -- they were super comfy with just a touch of mush in the footbed as I like it. There isn't really much that's ombre about these heels except for the heels themselves. The woodgrain darkens as you approach the ground. It's more subtle than the product shot seems to show. The shoes themselves are a lovely lilac luster and they were comfy enough in my short store testdrive. No pinching in the heel or toes and no sliding either. I didn't take these home for a more permanent stay but the reviews on-site seem to confirm that they are comfy. My true size 9 was the best choice for me.

Where were all the t-straps last year when I was desparately searching for a pair? A little bit too late comes the Budding T-Straps ($138) with their adorable Peter-Pan style accent foliage. Their color, a dark cobalt, truly recalls a late evening stroll. I found it weird that the straps are elastic rather than buckle. For $140 I'd expect some adjustability. The 2.5" heel makes for less stress on the back of your foot but I found these slightly less comfortable than the Lilac Ombre Heels. They also made my foot look really small with the rounded toe. I felt like I had my 12-year-old feet attached to my 27-year-old body. It was very strange. I like the look of these but they are not for me. Again, a 9 was the best fit.

With a sedimentary look (or perhaps some gingerfoil decoration?) the Pinpoint T-Straps ($148) are nothing if not natural-looking. Super chunky heels in the back counteract the delicate front yet somehow the balance works. I have never worn shoes that made my toes look cuter. My true size 9 was comfy to walk about in and I simply did not want to take these shoes off. At 3.5" the heel was the perfect amount of added height. Til we meet again, dear Pinpoints.

Catharsis: A lovely reminder of why I love Anthropologie

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Occasionally in my post research I come across old news stories about Anthropologie. Most of them are outdated factually but some are poignant reminders of why this brand resonates with me, from my heart to my head to my wallet.

I came across this New York Observer article on Anthropologie from 2006 and it is just wonderful. It begins with anecdotes about the type of shopper that shops at Anthro (conclusion: there isn't really a type per se) and one about how CEO Glen Senk and partner Keith Johnson (he of soon-to-be reality show fame) met.

Beyond that lies some serious insight into what makes Anthropologie tick. My favorite passage is from a shopper:
Another regular visitor is Michelle Mahoney, a supervising producer for VH1 in her early 30’s. “I’d say that people who love it are very faithful to the store,” Ms. Mahoney said. “I drop by there every few weeks, because it’s one of the few places that the home goods are as cute as the clothes. It’s those little added extra details and bits of international flavor that true New York girls can’t get enough of. You feel like you’re getting something unique without being overly trendy, and it’s a much better price than all the designer things that I love.”

Could not have said it better myself.

Here was the epiphany that steered Anthro towards its current demographic:
There’s the junior market, like Wet Seal—teenybopper stuff,” he said. “Then there’s the contemporary market—very fashion-forward, and if you’re bigger than a size six you can’t wear it. There’s designer, there’s missy … but there wasn’t really any people designing clothes for the 28-to-40-year-old, fashionable, fit woman.” These days, Anthropologie carries small upscale brands like Orla Kiely and Velvet, as well as designs from Tracey Reese, Anna Sui and the Upper East Side socialite Tory Burch (though, as Ms. Morgenson put it, “the girls who shop here don’t have that polished Upper East Side look”). Anthropologie’s design director, a Finnish woman named Johanna Uurasjarvi, oversees the in-house assortment. “The Urban Outfitters customer we lovingly refer to as the ‘upscale homeless,’” said Mr. Senk. “The Anthropologie customer is in a different stage in her life.” Success didn’t happen overnight. “I’d say in the last five or six years, we really found our voice and matured,” Mr. Senk said.

As I was reading this I asked myself, does this still hold up? Is Anthropologie the place I go because I am looking for something more unique than chains yet more frame accommodating than some designers? Do I shop there knowing that their inventory isn't likely to be duplicated somewhere else? Yesterday's post notwithstanding the answer is still yes. I walk into Anthropologie expecting to be surprised by something amazing and it always happens.

The article also contains off-the-cuff sage about the short-lived men's line; a few stories about over-enthusiastic shoppers trying to take home the store decor and worthwhile insight about why stores are allowed to decorate as individual locations rather than on corporate orders. Though the story is old I felt like I learned a bit from each.

At one point a dissenting quote is inserted:
“In that store, they don’t leave you to your imagination,” said Claudia Trezza, 26, a stylish Italian transplant about to start graduate school at N.Y.U. “They don’t let you play around—they do it for you. You see the T-shirts and the dresses and it’s cool. But then you see a girl with the same T-shirt the same way … from the pearls down to the shoes. It’s the same like a mannequin.”

This is the only sentiment in the article I disagree with. Do I draw ideas from the mannequins? Most definitely. Do I copy them down to the accessory? Heck no. I am much more guilty of that at stores like Banana Republic or H&M...stores that pick deliberate color palettes and drive me to be coordinated at best and matchy matchy at worst. It's the complete opposite at Anthropologie. There's a driving idea to each season yes but there is no dictated palette -- no this sweater goes with these three shirts and this one necklace. When I hit the store on a weekly basis (which I have been known to do) the mannequin in the dressing room area is different each time. Even if one piece is repeated it's shown in a new context, a new vision and undoubtedly a mix of cuts and patterns I never could have accomplished myself.

It's great to be reminded of the reasons why I fell in love with the brand initially. I recommend reading the full article...I hope Anthro never forgets these maxims either.

Kitchen Inspiration

Anthropologie's curiosities section is like revisiting someone else's unbelievable childhood. Fabulous trinkets and patterns delight while intriguing memories are reinterpreted for the modern. I always get a good laugh out of something. I often spend a lot of time in the kitchen section, especially at Rockefeller Plaza (NYC) where they have a clubhouse of sorts set up with gadgets inside while textiles and books surround. Nevermind that my idea of cooking is ordering Seamless Web. One can pretend!

The King of the Jungle Jar ($98) above reminds me of animal crackers. It's already making me hungry. Such a happy guy, I'd love to hide cookies and treats in here knowing that he won't be harassing me about calories or sugar as I reach in for a sweet.

My first inclination was to use the Olivewood Mortar & Pestle ($48) to grind new pastel combinations for my occasional sketchwork until I realized it's actually for spices. The wood grain is gorgeous and I could also see using this as a display piece.

The Winesap Bottle Opener ($24) reminds me of an apple tree I had in my backyard as a kid. I don't think I ever ate an apple from it -- something else always got to it first. This bottle opener really has the whimsical look nailed. And it will look much prettier on my counter than the singing NY Yankees bottle opener I currently have.

The only thing that could make this Honey Pot ($24) better is if it said "hunny." The writing is very Winnie the Pooh reminiscent to me. It's part of an adorable collection that also includes a Miel Pot ($24) and Milk and Sugar vessels ($28/pair).

Letting my imagination run a bit more wild, the 16th/5th Anthropologie has a table half-full of the Retro Double Timer ($24). It's two cartoon eyes short of a Pixar movie character to me. I had to break tempatation to set each of them for two minutes to see the result (I did test one though and it gives a pleasing "ding!" when time is up).

Who needs measuring cups when you have a scale? I love that the Measured Time Scale ($248) pulls double duty with a timer function as well. The steel look gives a 60s vibe over the current cold, stainless steel look that is so popular. I will take this polished look any day.

Email: An Ambidextrous Top

Monday, July 27, 2009

It was double the fun for Anthropologie emails today. The second one featured the Blooming Phlox Tank ($58). It's a pretty top by Deletta to be sure but back to the email for a moment.

An ambidextrous top? Really? This shirt doesn't have hands...and the other meaning is deliberate deceptiveness...which I guess could apply...but it's a stretch. This is not like rain on your wedding day.

In real life this tank looks pretty unfinished. I was not a fan of the grey but the yellow (which is more like a marigold than a sunshine) would look great by itself casually for summer and then more dressed up under a cardigan for fall. The red is my favorite though. Very deep and kind of a shirt version of last year's City Siren Heels. The top runs big -- even the small was a bit roomy on me. I am skeptical of the long-term durability of this shirt. Not to say that Deletta doesn't make high-quality items. Just that the raw seams of this shirt look ready to fray sooner rather than later. This is most likely a one to two season piece.

Email: Leather's in the bag.

I adore leather purses. Anthropologie is endlessly tempting me with their selection of colors and shapes. Today's email is particularly enticing. The Chocolate Spritz Bag ($178) looks good enough to eat; the Hushed Hue Bag ($178) has a wonderful summery tone and I am obsessed with the Chipper Tote ($199).

Dearest Anthro, please send one of each of these plus the Tuscan Rooftops Satchel ($168) oh and the Golidlocks Bag ($228) to Roxy, c/o Effortless Anthropologie...the address is in my account.

Clothing is having a deja vu moment

left to right: Tuxedo Top ($33, Ann Taylor Loft);
Slub Cotton Shirred Ruffles Tank ($35, J.Crew);
Grey-Tie Top ($78, Anthropologie)

Anthropologie, watch your back. Slowly but surely over the last few seasons I've seen several stores creep into your mind share. They're taking the flowiness and making it their own. Sometimes the ruffles too.

left to right: Scattered Petals Tank ($88, J.Crew);
Trade-Up Tank ($58, Anthropologie); Ruffle Lace Top (now $39, ECI);
Ruffle Front Halter top ($48-$68, ECI);
Cascading Ruffle Shell ($45, Ann Taylor Loft)

Hey, I get it. Romantic is in right now and Anthro has had the secret sauce for awhile now when it comes to soft, ethereal shapes. In this time when many shoppers want comfort it's nice to see so many pieces that recall a more feminine shape and tone.

What's weird is to see how many stores and brands are converging right now. Is it recession related? I'm not sure. It's strange to walk into store after store looking for something unique and instead finding the same trend reinterpreted. Sure there have always been knockoffs and examples of...shall we call it...creative license in terms of ideas. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery after all.

left to right: Ruffle Tier Tank ($48, Anthropologie);
Pleated Flutter Tank ($35, Ann Taylor Loft);
Chiffon Ruffle Neck Tank Top ($50, Ann Taylor);
Ruffle Tank ($40, Calvin Klein)

It's weird to have that deja vu feeling; especially in stores that I only go into once every few months. "Haven't I seen this item before?" is a frequent mental refrain. Sometimes the stores even use the same models. While I'd expect to see this at the discount chain level lately the movement has profilerated up the food chain from mid-level to department store to luxury brand to designer label. Everyone is playing it safe.

left to right: Jabow Top ($165, Vince); Petal Strewn Cami ($38, Anthro);
Solid Cotton Petal Cami ($75, J.Crew); Picot Cami ($258, Tibi)

Is this why Anthropologie strayed so far from the norm in their spring and summer collection? Had they seen this coming and were they trying to branch out themselves? Again I can't say for sure. But I can say for sure that one of Anthropologie's biggest appeals for me has been its uniqueness. I am not interested in wearing what everyone else wears. When I buy from big brands I try to wear the items in ways that other people are not.

True that none of these tops are exactly the same but some of the similarities are striking. It is weird how homogenous Fall 2009 looks to be no matter where you shop. I suppose this means you can pick and choose until you find your favorite interpretation. And you can save some money since every store is stocking similar items as the one down the street.

left to right: Bell Flower Top ($118, J.Crew);
Blooming Phlox Tank ($58, Anthropologie);
Tiered Ruffle Halter ($286, Bergdorf)

I hope this is just a temporary thing. Part of the fun of clothes shopping is finding something no one else has. If every store is stocking their spin on the same thing, that's no fun. The stores are having an identity crisis and we're just along for the ride.