Eye Candy: Store Inspiration

Friday, December 31, 2010

On the far left dressform: Gunilla Dress ($258).
Second from left dress form: Fresh Perspectives Cardigan (now $100) 
over Rippled Ridge Henley ($48) and AG Stevie Cords (now $100). 
Adorned with Beaded Bobble Necklace ($38).
Third from left dress form: Fluttering Obi Dress ($198).  
Adorned with Many Tales Necklace ($198).
On the right dress form: Thoresby Pullover ($118) with Recurring Theme Skirt ($98) 
and Stitched & Snipped Belt (now $30). 

Time for some Friday morning eye candy! If you're looking for reviews of any of the items in this post, try the "Search the Archives" bar in the near sidebar. Lots of mystery items this week, if you recognize one please et me know! If you have a picture to include in one of the eye candy posts please email me. I will be adding these to my store inspiration album on Facebook.  (I'm behind but will catch up this weekend!)

In this outfit: Filigree Cardigan ($118) over Make A Splash Cowlneck ($78) 
and AG Stevies ($168). Adorned with Glittering Bean Necklace ($38).

In this outfit: Active Duty Anorak ($128) over Wrinkled Grandpa Cardigan ($78) 
and Esmeralda Dress ($158). With Wando Necklace ($198)
and City Spectator Wedges ($168).

In this outfit: Wrapped-In-Waterfalls Cardigan ($98) 
over Cavorting Flora Blouse ($98) and AG Edie Skinny ($175).

Reviews: Spliced Ikat Shift, Macchiato Jumper, De Chelly Dress, Pom Flower Shift, Sing Sweetly Party Dress, Soft-Structured Dress

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Weston Wear's Soft-Structured Dress ($148) looks beautiful on the model. How would it look on me? Read on to find out.

I knew Coquille's Spliced Ikat Shift ($168) would be challenging to fit on my curvy frame. The dress is duo-motif silk that has a shift-like shape. I started by trying on an 8 which, as you can see, was tight at best. The dress didn't cut correctly across my chest or hips, pulling at both points. There was no 10 for me to try so I'm left with these lovely embarrassing photos, but it is what it is. At least the sash was pretty accurate to the product shot.

For those curvy like me or those with larger busts or hips, expect to size up 1-2 sizes. For those less curvy your true size should work fine. The material felt nice but the shape isn't right for me. Back to the rack.

Geminola's Macchiato Jumper ($148) is a pretty combination of lace and fine wale corduroy. I own a ton of cord skirts yet I couldn't help myself from trying this pretty dress on. I'm not familiar with this brand (the tag says Zehavale for what it's worth) so I grabbed my usual size 6 and headed downstairs. Unforunately this dress is shaped like a shift, so the results were not what I hoped for.

I should have sized up to an 8. The 6 was going OK until I had to zip over my 34D bust. At that point it started pulling, and the skirt too started pulling as a result. Ignoring the fit issues, the dress is lovely. There's a nice thick cotton lining under the whole dress that keeps the lace portion from being see-through. I love the soft fine wale of the skirt and the lace peeking out from the bottom is a nice touch. I could see wearing this dress to work with a cardigan over it and then out afterwards on its own. I'm in love! Wishlisted in an 8.

Maeve takes a turn towards the southwest with its Native American-inspired De Chelly Dress ($168). What a beautiful print! I love how it's not too large, so from afar they look more like large dots. The skirt on this dress is extra flowy, with pleats galore and a flouncy cotton lining.

My true size 6 fit wonderfully, but the stripes were stretched to the point of exaggeration across my chest. So I sized up to an 8 for these photos. There is still some stripe contortion across the bust but it's better than the 6. The defined waistline hits me at just the right spot. The rope sash is an unexpected touch that I love. The straps are thick enough to wear a sturdy bra underneath which I appreciate. I like this dress but there are others like more. For now, back to the rack.

I loved Tabitha's Pom Flower Shift ($158) as soon it debuted on the website. When tastymoog reported that the dress was indeed as awesome as I'd hoped, I scurried out to Anthro to try it on. I love how the dress feels -- a thick, sturdy, textured cotton that feels thick like a winter dress should. Still, I think this will be fine in spring and fall before the temperature hits 70 or so. Since this dress is a shift I knew my true size 6 was out of the question. I grabbed both an 8 and a 10.

The 8 was not comfortable (too tight across my chest) so it was on to the 10. Thankfully, the 10 worked! My tummy is currently bulging from all the delicious, fattening holiday food but once it settles back down to normal this dress will be perfect. My gentleman-in-not-so-patiently-waiting called the print "a collection of moss." Perhaps so but I love it! The back zip is a little challenging to get all the way up alone. Once done up though I did not want to take it off. This dress will be part of my birthday haul in January. For now, wishlisted!

A happy surprise waited for me at the Soho Anthro. I was delighted to find the staff unpacking the Sing Sweetly Party Dress ($148) from Porridge. The soft cotton felt nice to the touch and the skirt has just the  right a-line. Lauren from Burnt Photograph gave me the heads up that this dress is tight around the chest. Porridge usually is. So instead of my usual 6 I tried an 8 instead.

Luckily, the 8 worked perfectly. The beautiful songbird print done in shades of light sage is darling and the sash, though not as thick as it looks online, is a pretty accent. It is of course the neckline that stands out here. I like it, but after being initially enthralled by the folds on the Winged Victory Top way back when its many successors have numbed me to the shape somewhat. I wish this were a tank dress instead of strapless, though I am always drawn to Anthro's pretty strapless frocks. This is strongly in the running for my birthday haul and perhaps my birthday party. Wishlisted!

Oh, almost forgot to mention another one of my favorite traits on this dress -- there are pockets! They don't add extra bulk here which is nice. Pockets are always a good thing to have.

Finally we come to the dress from the model shot topping this post. It's Weston Wear's Soft-Structured Dress ($148) and it comes in either a solid grey or the navy print version I tried on. This dress is a rayon/spandex mix that is form-fitting up top and slightly less so on the bottom. The print is vibrant; the fabric is thin but not incredibly so. The material is significant enough to prevent transparency issues. And of course, must always mention that Weston Wear is made in the USA!

I reached for my usual size medium. Normally I have problems across my hips if anywhere. But in this case the dress was fine in the skirt, yet close across the bust. I think a minimizing bra could fix this so I'll consider this dress true to size. I like the tulip style of the skirt, especially how there's still plenty of coverage. The knee length is perfect. The sleeves were pretty tight which isn't normally an issue for me. I'm not head over heels in love with this dress but I think on sale it's worth revisiting. Until then, wishlisted.

Year in Review: eBay poachers cackle with glee

The wonderful thing about capitalism is that there is a free market. Demand sets prices, although people can choose to charge whatever they want for their wares. The terrible thing about capitalism is there's a real "me first, me only" mentality that can cause people to throw out their ethics, their logic and their common sense in pursuit of the almighty dollar.

I've touched on this topic already this year. But no year-end review would be complete without talking about the ebay re-sellers out there. To be clear, this post isn't about people who sell items they own but no longer wear on ebay, or people who buy items above retail at their discretion. Most eBay sellers are running honest businesses and it's a few bad eggs that ruin everyone's perception. What is this post about? A few unscrupulous practices.

Price gouging. This post is in part about people who go out and purposely buy popular current and recent-season items at Anthropologie with the hopes of re-selling them for a profit. People who comb the blog community posts for popbacks, buy them, and then try to re-sell them at a mark-up. They profit on product scarcity, in part by creating that scarcity themselves.

I first saw this happen with J.Crew, circa 2008. It was a great year for the brand. Over at J.Crew Aficionada blog owner Alexis and the community started noticing a prevalence of postings by resellers and items listed for sale on eBay. These were current-season items and usually the seller had multiples. It was clear they were ordering 2 or 3 of each size. Then they'd wait for the item to be either low stock or sold out and start listing theirs on eBay, often at double the full-price of retail. What was $98 became $196, etc. The community over at JCA, like here, would post product popbacks as well as tips and tricks for how to find stock on the website. And like here, the resellers started using those tips and tricks to their own benefit.

There was an uproar over the practices of these price gougers over at JCA. And I stand firmly in the "against" camp on these so-called businesses. They will come here and get defensive, accuse us of not understanding how capitalism works, call us names, claim to be providing a service and tell us that they have the right to set the price of an item however they want. But no matter how they try to defend themselves it's pure bullshit. It might be capitalism but it's the ugliest example of it. At least when people flip a house they do work to that house, make improvements, etc. All these people do is buy an item and try to sell it for more. There's no defending that. What they do is profiteering, pure and simple and ugly.

Now unfortunately it's Anthropologie's turn to suffer the wrath of price gouging. Many of those same sellers that jacked up the price on J.Crew items have set their sights on Anthropologie. New gougers have popped up too. I get the temptation. Who wouldn't want to make a quick buck on a pupular item? Except that it's such a despicable act and a blatant sign of our consumerism. There's no question that Anthropologie marks up the items they sell. But they are the company designing (or commissioning) these items, they have the overhead, they have the production costs. Price gougers have none of these things but attempt to make money off it anyway.

Fake items. This one really gets my goat. There are a variety of permutations.

Sometimes it's an item that looks just like the Anthropologie item, except a few details are off. Maybe the tag is wrong (Deletta instead of C. Keer or it says Elevenses but the font is wrong, etc.) or maybe the buttons aren't quite right. Maybe the lining is wrong or non-existent. It's a fake.

Sometimes an item's description will say an item was sold at Anthropologie when it clearly wasn't. No, that Lauren Conrad top came from Kohl's, not Anthropologie. What's with all this Sweet Pea clothing being claimed as an Anthropologie brand? For someone with a long love of the brand like me these are laughable but how is a new brand fan supposed to know the difference? They're fakes.

Sometimes the culprit is keyword spamming. Come buy my "J.CrewAnthropologieAnnTaylorNanetteLeporeDVF Dress"! PLEASE! LIKE NEW. Or I love those sellers selling "Anthropologie Earrings and some dress that is so not Anthropologie but maybe you'll think it is!" Trying to pass off something as Anthropologie that isn't? Faking it.

Shrinkage. It's hard not to wonder about sellers who have tons of a current item for sale in multiple sizes. Especially the ones that seem to be either factory seconds or the sellers who have bought items at "closeout factories." Does Anthro even have those?

I also worry when I see repeated listings from a seller who has no tags, online order bags or any evidence of purchase history for items. I realize it happens sometimes -- maybe you get an item or a few as a gift, or you throw out the tags before you really decided. But to have that happen repeatedly, for over a year? Smacks of something else to me.

Why doesn't Anthropologie do anything? Or eBay? I wish that Anthropologie would take an active hand in stopping fraudulent auctions -- items that are clearly fakes. And I wish they'd take an official stand against price gougers. But for now they are uninvolved. I don't know if they are monitoring these eBay sellers or what. If the brand itself took preventative action perhaps these gougers would stop.

That goes double for eBay. Aren't they just sitting pretty collecting all these seller fees, Paypal fees, listing fees, and fees fees fees. Yet they don't really seem to care much about the actual items for sale: whether they're real or fake, whether they're stolen or purchased, whether they're marked up 0% or 1000%. eBay takes the file-sharing service stance. They're just the channel and they can't control the product. But it's not the same eBay, and as far as I'm concerned you are not living up to your corporate responsibilities. The lack of concern about the items sold on the auction site speak volumes about their true motivation.

What can I do? I know all of these issues have people in the community upset. But let me be clear: I'm not going to hide or tell anyone to stop publishing popbacks/tricks. These gougers would find the items whether we help them or not, and you're only hurting the community by keeping information to yourself.

Truly, the most you can do is speak with your wallet. Don't like the price of something? Don't buy it! I buy probably 5-10 items off eBay each year. Sometimes I find an item I want and the price is over retail. It's hard, but I don't buy those items. It's especially hard when it's a current item that you really, really want. So long as we keep supporting these people they will continue their practices. To truly stop them we have to let them either drown in product with no sales or wait til they drop the price back below retail to begin with.

Another thing you can do is report items to eBay. If someone asks me about an item and I determine it's fake, I report that item to eBay. You should do the same! It's another way for the community to help protect itself.

Lastly, remember the EA Trade Market is as much for reporting transactions as it is for making them. So if you have a great transaction on eBay with an Anthro seller, why not mention it? Conversely if someone gouges you on price or improperly describes/ships/etc an item, why not report that? The Trade Market is viewed over 30,000 times a week. It will absolutely make a difference.

What are your thoughts, community? I will be monitoring comments closely and will delete anything off-topic, offensive or outrageous. Let's keep everything courteous no matter which side you land on. And if you totally disagree with me, I invite you to write your own counter blog-post about that mean, pretentious EA blogger and her damn anti-price gouging posts!

New arrivals: YMMV (your mileage may vary)

Starting at top left, moving clockwise: Emerald Wicklow Dress ($158),  
Shirt The Issue Dress ($118), Crossing The Stripes Dress ($228),
Across The Land Dress ($138, review here), Magnified Corolla Dress ($168), 
Work-In-Progress Dress ($168), Garden Party Dress ($168), 
River Fish Dress ($298).

It was a true clash of styles yesterday in the roxy household. I had a few friends over during the day who were helping me to plan a party this weekend. During a break we surfed over to Anthropologie's website to ogle the new arrivals. The reaction among my friends ranged from, "I love it!" to "I hate it!" Take that as my disclaimer that everything I'm about to say is subjective and your feelings may not match mine.

The new catalogue is online, and it's only 29 pages. It's mostly accessories. And what little clothing lies within is not what I was hoping for at all. Contrast this to last year, when I was so excited about January's new arrivals! Last year seemed very spring-transitional and this year smacks of resortwear. Is that Anthro's customer base?

My reaction upon seeing the arrivals? Visible disappointment. This mostly lands with the dresses, which I keep looking at in hopes of finding a few I like from the latest crop of new additions. My issue lies with the dress shapes. I see draped and loose and flowy but I see very little that's work-to-eve appropriate. I see lots of party dresses but few work items. And as a 20-something, I have to admit that a lot of this looks matronly to me.

I don't expect any brand to stay still. So it doesn't bother me that Anthropologie isn't releasing the same styles it did in 2007 or 2008. What does bother me is that the effort here seems to be towards trying to incorporate trends into Anthropologie's sphere. Why? I'm not sure. Anthropologie has always been at its best when it offers unique designs from the voice within. I see echoes of other designers here and I don't like it. Perhaps I've been too liberal with my praise when Anthro reinterprets a designer item. My goal wasn't to make Anthropologie's entire line that way!

Where are the Maeve tank dresses? Where are the Floreat sleeved dresses? I'd even take the stunning Moulinette Soeurs designs that don't fit. I see no Ric Rac, very little Moth and just a smattering of Fei. I look above and I see Tory Burch, I see Tibi, I see Diane von Furstenberg, I see Rebecca Taylor. What I don't see is Anthropologie.

Starting at top left, moving clockwise: Sidestepping Dress ($138),  
Silken Stitches Dress ($168), Vortex Dress ($328), Pom Flower Shift ($158), 
Sing Sweetly Party Dress ($148), Blurred Shapes Dress ($168).

The dresses I do like have mostly been out for a few weeks now. (I'll have reviews of the Pom Flower Shift ($158) and Sing Sweetly Party Dress ($148) as part of a dress set tonite.) Unfortunately half the dresses I like are also strapless, which makes them OK for parties but not OK for work. These designs are more of what I'm used to, but only the shape of the Sidestepping Dress ($138) and the Pom Flower Shift ($158 look like familiar Anthro structures to me.

Perhaps my issue is more that I'm not a fan of the 50s, 70s and 80s shapes at work here. I prefer structure and tailoring in my pieces, with the occasional flowy thrown in. This is mostly flowy and not really my style. I am happy to see longer dresses than last year. I am happy to see bold prints and delicate whimsy. I guess I was just expecting more of it.

Some other new arrivals that caught my eye...

Beautiful left coast bohemian, but this look makes my east coast eye tick.

Wrinkled Grandpa Cardigan ($78) with Flutter Sleeve Tunic ($88).
Much more my style but more casual than I'm looking for.
How many other stores carry a cardigan just like this?

Who is the person wearing this, and where are they going?

This one is by Tracy Reese, but reminds me of Prada's spring line from 2009.
I love the color but I'd never wear this.

Hello, 2011 Aniseed Skirt...

The Impressionists Chemise ($68)
We have a winner! But it's a chemise, not a true dress.

What do you think of Anthro's new arrivals?

Year in Review: Anthro takes good care of us

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Earlier today we talked about the mystifying and frustrating moves Anthro sometimes makes. Now let's talk about the flip side to that coin: some of the awesome things Anthropologie did in 2010 that really benefited its customer base.

Reviews. Without a doubt, the coolest thing to come out of Anthropologie's website redesign is the customer reviews feature. Many brands are scared to let customers write reviews because they fear it will negatively impact sales. Anthropologie has fully embraced reviews though, allowing customers to rate items easily, upload pictures, share videos and distill their thoughts down to pros and cons. Even better, the brand actually reads the customer reviews. My friend Bri reviewed a top that had lost one of its embellished flowers the first time she wore it. Anthropologie's community team reached out to her and offered to either send her a new top or refund her, no questions asked.

Anthropologie prints both positive and negative reviews. I've noticed not all of my reviews get published which is a little weird -- sometimes the unprinted review is negative and sometimes it's positive. I'm not sure what the criteria they use is, but the published reviews represent honest, reliable opinions. Items that have 5 stars tend to be great items. Items that are not so great have star-ratings that reflect that. Bravo to Anthro for incorporating this awesome feature into the website.

Surveys. OK, these are mostly a marketing tool. But I get a secret delight in seeing one of Anthropologie's surveys in my inbox. Earlier this year the surveys seemed to focus mostly on clothing, shoes and accessories. Lately the topics have diversified. About a month ago I filled out an Anthro survey all about social media. It was very interesting and gave me some insight into the way Anthro is heading. (Click on the pic above to zoom and for some sample questions, plus my totally unexpected answer to what my favorite blog is.)

The cool thing is, more often than not Anthro seems to take our advice. I went back and read through some of the community picks for the surveys. Usually the products we like became available to buy while the ones we didn't disappeared back into the Anthropologie vaults. Or wherever discarded designs go.

More social outreach. Last year I made of fun of Anthropologie's poor ignored Twitter feed. My how times have changed! Not only is Anthro's Twitter feed constantly, uh, tweeting, they also have a lively Facebook page that actually announces things of interest like website updates, contests, and in-store events. Many brands use them as corporate mouthpieces, which Anthro does to some extent, but the {awesome} community team also answers reader questions, assembles outfits and responds to customer service inquiries.

This year there's also been more blogger outreach. I have to admit I find it bittersweet because it was fun being the only blogger to work directly with Anthropologie for awhile there. But I understand the desire to work with the whole community of blogs and I'm happy to see Anthro working with all of us rather than against us like some brands do.

Anthropologie's community team is reading every Anthro blog, every @reply to their Twitter and every message on their Facebook wall. I know how time consuming that can be and I think it's great that they reply to 99.9% of requests, inquiries and complaints. Kudos to them!

Opening their doors to fans. In August, Philadelphia-area Anthro fans got quite a treat: an invitation to Anthropologie's corporate headquarters to screen an episode of "Man Shops Globe" with Keith Johnson and guest star Anna Sui. Most retailers don't open their corporate headquarters to the public...although most retailers don't have such beautiful headquarters! Additionally, all of Anthropologie's corporate leadership team was there, mingling with Anthro fans before and after the screening. The event was such a delight to attend. I'm still tickled all these months later! Usually events like this are media only, closed to the public, blah blah blah. Anthropologie opened its doors to us and threw a wonderful party. It could not have been done better.

In-store events. On a related note, I noticed a sharp uptick in the number of in-store events at Anthropologies around the country this year. What a wonderful thing this was! Who doesn't want to be invited to a cool after-hours event at their favorite store? The parties had food, drinks and plenty of staff on hand. Plus Anthropologie continued their awesome in-store workshops, from cardigan re-workshops around Earth Day to gardening events over the summer to pet adoption events throughout the year.

If the goal of these events is personal interaction they really hit the mark. It is through one of these parties that I found out about Anthro's personal shopping service, which I use often. I do wish Anthro would do party favors. I love party favors! But aside from personal greediness I think their parties are wonderful.

Customer Service. Yes, it really makes a difference to have good customer service. And as far as I'm concerned, Anthropologie is tops! I have 5 personal styling clients and on their behalf I deal with boutiques, department stores, luxury brands and mass market retailers. Guess which brand is consistently the best to deal with? Anthropologie. I help a friend who is a wardrobe maven for a TV show do costume shopping. We go to every store you can think of in NYC. Guess which store consistently has the best service? Anthropologie. Whether it's for myself or someone else I just love shopping here! Obviously a big piece of that is the product, which I love. But an equally significant part is the service I receive.

Anthropologie's SAs are friendly, knowledgeable and willing to go the extra mile. It makes a difference! Anthro's phone CS staff is polite, and while they may not always have the right answer they make every effort to find out the answer for you. It makes a difference! It's clear that Anthropologie's management team cares about its customers and listens to our feedback from emails, phone calls and store reports. It makes a difference! Right now the team seems slammed so response is a bit slow. It's still 1,000 times better than most retailers I deal with. I hope Anthropologie never lowers the importance it places on customer service. It's one of the key differentiators that keeps me shopping here.

What do you think community? Any topics I missed?

Year in Review: Oh, the games Anthropologie plays

While there is no doubt that I love Anthropologie, sometimes they confuse me. I find 99% of my transactions with them are smooth as glass but that remaining 1% leaves me wondering if they actually want me to buy their items or not. Today we'll take a look at some puzzling moves Anthropologie made in 2010. Anthropologie is hardly alone in these practices below, but it troubles me that they've joined the crowd rather than setting themselves apart.

Product page redirects. Used to be that if an Anthropologie item was sold out, you'd land on the product page with a message saying "We're sorry, this product is no longer available" where the "Add to Cart" button would normally be. It was always a sad message to see but you could still read the product description, the material content, and read user reviews of the product. When Anthropologie unveiled their site redesign earlier this year that all changed. Instead of seeing the actual product page you see this terrible redirect landing page above instead. Most frustrating, if the item pops back into stock after initially selling out, the product page doesn't come back. The community has to rely on the kindness of each other to announce wishlist popbacks. Annoying? YES.

Why did Anthropologie do this? I can think of a few reasons. Maybe their product page database was getting too big, so they decided to purge them more often. Although they still have to store the product information, so that doesn't save much space in the database at all...hmm, maybe customers complained of being frustrated with the messaging on the product page when a product is sold out so they introduced this page instead? Although customers seem to be more frustrated by this page...OK, I can't think of any good reasons why this page exists. It sucks, I hate it, and I wish Anthropologie would bring back the normal page instead.

Another unintended result of these redirects? My wishlist, once manageable and realistic, has boomed to ridiculous proportions so I can help the community see popbacks. Instead of adding items I plan to buy to my wishlist I add any item I'm even remotely interested in. I can only imagine the ways Anthropologie's wishlist database has ballooned in the past year. A wishlist which, at best, is frustrating to use.

The Chantico Tank was released in white and pink initially,
and joined by a few more colors after 3 months.

Second wave of colors, released looong after the initial colors. I think it's great that Anthropologie has managed their supply chain well enough to restock popular items quickly. But another side of that management seems to be that products are now released in 2 or 3 colors initially, and then more way down the line. A product seems about ready to move to sale only surprise! Instead another few colors come out and you're back to counting down from day 1.

Another frustrating aspect of this is trying to decide which color to buy a product in. I've relaxed my multiples rule quite a bit this year and now own several products in multiple colors. But for the most part I try to pick an item in one color. So it's very annoying when I buy an item, wear it, and then it comes out in a color I like better. The result has been that I'm buying less now because I fear that an item will has more color releases to come and I want to see all the options before deciding. Or sometimes I'll wait and when the new colors come out I think the original was the best, but that original has sold out. Options are great. I just wish they'd all come out at once.

Items appear online wayyyy after debuting in-store. Remember the In The Trees Skirt? It was in stores in July but not online until October. For someone like me who is spoiled with multiple local stores this isn't such a big deal. For our online-only shopping friends though this has to be a pain. What if your size isn't available in-store? Today's shoppers often try an item in-store and then investigate online before making a purchase. To not have an item online at all strikes me as odd.

My guess is Anthropologie is doing this to track customer analytics in stores. I can understand why as e-commerce continues to grow in overall sales proportions. We see the opposite too more frequently on Anthropologie's website as some items are now online-only. This is probably not a huge deal to the overall shopping population but as a blogger it's annoying to have a review ready to go and no product to link to. Tricky, tricky, Anthro.

All of these items were see-through. Come on, Anthro.

Quality decline. Ugh, this one pains me to even mention. But it's true. Anthropologie's quality is still higher than most of the brands of its size, but there was a noticeable decline this year. I saw dresses with boning popping through the seams. Loose threads, more than ever before. And material that was thin, thin, thin. It's such a bummer because I could always count on Anthropologie to release high-quality items. I'm not sure if they're trying to compete on price by experimenting with different materials or if their production costs have gone up so much that they need to cut corners to keep prices where they are. Either way, it's disconcerting. 

This decline extends to the warehouse. I am saddened to hear about people receiving items that have clearly been previously worn or the wrong item. When you're a medium-to-large retailer it's hard to keep track of every single order and mistakes will happen. It seems clearer though that no one is checking Anthro's online and CS orders before they leave the warehouse. I don't see ticks on my order forms anymore. No "inspected by" stamps. QC is an operational expense that is hard to justify to analysts but necessary to customers. Here's one way to try: no QC, less buying by me.

I buy a lot less at J.Crew than I used to, and that decrease can be directly correlated to their switch to looser gauge Merino, declining quality control, and poor design choices. Even many of the "upscale" brands I turn to like Theory, Barney's in-house label and labels like Diane von Fursternberg, Catherine Malandrino or Vince are just sliding downhill in quality faster than I can unravel one of their poorly constructed sweaters. As a result I'm just not buying these brands as much. Anthropologie, don't become next on this list!

Inorganic crap. Speaking of declining quality in materials, I like my wool sweaters to be made of wool! Nylon? Rayon? Spandex??? All materials I saw more and more at Anthropologie. Bailey 44's soft jersey used to be cotton-based. Now? Rayon. Blech. Have you found a 100% Merino wool sweater this year? Me either. Yuck. Is your silk top 100% made from the good stuff? Probably not. Ugh. You can't see me right now but my arms are flailing about in frustration. Why? Why, cruel world, is clothing no longer made from organic materials? Too expensive? Too hard to come by in the USA? I just don't get it. Without getting too political, my personal belief is that as we've allowed our clothing production to move out of the USA and into developing countries our clothing has suffered for it. Or is it because more retailers are public and have to answer to shareholders? Whatever the reason I'm highly annoyed. Real sweaters come from sheep, llamas, alpacas and rabbits. Fake sweaters come from plastic and inorganic stuff. Who wants a sweater made of fake stuff?

It's on sale! No wait, it's not...? Out of all the frustrations in this post, this one seems to have the community most up in arms. One of two things happens: an item is marked down on Tuesday, then goes back to full price once it sells out online OR an item is marked down by 40-60% on Tuesday but that percentage changes to 30-40% later in the week. They're both indefensible to me. Accidental markdowns? Maybe, but the hallmark of a great company is one that honors their mistakes to the benefit of the customer. Anthropologie has excellent customer service but they're stretching my goodwill here. They can explain it away all they want but it just makes them look bad in my eyes.

Anthropologie sets the prices of a full-price item and we as customers agree on the value by purchasing the item. It is a slippery slope to then say that an item is on-sale for one price today and another tomorrow. It's cheating to me. It's gross! It's taking advantage of customers. I have seen this happen at other retailers too. In fact, a few well-known stores will watch their stock levels and raise prices on items that are selling well! How is that not illegal? The cynic will say it's their product and they can set prices however they want. My response is that once you've set the full price or the sale price, let well enough alone. To play around with pricing is at best unethical. 

I'll have a counter-post to this one later today with things Anthropologie did really well this year. In the meantime, what are your thoughts? Any topics I missed?

Metapost: The holidays aren't quite over yet: Shopbop and Sephora team up to launch one sweet palette -- PLUS A CONTEST!

It took me a long time to accrue a makeup collection I like wearing. There was lots of experimentation and lots of misses before I found eyes, lip and skin items that work for me. (OK, there are still misses sometimes.) When the lovely ladies at Shopbop let me know that they were teaming up with Sephora to create a lip, blush and eye collection built around 5 classic styles I was intrigued. I've long adored Shopbop's lookbooks and Sephora is my beauty supply dealer of choice. I couldn't wait to see what they'd come up with and now the day is here. Shopbop has launched its SEPHORA COLLECTION Palette Color Play 5 in 1 limited-edition palette inspired by Shopbop’s “Faces of Fashion” editorial look book.

Classic prep, updated. London Mod. Jet-Set Bohemian chic.

Shopbop's lookbook takes on classic prep, femme fatale, jet set bohemian, London mod and the lady. I always like how Shopbop shows not only the outfit items but also some other suggestions in the same style. The palette takes its color cues from this lookbook -- so instantly you have some ideas about what clothing colors to pair with the palette or vice versa. It's too bad this is making its debut after Christmas!

The palette has 5 palettes in total. Each sub palette has 10 eye shadows, 2 lip colors and 1 blush to choose from. If you know someone who's just getting into makeup, or someone who asks for makeup advice, this palette is a great solution. At $30, this set is a fraction of what an editor palette would normally cost. (I was quite surprised at the price! When I think Shopbop, I think $$$). Glancing at the palettes I can see combinations that would flatter any skin tone, and ages ranging from 18 to 118.

Not eager to trudge out to Sephora in the snow? I've got you covered. The team over at Shopbop has invited EA readers to enter to win its Faces of Fashion sweepstakes. At stake is a year's supply of Sephora Collection Cosmetics and a $2,500 shopping spree at Shopbop, which is exactly what I need right now!I'm crossing my fingers for someone from the EA community to win!

Reviews: Engla Trench plus some sweaters and tops

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Of all the pretties in the December catalogue, Elevenses' Engla Trench ($188) jumped out at me the most. I love the rich mossy color that reads as chocolate in some light, the ruffly collar and the beautiful sash across the middle. Throw in an off-center zip and it's a must-have.

I usually size up one size in coats, but the SA in-store recommended I stick with my usual size. So I tried the coat on in an 8. The trench feels like satin and is not thick at all. This is not a winter coat by any means. The skirt is also very full and as you can see from the side shot there's plenty of extra material.

As I commonly do, I wish that this trench were two inches longer. But overall I really like it. The color is gorgeous and so is the collar. I think the model's body shape suits this coat better than my curves. Still, it's pretty and well-made. A gorgeous warm-climate option. Wishlisted!

Though it's been mentioned several times on the blog I hadn't given the Hiking Ruffles Cardigan ($78) a full review yet. Sizes are dwindling online but I've seen plenty of colors in-store, like this beautiful shade of plum I tried on. The tee underneath is the Olympian Entry Tee (now $40) which I reviewed here.

Guinevere normally means sizing up for me. Not this time -- my usual size medium fit perfectly. I love the soft spilling ruffles down the sides and the light but warm qualities of this cardigan. I can only hope this piece hits sale soon. Wishlisted!

I have been looking for an open-air sweater like Moth's Light As Air Pullover ($78) for awhile. Hooray for Anthropologie creating this lovely piece! Normally this is the part of the review where I'd go on a tirade over the sheerness but this piece is meant to be thin and open. I inspected all the sweaters in-store and found no defects on any of them. The knit is well-done. This sweater is fragile piece that will require extra care.

My usual size medium fit like a dream. There are varying patterns int he knit of the sweater which adds degrees of visual interest. With a cami underneath this sweater is perfect --use a brown one to really show off the pattern of the knite. The sleeves naturally want to scrunch up a bit. I am in love! Wishlisted for the birthday haul in January.

Looking for a top to wear on New Year's Eve? Try the Dazzler Top ($158) from Corey Lynn Calter. Commissioned in a stunning cobalt blue, this embroidered top is the rare piece that's worth full price. I was amazed by the intricate beadwork that surrounds embroidered flourishes on this top.

I tried on a size 6, my usual size in tops. It was tight around the hips so I would size up to an 8 to buy. I love everything about this top, from the beautiful neckline to the slightly poufy sleeves. The silk feels light and luxurious against the skin and the top drapes with an easy, comfortable fit. This top is sure to draw attention for all the right reasons. Wishlisted!

I must admit to being a little confounded by Ella Moss's Overachiever Sweatshirt ($138). The price is hard to swallow. To be frank, I'd expect to find something like this at Forever 21 for about $24.80. No diss meant to Ella Moss -- the brand is one of my favorites with consistently good quality. But this design is a little odd to see from an upscale brand.

The sweater itself is a mostly-cotton blend with sequins adorning one side of the neckline. It runs huge -- I was swimming in my usual size medium. It was comfortable to wear and fairly warm. I just can't get past the price. This falls into the 'what were they thinking' category for me. Back to the rack.

I regret not buying the Plaited Pocket Cardigan (now $80), style #19333582 a couple of weeks ago. I'm on staycation this week and feeling a bit chilly as I laze around the apartment. This sweater would be the perfect throw-on layer to stay warm. When I tried it on it was still full price though and I wasn't quite ready to take that plunge. The top underneath is Tiny's Discovered Plata Tank ($88) which I'll cover in an upcoming post.

Sparrow made this sweater from thick wool that's rough but not too itchy, along with woven plaits along the front panels. My usual size medium was big, so you can easily size down if you choose. There are pockets within the plaits and they are the perfect size for warming your hands. I felt instantly comfortable in the cardigan. This is the kind of piece I expect to find at Anthropologie! I have a bit of budget left this month and might just take the plunge on this one yet. Wishlisted for now.

If the sheerness of the Light As Air Pullover made sense, the opposite is true of Knitted & Knotted's Filigree Cardi ($118). The filigree is completely see-thru with no lining! WHY? I have no idea. I tried on the "brown" version which  looked grey to me in the harsh Chelsea Market fitting rooms.

Sizing-wise this cardigan runs large. My usual size medium was very roomy and I'd size down to a small to buy. I like the fishtail hemline which is shorter in front, longer in the back and longest on the sides. The filigree pattern is lovely and the buttons have a nice contrast to the sweater. I just wish there was something behind the filigree so it wasn't so obviously unlined. Won't pay full price for this one. Wishlisted for sale.

Year in Review: Trends Anthropologie took on in 2010

Note: Looking for the sale post? It's just below this one.

In 2010, fashion turned to the not too distant past to regurgitate trends back onto the runway. Many of the fads fell outside of Anthropologie's bailiwick. Let's take a look back at the styles, moods and moments Anthropologie took on this past year.

Nautical. Ahoy there! Yonder be tops of blue and white, done up of course in varying stripes. Cropped pants with ties and high waistlines or shorts with lots of buttons. A v-neck or two with a sailor's collar, a fish print for a more literal offer. That's what Anthro's nautical theme was made of. I loved many of the pieces Anthro's nautical collection contained but didn't end up buying much from it. I got the Perilla Dress and the Fifth Form Shift but that was about it. The style, while cute, didn't really fit into my urban lifestyle. If I ever move to the boardwalk I will revisit pieces like these. Seems like the items sold well though and I love how Anthro put its own spin on the theme. verdict: hit.

Long skirts and short skirts. Call me choosy, but I really like my skirts to hit at or right above the knee. This year was a disaster for me with skirts. Everything was either mini or to my calves, neither of which is a flattering length on me. Skirts got really, really short this year too -- 15" in many cases. This may be fine for those who are petite or with short legs but that barely covers my tush. Conversely, the "Mad Men"-inspired long skirts were pretty on the hanger but look matronly on my thicker legs. Anthropologie fell into line with other retailers, releasing skirts both mini and maxi. With a couple of exceptions I avoided both. They don't work for work, they don't work for weekend play. Not versatile enough for my closet. The designs were beautiful but not especially practical. verdict: miss.

Anthropologie on TV. Argh. It's so weird seeing Anthropologie all over TV these days! If she's quirky, she wears it. If she's the outsider, she wears it. If she's OCD, she wears it. ARGH. The shows I watch don't seem to have an abundance of Anthro, thank god, but it's strange to hear about friends coveting the brand now that Emma/Annie/Lily/Brennan/whoever is wearing it. If you do like seeing it, then I highly recommend Anjali's awesome Anthropologie on TV roundups on goldenmeans. The same part of me that's a musical elitist hates it. The logical part of me says, 'hypocritical much, Anthro blogger?' Still, I don't need to see celebrities or TV characters in the clothing I wear. In fact, I'd prefer to see them in something else. verdict: miss.

Downtown style. This year Anthropologie tried more city chic than ever before. J Brand Houlihans at Anthropologie? It happened. I still can't believe it. Yet I have to say I liked it. It was always a surprise to see a simple silk shirt or a double-breasted blazer at Anthro. They did a great job of distilling the trend I thought. Plus, it became a one-stop shop where I could get both my whimsy and my city. I do worry about Anthropologie trying to spread its wings too far. As long as the results look like this they're doing well. verdict: hit.

Video. It's something high fashion houses have been doing for awhile. This year Anthropologie added much more motion to their site, from movie intros to video product reviews. The movies are great and I love seeing full outfits in motion. I'm a little less impressed with the product videos, which were mostly a model twirling around and making silly faces. I'd love to see something like Zappos' product review videos. There's a description of the item and it on someone (i.e. not a model) without judgment about the item itself. A step firmly in the right direction by Anthropologie. verdict: hit.

Holy sheerness, Batman. Anthropologie, this may come as a shock to you, but most people like their clothing to be opaque! I know, I know, sheer is sexy. But when I'm at the office or out with friends or, you know, in public, I don't really need to be telling the world what color my bra is. Time was that sheer blouses at least came with layering tanks. These days sheerness is practically advertised as a feature -- it's sheer! DO. NOT. WANT. And what of cotton tops that are so thin you can pretty much see through them? No thanks. verdict: this trend needs to die.