Open thread: Searching for Anthropologie, elsewhere

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

As Anthropologie's Fall and Winter lines continue to trickle in, I can't help but pine for the days when I was swooning over everything at all once. I see them trying but right now Antho's getting beat at its own game by some other retailers. I thought it could be fun to point out some Anthro-like items I've seen at other stores and then turn it over to you to share Anthro-like items you've spotted elsewhere too.

Today we'll take on dresses. First, some of my picks and then community it's your turn in the comments!

How is Anthropologie missing on dresses right now? While there are many dresses that I like part of, there are precious few I'm entirely happy with. I'll like the top of a dress but not the bottom. The dress will be too short, or too flowy in the skirt, or too tight up top. The dress will be made from polyester but still $150 or more. Or most annoyingly the dress will be unflattering to curves of any kind. That last one is really starting to piss me off.

First up in our cruise around the retail'o'sphere is Madewell. Though their clothing skews more towards prep than Anthropologie, several of Madewell's current dresses would be right at home on Anthro's racks. How is Madewell hitting where Anthropologie is missing? Proportion for one thing. All of these Madewell dresses look visually balanced. The Mirrorflower Dress ($165) is a simple fit-and-flare with a v-neck that doesn't come too low and a skirt that hits right at the knees. The top is slightly loose which allows it to fit a variety of bust sizes and it's really easy to belt. The medium-sized pattern makes it easy to wear whether you're petite, tall, large or small. And it's Shift counterpart the Photoflower Shiftdress ($150) is a shift that somehow fits over my hourglass shape with no problem. Anthropologie used to be so good at that too, but these days their shifts are too big on top when I find a fit for my bottom.

Though a leather dress may seem like a stretch, Anthropologie could totally rock something like Madewell's Leather Shiftdress ($450), which stands out because of its rich burgundy color. With just a touch of a contrasting color added in this would be right at home in an Anthro store.

When it comes to work dresses, I'm looking for pieces with a defined waist, a knee-length and something visually interesting that elevates a frock above the standard boring wool or silk piece. Anthropologie used to carry Nanette Lepore and I wonder why something like her Belted Lace Sheath Dress ($448) isn't there now. Bright green is curiously a trendy color for this fall and I think this dress does a lovely job of incorporating it in a work-appropriate way. I love how the dress feels like two pieces. Note how the cap sleeves are long enough to cover the top of your arms completely, unlike the cap sleeves that make your arms look wide.

Another piece I'm dying over right now is Burberry London's Print Silk Dress ($895). It's funny how alike many of Burberry and Anthropologie's inspiration points are. If you look at the last three Burberry Prorsum collections it's like looking at Anthro's richer cousin. Obviously the higher price point helps in terms of materials and finishes, but in terms of overall silhouettes and trim decisions Anthropologie would do well to study how Burberry's lines are figure-flattering while theirs are missing the cut.

If you're on a budget there are still great options out there to find Anthropologie-like pieces. One delightful surprise has been ASOS. With no stores to try things on I was hesitant about ordering from them but I've had success with multiple pieces now and find their customer service very helpful. Some as ASOS's items certainly fall too far into the "is cheap, looks cheap" bucket but a discerning eye can find some great deals on pretty pieces.

Browsing their website can be overwhelming due to the sheer number of products. But just a cursory glance through their dress section yielded some great Anthro-like options. As much as I've defended the Karen Walker pieces for Anthropologie, would we rather spend $148 on a polyester dress or $62 for ASOS's similar A Wear Tie Back Tea Dress? Right.

If you're looking for Anthropologie from days yore, give Ruche a try. This has been one of my favorite Anthro alternatives for a long time. One qualifier: many of their items are way too short on me. (I'm 5'8".) The cuts on some of their items are more juniors than adults. But I still get lucky enough that the independent store is worth a mention.

Looking through Ruche's products is like visiting Anthropologie in late 2007 or early 2008. Ruche has a great mix of vintage-feeling in classic shapes. I'm in love with the Owl-Watching Printed Dress ($90), a simple shape with owls in an easy-to-accessorize black. While I do appreciate the bold colors Anthropologie's been speaking in lately, they are harder to wear everyday. I could wear any of the dresses above on any day and be comfortably classic.

And finally, my sadness over Anthropologie's current sweater dress assortment continues. The only dresses that really say "Anthro" to me are the Shyle Sweater Shift ($138) and the Patchwork Variations Sweater Dress ($168), both reviewed in this post. While I like the Metallic Dolman Sweater Dress ($148) a lot, it continues Anthropologie's confusing identity crisis where the store thinks it's a diffused version of Barney's Co-op.

Where are the chunky knit sweater dresses? (Amarena Shirtdress, anyone?) The feminine, incredibly soft sweater dresses? (Snowdrop Shift, for example.) The stitched, handcrafted pieces? (Lolland Sweaterdress, I'm looking at you.) The dresses that are so intricate they don't even look like sweater dresses? (Like the Florry Dress, one of my white whales.)

It was hard for me to find anything similar to the dresses I've listed in the paragraph above. But I did find some that have some Anthro-like qualities. Let's start with the Cable Top Knit Dress ($363) which oh hey just happens to be by Timo Weiland, Anthro's latest collaboration partner! I love the striated colors in the knit and the cabling on the top portion of the dress.

The Paulina Sweater Dress ($298) by Marc Jacobs looks like it would be tricky to wear but the longer silhouette and varying stripe thickness are incredibly flattering on. I'd love to see that dress Anthro-ized! Finally, I have to admit that the Colorblock V-Neck Sweater Dress ($118) mostly caught my eye because it's a clear knock-off of Rag & Bone's Dean Sweaterdress...which I bought last year. For more than $118. Eep.

So those are some of my dress picks for Anthroesque elsewhere. What dresses from other stores have caught your eye for their Anthro-like qualities?