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How To Be An Anthro Girl


It is the query on the tip of everybody’s tongue these days: how can I become an Anthropologie girl? This boutique is Urban Outfitters’ older sister, eating disorder outgrown and T-shirts intact; she wears makeup, has a job, and travels the world instead of riding around the block on her seven hundred dollar bicycle. The business supposedly caters to 30 and 40-year-old professional women who can afford their sky-high prices, but their catalogue has become the holy scriptures of every self-proclaimed “twentysomething” woman who is trying to make her way in this world. Admit it, ladies: Anthropologie is your happy place, and if you make more than $20 a week you have probably spent more within their four walls than necessary.

For those of us who can only walk past their doors with longing or browse their endless mazes of delightful fashions and home goods until we are asphyxiated by the stench of their exotic candles, here are a few tips on how to become a little bit more like Ms. Anthro:

* Shun modernity. No e-readers, Helvetica, non-whistling teapots, or mp3 players for you. You bask in the glow of a million candles at your desk while you write with a delightfully scratchy fountain pen. You will paw anything that looks like it was made circa 1960. In your most vulnerable moments, you pull an iPhone out of your Katherine Hepburn-style wide-leg pants, and pay $300 for a pair of oxfords that you will claim belonged to your grandmother.

* Use the word ‘culture’ a lot. As an Anthro girl, you are in touch with all the peoples of the world. You wear the fabrics that they made with their hands, and although the average blouse on the rack will cost you half your week’s wages and only return about a dollar to its original makers, you feel as if you are one with them. You are Elizabeth Gilbert, reveling in your spiritual transformation, your connection with the world. You might be able to say, “I got this tunic on my recent voyage to Bali.” There, you played soccer with the natives and sat silent around a campfire while they grasped your hands in peace. Your mere white presence makes their lives more tolerable, and you give them meaning by blogging about them.

* Take up eerily attractive hobbies. Nothing comes to you more naturally than riding a bicycle or the study of ancient textiles. People flock to you like moths to a flame when you mention a proclivity towards interpretive dance routines of Out of Africa. You offer workshops on flower arrangement in wind instruments at a local coffee shop.

* Talk about how much you love your city. Waxing poetic about the cramped train, the humid concrete, and the skyline you observed at sunset while standing barefoot on your fire escape in a chiffon dress constitutes the average weekday post on your blog. On the weekends, a few obscure poems delineate your emotions about an unnamed and possibly non-existent male. You show up at neighborhood bars wearing organic cotton in colors that have never before been seen in bars, and when you ask for gin, nobody cards you.

* Be wealthy, but not the kind of wealthy that makes anybody feel bad. Rather, just chuckle softly whenever you mention your latest trip to Europe or the top of the Empire State Building. “Oh, we rode camels out to Petra,” is the phrase most often uttered at the end of your summer vacations. You justify long periods of inactivity on white-sanded beaches by making sure they took place in third world countries, and you donate a dollar or so to whatever charity is currently advertising on Tumblr.

* Speak to your house plants. No comment.

* Deserve take-out. Nobody understands your depth of soul or your unique suffering. The love you experience, which you calmly and resolutely reveal by missing a button on your blouse or by weeping softly in your local subway, undeniably entitles you to eat any sort of fried food of dubious origin in the porcelain abyss of your claw-foot bathtub.

* Be a ‘natural’ woman. Nothing about you is put on; nothing about you is askance. You are at all times completely genuine and completely within your element (earth or water). You respond to crises by lighting a candle, by fingering plush towels. Plucking is out of the question. You crochet on demand, but only in penumbra.

* Never match. Yellow shoes are always acceptable. Plain black? Never.

* Always have the right dish. You have bowls specifically for walnuts, hats for afternoons spent indoors, and cups crafted for lemonade. They are charmingly chipped in all the right places. The Upholstered Chaise Lounge represents you as a person, like it did for proto-Anthro girl Betty Draper. You search high and low for ampersand-shaped coat hooks, and live in rooms comprised completely of ottomans.

* Spontaneously sleep outside. That’s what your outdoor bed is for.

* Say things like, “We’ll honeymoon in Mexico.” “I’ll put her in an immersion school when she’s born.” “Oh, I don’t eat frozen vegetables.” “This? This is the child I’m sponsoring in Nepal.” “I made these earrings from turquoise I found in the Arizona desert.” “I’d like to illustrate children’s books.”

* Become a selective eater. Refuse to eat anything not dubbed ‘organic’ OR anything that was not made whilst wearing a frilly apron OR anything that cannot be eaten with a grapefruit spoon. Revel in food groups generally embraced by the average rabbit. When asked what you ate for breakfast, your eyes glaze over and you mention tea and great gulps of oxygen. Your friends rave about your spread, but they generally mean the tablecloth underneath.

* Store things in glass jars. For some reason people still use plastic?

* Embrace the occult. Your superstitions—such as which sweater to wear while reading the morning newspaper — extend to your unguarded preference of zodiac-inspired dishtowels. You practice food augury, which you understand to mean eat as little as possible so as not to hide the design of the dish. When your favorite tea saucer breaks, you buy a new one.

* Become too knowledgeable about something. When asked about your favorite Stendhal book, your effervescent enthusiasm borders on hysteria. Medieval Italian music, multi-volume science fiction novels, and alternatives to name-brand cleaning products cause you to spasm in delight. Your eccentricity borders on social-unawareness just as your backyard borders on a virginal forest preserve. When asked your thoughts on any subject you retreat to an adjoining room moodily wearing too many scarves. “Years from now,” acquaintances whisper of you, “people will say we knew her.”

* Never be in a picture with a man, ever. You roam alone, from room to room, lit golden by the chandeliers in your lacy nightgown. Your wallpaper is peeling at the corners near the ceiling. You like the culture it creates. Another living being would upset the balance, put the brightly colored throws in disarray.

Kara VanderBijl is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in Chicago. She last wrote in these pages about Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2. You can find her website here.

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Reader Comments (29)

Love the article.. but it's all so suspiciously like J. Peterman. ;-D
August 1, 2011 | Unregistered Commentermyrna jacobs
August 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBryan
loved this article, spot on parody/ loving commentary
i've always been an anthro girl, in my dreams, but in real life- never.
and i feel you've pointed out why, she can't possibly exist.
i hope you write a sequel for other store's "girls" it would be a great series!
August 4, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJess
Fucking brilliant.
January 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJason
Ditto Jess -- Would love to read your take on The J.Crew Woman :-)
January 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterGinny
I had the fortune of being a resident of Center City Philadelphia, proud home of Urban Outfitters in the early 1990's when the first Anthropologie store opened in Wayne, PA. In those days, my gf and I were in our early 20's, college dropouts working retail and waitressing jobs and making a pittance at it, dutifully scrounging the clearance racks of the grandiose main UO store at 18th & Walnut Streets, and wistfully eyeing the newly-imported Neal's Yard cosmetics as we traversed the staircase to the housewares department in the basement in search of the latest find for our cramped, but "serviceable for two poor, young foodies" Art Museum Area apartment kitchen.

Upon the opening of Anthropologie, we decided to splurge and take the train out the Main Line one sunny afternoon to inspect what were were certain was our destiny awaiting us in Wayne. What we found was pretty much exactly what you describe above. Needless to say, some drastic rethinking of our goals ensued. I can still taste the bile nearly 20 years later.

I am in your debt for such a delightful read, and I shall ever remain

Your Adoring Public,

Gemma Seymour-Amper
February 7, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterGemma Seymour-Amper
What a pathetic article. 'How to be an (fill the gap)' type write-ups are possibly the worst kind of articles you could promote, setting unreal high expectations for what females or males should aspire to be like, and not giving readers the chance to have independent minds. The same can be said for what shapes our ideas and expectations of the opposite sex, especially for women in the eyes of the male gaze.

Some argue that 'audiences shape the media' against 'the media shaping the audience', and with plenty of these articles around, it makes me worry that the answer is the latter.

"The business supposedly caters to 30 and 40-year-old professional women who can afford their sky-high prices, but their catalogue has become the holy scriptures of every self-proclaimed “twentysomething” woman who is trying to make her way in this world."

You would think that by 'twentysomething' a woman would at least have an idea in regards to her sense of direction in style, career or motivation, instead of reading this article and thinking 'wow what a cool bandwagon to join'. I'd be worried if a 30-40something had the same train of thought.

Understandably there are ladies who have been brought up into this 'anthro' world and since then have stuck with it because its in their nature, which is respectful. But don't just take a lifestyle which to some still has meaning and falsify it as your own materialistic well-being.

Please, to those this applies to, just be yourself and grow up.
February 13, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterwhat..
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February 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCorporate Team Building
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February 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMIS Software
Why watch a movie at home when you can celebrate cinema the way it was meant to be seen!
February 25, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterjoann
hahaha i love how there's always one derp who takes things too seriously... it's called humour bud. anyway, this is brilliant
March 25, 2012 | Unregistered Commentersmiley
I needed to read this. I've been quietly cursing the production design of these things, in vain. This makes me feel like you're not all cyborgs.
March 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLisandra

i guess it's true what they say... sometimes sarcasm doesn't translate over the computer.
April 2, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterholly
Have never seen an Anthropologie shop/catalogue/etc, but I think this covers something broader than that anyway. All the same, I laughed out loud several times.
April 4, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterhungryandfrozen
I am undeniably entitled to eat any sort of fried food of dubious origin in the porcelain abyss of my claw-foot bathtub. However, I screwed up and refuse to eschew my love of Helvetica. Or appearing in photographs with my partner. Maybe I can compensate by writing more enigmatic and mysterious poetry to post on my blog?

(love this article. well done)
April 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSequins (C Marcia)
You begin-- "This boutique is Urban Outfitters’ older sister, eating disorder outgrown and T-shirts intact; she wears makeup, has a job, and travels the world instead of riding around the block on her seven hundred dollar bicycle."

Wow, you're a real scumbag, huh. And quickly-- just in the first few lines, sheesh! Way to alienate female AND male readers with a breezy and completely unnecessary insult before you even get started.

Sorry to flame but i just couldn't believe it. Abandoned article, this.
April 7, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDaniel
What is most funny here are the defensive comments it seems to have motivated (see above, re: "your a real scumbag"). You know when you're hitting a nerve that's real when the folks it mocks respond to irony with witless venom. Good work.
April 7, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterlogotrix
This was fucking great, I mean Im a 16 year old guy and really enjoyed reading this, I must fin this girl that is spoken of.
May 1, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKase
cleverly written, kudos there.. but, in general, this level of cynicism is for sucky people that spend their time looking for every little thing to nit-pick about others.

try smiling, it makes you look beautiful! try having a positive thought, it makes you feel good! edify others, don't rip them apart.

have a nice day :)
May 4, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterfrodo baggins
I thought it was hilarious. I'll admit, on the (incredibly rare) occasion I get to visit Anthropologie, I like to browse and spend more than I ought - they have some cute clothes (along with some confusing clothing - who wears some of that?!) and the $17 bottle of hand soap (hey, at least it was a really big bottle of hand soap) is the best stuff I've ever seen for getting blood stains out of clothing. Seriously thought I'd have to pour about a whole bottle of peroxide on it, but wound up putting a couple squirts of soap to pre-treat it and it all came out. The "Anthropologie girl" can't exist, but it's sure amusing to watch people try.
May 16, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKate
Damn. Coming from a previous anthropologie employee, this was spot on and fucking hilarious. Kudos.
May 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterHannah
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And i also loved the comments by the trolls with flame throwers.
June 22, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterandrea kiss
she sounds like a bloody nightmare.
August 10, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterkiri
"flower arrangement in wind instruments." I'm still laughing.
August 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPaul van der Bijl
I'm an anthropologist from Belgium, this article was forwarded to me by my professor - to my knowledge we don't have an Anthropologie store (yet) and up to now and I was not aware of its existence. Happy to learn that our way of living finally inspired designers to spread all the important lessons we have to offer to the world! (haha!) Nice piece.
September 7, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMJ
another anthropologist - from South Africa - i must admit to being rather unsettled by your post... at first I was like, shit, how did they know about all the lonely ritualistic things I like to do at home, then I got paranoid about being a stereotype, then I felt awkward for not being anorexic and eating lots of not so dainty ethnic foods and then I got freaked out that this is about fashion not life... then I just decided to polish my glass jars and sit in the forest in my dressing gown and now I feel better that despite being stereotyped into a fashion label my life is still my own and it's ok that I don't look like a super model.
September 30, 2012 | Unregistered Commenteredible jewel
As a Dutch newby on Pinterest, I recently started pinning fashion and the like, and soon stumbled upon the anthro girl. It somehow appealed to me, yet leaving me unsatisfied in a strange way. So I turned to Google for some answers. It left me with a series of fashion statements I couldn't quite grasp.

But now I know why, thanks to your blog! I'm a 30-ish selective eater, but I also own an ereader and I'm a daily biker! (Hey, I told you I'm Dutch). That explains it. Thanks.
May 10, 2013 | Unregistered Commenteraaf
Why are all the pictures shoddy and los-res?
July 25, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterjasmine

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