So, here's the truth: I really like shopping. I might even be someone that could be considered a "shopaholic" because I shop fairly often — though I'm pretty cheap most of the time, I've bargain hunted at least 90% of the things I've purchased so far in my lifetime — but I would be lying if I said I didn't relate to Carrie Bradshaw's perspective on the subject: "Shopping is my cardio." And as someone who enjoys shopping, I have a few "dream" stores. If you're a shopping enthusiast, you know what I'm talking about. These are the shops that contain all of the clothes, accessories, homewares, makeup, whatever that seem so perfectly suited to the life you are truly meant to be living — if only you could afford it. These are a few of my own: J.Crew, with all of their luxuriously priced, perfectly paired chambray; New York City shopping destinations like Bendel's and Barney's whose names alone sound luxurious; and the ultimate mecca of gorgeous unaffordable things, Anthropologie. Like me, Jessi Klein, author of You'll Grow Out of It, considers Anthro more than just a store — it's a lifestyle.
"I'm assuming you've been to an Anthropologie store (and I will confess that I'm secretly praying you're in one right now and you've picked up my book from one of their display tables, next to a stack of Tocca soaps, or a perhaps a candle shaped like a finch), but just in case you haven't, or in case you are a guy, which means maybe you went in with your girlfriend or wife but didn't go past the couch at the front where you are supposed to sit and wait for her, Anthropologie is a retail chain that sells clothes, housewares, accessories, and gifts. But it's really so much more than that. It's an idea. A feeling. Put simply: Every Anthropologie store feels like the manger in which Zooey Deschanel was born. I'm obsessed with Anthropologie."
And Klein is not the only one who feels this way. Anthro is an obsession that many shoppers share. Klein writes about one of her purchases: "A plaid asymmetrical dress that, whenever I wear it, other women always ask, 'Where did you get that?' and then I say, 'I got it at Anthropologie,' and then they say 'Ohmigod I love Anthropologie,' and then I say, 'Yeah, me, too.' Often we have very little to say to each other afterward, but for that brief moment we understand each other." Clearly, Anthro is the great connector of shoppers everywhere.
But why? What makes Anthropologie so different from any other store? For Klein, the love started because she had spent a childhood shopping at harshly lit discount clothing stores, and an early adulthood buying whatever Gap pieces she could appropriately wear to work, and was finally ready to make her own sartorial choices. Of course, that discover of one's own style is the first time that we find the stores that will become our go-to's on shopping trips for years to come. But, again, there is something about Anthropologie that isn't just about your style, who you are today — it's about who you want to be. Who you think you could be.
"They're selling a fantasy about making yourself into a certain kind of girlfriend. The girlfriend you meet in the most magical places... Her apartment is filled with mismatched teacups and green glass wine tumblers bought for a dollar a pop at an antiques store in the Hudson Valley...."
Basically, if you shop at Anthropologie, you are that woman who is so perfectly put together that everything in her life is aesthetically pleasing, so exactly done, and so completely effortless that everything in your life is perfect. Of course, we know this is all totally untrue. Even if you shop exclusively at Anthro, or buy all of your candles from The White Company and only get your lipbalm from Henri Bendel, you're still going to have problems just like anyone else. But that's what these stores really offer us: the daydream of a perfect life. And even just window shopping at any one of them is sort of like a calming meditation, a view into another life.
"I don't remember exactly how old I was the first time I went in. But I know how it felt, because it feels the same way every single time, at every single store location. It's embarrassing how happy it makes me."
And that's exactly why I love window shopping at any and all of these dream shops. I don't necessarily need to be able to buy that $200 t-shirt or the $1500 sofa, but I do like the fact that those things are out there, in a beautifully curated space, that I can visit whenever I want to. I like imagining those items belonging to me in some alternate universe where I've got everything figured out and, as a result, dropping $445 on a hand-painted silk slip dress won't even make me think twice. Our dream stores give us some peace in a world where maybe nothing is figured out. And really, I don't need, or even want, to be the girl who, as Klein writes, will "hand my headphones to Zach Braff and tell him that the band he's about to hear is guaranteed to change his life" — and you probably don't either, But it's sort of nice to imagine anyway, isn't it?