Sunday, December 11, 2011

An Anthro Primer, Vol. 4

Pleated Ponte Skirt? Tie-Neck Sweater Dress? Someone in Anthro's merchandising department is dropping the ball, when it comes to naming! How are we supposed to feel worldly and well-read if there aren't mysterious and seductive allusions to other cultures, art, and the natural world, liberally sprinkled over the names of the items in their catalog?

How am I supposed to write the next installment of the Anthro Primer, if I have nothing more inspiring to work with, than Ribboned Collar Top? All three of those words, after all, are positively intelligible and incredibly...ordinary.

Dear Anthropologie staff, just in case all of our ribbing in these posts (and no, I have no illusions that we're nearly that important to you, but one never knows) have started to wilt your creativity - let us be clear. We actually really enjoy the crazy names you come up with for the products you sell. Please, keep up the good work. Because truly, as descriptive and completely straightforward as the name, Lacy Longsleeved Tee may be, it's not nearly as thrilling as something like, Serissa Tulle Blouse. Which, by the way, is how we're going to start the next bit of the Anthro Primer (for previous installments, see volumes 1, 2, and 3).

1. Serissa Tulle Blouse - Serissa refers to a genus of flowering evergreen shrubs commonly called Snowrose, Tree of a Thousand Stars, or Japanese Boxthorn. This is a plant I've seen about quite a lot, though I had no idea, prior to the writing of this post, what it was called.

A bonsai version of the Serissa (image source)

2. Yarlung River Top - The Yarlung River, (also known as the Yarlung Zambo or the Yalu Zangbu) is the highest river in the world, flowing through South Tibet Valley and part of India, where it's known as the Dihang. It passes through the Yarlung Zangbo Grand Canyon, which is the world's largest and deepest canyon. It is the setting of some controversy (over the "discovery" of the Hidden Falls - one of three waterfalls, which were considered somewhat legendary, as they remained unseen by Western eyes until 1998 - though Chinese explorers had photographically documented the falls a couple decades earlier) and tragedy, with the deaths of expert and amateur kayakers who were attempting to navigate the Zangbo Gorge.

3. Pinnate Shimmer Shell - From the Merriam-Webster dictionary: resembling a feather especially in having similar parts arranged on opposite sides of an axis like the barbs on the rachis of a feather pinnate leaf; - see LEAF ILLUSTRATION - pin-nate-ly adverb. Which seems very appropriate for this particular top.

4. Pattern Call Blouse - Okay, this is a tricky one, and I may be completely off-base on this. There are a couple different possibilities as to what this name may be referring. My best guess is that it has something to do with the calling that happens in square dancing - I've found some references online, where that type of calling is referred to as "pattern calling." I also read, on Wikipedia, that square dance callers do something known as "patter" calling, where they intersperse rhythmic rhyming into what their calling. I also found references to "call patterns," which seem to have something to do with coding software. I'm going to guess, though, that it's more a reference to the square dancing, as the print on this shirt is evocative of a quilt, and in my mind, the two (quilts and square dancing) are both related to a more bucolic way of living.

Pattern Call Blouse

5. Altiplano Tunic - The Altiplano, which means "high plain," in Spanish, is a broad expanse of high plateau (apparently, the highest on earth, outside of Tibet), located in the central Andes, in west-central South America. It's bounded by eleven large and active volcanoes (of the Central Volcanic Zone - yikes!).

6. Vinalhaven Cardigan - Vinalhaven is the name of a small town located in the Fox Islands in the state of Maine. In the 19th century, it was one of the state's largest quarrying centers, known for its high quality granite - stone from those quarries were used in many structures of note (including the Washington Monument, the State Department Building in D.C., the Brooklyn Bridge, the Pennsylvania Railroad Station, and the Masonic Temple in Philadelphia). Many of those now-abandoned quarries have filled with groundwater, and have become popular swimming holes for both residents and visitors. Vinalhaven hosts an active lobster fishing community and in the summers, is a well-established destination for affluent Northeasterners.

7. Testcard Pullover - Test cards, also known as test patterns, are used by television broadcasters, to facilitate calibration, adjustment, and alignment of equipment - in particular, cameras and camcorders. These television signal tests are usually conducted when broadcasters are starting up or closing down, as these are times when they are transmitting, but are not broadcasting any programming. Test cards were originally actual physical cards, which cameras were pointed at, but these days, test cards are digitally generated allowing vendors, viewers, and television stations alike, to adjust their equipment for optimal functionality. Erm, because that's what I'm doing whenever I see this pattern on my tv screen....

8. Talgarth Pencil Skirt - So, Talgarth is a small market town located in Southern Powys, in mid-Wales. It's got some seriously historical roots, with tradition naming it as the capitol of an early medieval kingdom, Brycheiniog (later conquered by the Normans somewhere between 1080 and 1095). Some of its oldest structures include a 14th century parish church and a 13th century tower - which now houses the Tourist Information and Resource Centre. Incredible, right? They just don't make 'em like they used to.

9. Nazca Skirt - So, the name "Nazca" refers to a region in southern Peru, where there are a series of valleys and a desert that goes by this name. There is also a town in this area called Nazca as well as an ancient culture. Most interestingly, however, are the Nazca Lines, which are a group of geoglyphs (essentially, figures and lines "drawn" into the earth, via shallow trenches) that are believed to have been created by the Nazca culture between 400 and 650 A.D.. The figures include images of birds, fish, monkeys, humans, trees, and flowers, as well as other animals and geometric shapes. The Nazca Lines were designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994, and are the source of much conjecture (translate: "conspiracy theories") over the methods of creation as well as purpose of the figures.

Nazca Lines - Spider

10. Rodna Halter Dress - When I looked up "Rodna," I found that there's a village called Rodna Veche in Romania, after which are named the Rodna Mountains. The Rodna Mountains are a part of the Eastern Carpathians that run through northern Romania. They're well suited for hiking, and famous for their late snows, that permit skiing well into June and sometimes July.

So, that's it for this edition of the Anthro Primer. Hope you enjoyed it!


  1. So interesting! Of course, I had to click the links to see the connection of each piece to their names. In doing so, I discovered my love of the Vinalhaven Cardigan. :)

  2. Thank you so much for this!! And the earlier "volumes" :) Oh and btw - I actually asked Johanna (forget her last name) the Leifsdottir designer, about where the inspiration came from and how they came up with these whimsical garment names in a webchat a few months ago - specifically I told her I loved the names but how did they come up with them and I gave the "Ottoman Poppies Dress" as an example - because I knew their teams sometimes reproduced paintings or furniture on fabric I asked if this had anything to do with an Ottoman (seemed logical to me...:). so anyway, she gave a total 'flowery' non answer!! She said something like "we are inspired by our travels, the seasons, (and what we ate for breakfast that day) - or she may as well have :) Anyway, so I was left none the wiser... Love your blog.

  3. This was so interesting to read! Thank you for putting this together - and I love that pattern call blouse :)