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Is the window display a dying art form?

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As online shopping continues to grow, brick and mortar stores are trying to figure out new ways to bring in customers. Could old school window displays help?

When I think of window shopping I’m taken back to that first scene in "Breakfast at Tiffany's."

Audrey Hepburn's drinking a coffee, and looking through the window at a display full of jewelry – pining after a lifestyle that she wish that she had.

And as it turns out — that’s exactly what window dressers want you to feel.

“What I try to do in each window is sell the brand to the people walking by. I’m not interested in selling the dress. I’m interested in selling what you will be like, what you will become if you shop here.”

That’s ChadMichael Morissette, a freelance window dresser in L.A.

I met him in front of one of his displays at a gown shop in Studio City.

“We have two gowns showcased on two custom life sized barbie mannequins. And I’ve created giant Barbie boxes.”

There are clutches, shoes, and bows in the display, just like a real Barbie would have.

And ChadMichael’s been using his mannequins in displays for high end fashion lines for eight years 

But window dressing is nothing new.

“I think that the earliest that the department stores really became to be these all purpose emporiums… is in the late 1880s, early 1890s," says retail historian Michael Lisicky.

By the early 1900s, ready-made clothing started to show up in boutiques and designers needed a way to showcase their work and that’s when high end fashion displays started to pop up.

“Window displays are a part of advertising," says Lisicky. "It’s an advertising, yes, it goes back to when stores were just figuring out who they were. This was before newspapers, this was before television. You needed the windows to define yourself.”

In the 1950s displays became a key part of the image of brands like Lord and Taylor, and they started to look more like art installations.

That trend’s continued in high end boutiques today, but less so in big chain stores where modern shoppers generally know what to expect before they walk into the store, says Lisicky.

You can blame that on online shopping, he says, where customers can see what stores might have available to them before heading in to try stuff on.

While online retail is growing faster than brick and mortar, analysts say that shoppers are still finding themselves in stores — frequently.

“There is a reason for going into stores,” says Lynne Sperling, a retail and wholesale business consultant in Los Angeles.  “One: Customer service; Two: Entertainment; Three: It just becomes an activity for people just to see what’s happening.”

It’s hard to say what the future of window dressing will be, but next time you walk past a shop window, take a moment to appreciate the art. Check out the mannequins and their fabulous outfits. They could be some of ChadMichael's girls.

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