Deck The Halls

As we get ready to transform our homes into winter wonder lands this festive season, we look back to issue 26 when Clare Lewis explored the life of the Christmas window display...

In the olden days, shop windows were rather prosaic except at Christmas when to a child’s eye they became winter wonderlands. Snow covered, fir tree forests appeared offering temporary shelter to log-chopping elves and nodding reindeer. Father Christmas grottos of the simplest kind transported us to an imaginary Lapland, belief was suspended and a blind eye turned to the fact that Father Christmas sat chortling in every department store in Oxford Street. Inevitably the commercial possibilities of this innocent fun were soon harnessed. These days, whole floors are taken over; a year’s planning and enormous budgets are invested; armies of people are employed to bring the Christmas experience to a high street near you.

Window shopping has always been a feast for the eyes. Markets and bazaars across the globe still tantalise with their perfectly styled, vertiginous pyramids of brightly coloured spices tempting us to buy. But the market place has moved on and smart department stores, fashion boutiques and shops have gone well beyond the ‘pile them high’ approach and so have their customers. The artistry and aims remain a constant but the once humble shop window has become a constantly evolving stage to be dressed and undressed in anything from the positively theatrical, through witty and clever to completely conceptual.

Most shops have a distinctive style. ‘Harvey Nichols is forward thinking and modern, making full use of their huge bank of windows’ says Liz Thody, Fashion Director of Easy Living, ‘whereas Fortnum and Mason is old fashioned and delightful. Their windows remind me of a lost age of window dressing with moving parts like a wind-up jewellery box.’ Liberty could be described as English with a whimsical twist and Selfridges, who in its early life boasted the largest run of shop windows in the UK, likes to use arresting images to tell their story. The store was one of the founders of the modern movement in display: it was the first to illuminate its windows at night and to introduce the idea of telling a story rather than cramming them with products...

You can read this article in full in Selvedge issue 26. To bring some festive style into your home, you can download our How To Make A Christmas Wreath craft project here.

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