This section is from the "A Complete Dictionary of Dry Goods" book, by George S. Cole. Also available from Amazon: A complete dictionary of dry goods and history of silk, cotton, linen, wool and other fibrous substances,: Including a full explanation of the modern processes ... together with various useful tables.
The tendency of the time is toward exclusive displays, but the heavy and formal outlines generally so presented would form a great argument against them. An immense show of silks in stacks will convey the impression of wealth and business done. It will attract those connected with the trade, who, being familiar with parcels and wrappers, appreciate heavy piles as capital invested. But the customer, having no knowledge of parcels and wrappers, may not be able to distinguish between silk and glazed lining. Always attracted by beauty and fashion, she is most likely to pass valuable piles without notice. It cannot be denied that some exclusive windows are made very telling, but it is when the goods are most exposed, and clearly indicated by arrangement and ticket. Keeping this in mind, the window-dresser will do well to make stock subservient to fashion, studying to arrest notice by the beauty of his window, making the solid stacks as pillars to throw more important work into relief.
It follows that nearly all windows should be mixed to the extent to which different materials or articles will lend point or improvement. This has already been urged in working out the separate departments; it is an answer to the whole question, How shall I dress my window? But we will now consider mixed or general windows, so called. The first and best illustration would be found in the evening dress show. Here we find it almost universal to introduce materials and fancy articles from every department so far as consistent, and generally in the smaller houses of the trade there are very extensive preparations for this exhibit. Sidebrackets are hung with handsome shawls, cloaks, or wraps, centers festooned with white or pale colored lace, and center brackets decorated with ribbons and ties. The first row on the floor will perhaps consist of two or three lengths of light material opened and puckered, with trimming or lace falling gracefully over them. Between each a good table plant will form the center, having on either side a pair of rich stockings, gloves, or length of sash ribbon. Another row will show grenadines opened as before, but behind the fancy goods, a fan being placed between upon a stand with perhaps another table plant. Immediately in the rear of this row two or three costumes will be displayed upon high stands, intermediate positions being occupied by whole pieces of silk standing erect, having rich lace trailing over them. Sprays or sets of flowers dropped in conspicuous places, or suspended, lace sets upon stands, dress caps and a piece or two of sash ribbon falling from brackets: this will represent a good window if arranged with taste and care; the articles may be varied, positions altered, and materials, including tarlatan, tulle, muslin, stuff, or silk may be used. It is a Mixed Window, but only as skill is exercised in blending color and material will the mixing be a success.
A three-tier window is necessary for the reproduction of the above design. The blankets are made fast upon each side by tacking. The principal difficulty in arranging blankets is to make the folds lie flat and smooth. This can best be accomplished by pinning from the underneath. It will be observed that the borders form the corner of a perfect square if folded at the proper angle. This adds much to the neat appearance of the display. The two side pieces in the illustration are made by draping a blanket (opened half) over a dummy, and then capping with another having merely the first fold thrown back.
The Mixed Fancy Window, offering the choice of so many departments, requires especial care; and although almost any articles contained in the long list of haberdashery or trimmings may be included, it is essential that suitable divisions should come in contact. Balls of worsted, or tapes, would not look well mixed up with frillings or lace, but from divisions of haberdashery we may work through braids and trimmings, to ribbons, lace, and flowers. Hose and gloves will not always look well following flowers and feathers, but linen collars and cuffs or ribbons will sometimes offer change. Some white goods will so improve colors as to make the admixture occasionally desirable; festoons of lace amongst choice flowers, ribbons or ties; and so, while a window may be filled with every kind of small goods, the divisions can be so arranged as to please the eye and attract customers. The object is the same in all mixed windows—to group together the greatest variety of goods consistent with harmony; and as a matter of fact this is the secret of all successful window-dressing.
Sameness is not pleasing; and so, while ignoring the strict rules and jealousy of departments—which would confine the goods available for show within narrow and unreasonable limits—and guarding against the inconsistency of incongruous mixtures so often found in what are called General Windows, we have endeavored throughout these descriptions to give such clear and simple suggestions as may lead to a closer study of this necessary art.