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 present is an age of great things, big stocks and striking trims. The proprietor of a vast establishment fills up his massive window with heaps upon heaps of goods, making an immense show; owners of smaller stores having but limited window space, encouraged perhaps by a spirit of rivalry, or anxious to satisfy the growing appetite for variety, heap up goods to represent large stocks. There are also a few houses who appear to vie with each other in their efforts to jumble together goods dissimilar in character; but there is little or no excuse for piling together goods from all sorts of departments in order to make what is termed a stocky show— white muslins in the midst of dull beiges; cambrics, calicoes, linens, or flannels, amongst silks &c, &c. Such mixtures represent only a heterogenous mass, without point or effect. These incongruous shows are generally the work of juniors in the trade, young men who are anxious to show everything at once—to squeeze a well assorted general stock into a small window.
The General Window has its place; among small traders it is essential, and may be made very effective by classifying the goods and maintaining the character of each distinct. The acme of window arrangement is the accumulation and appropriate disposal, i. e., that which strikes the eye as being most natural; it will be seen at once that fancy dress stuffs, silks, mantles, shawls, bonnets, ribbons, and a variety of fancy articles harmonize, as forming part of every-day costume; but the accumulation becomes incongruous when we introduce another class of goods, to-wit, houshold linens, shirting, shoes and notions.
Use three tiers as shown in illustration, the bottom row begining flush against the window pane. The effect of winding the piece of goods around dummy and then carelessly draping to the floor is shown in cut. It is simple, yet very attractive. The floor of window should be covered with a medium shade of goods. On each side of the window have goods hang down straight to the floor. The bottom, of course, should match the particular dress patterns to which they are attached.
Window-dressing, like the fashion which it represents, is subject to considerable change. A few years ago it was the custom to open dress stuffs after the manner of silks or cottons; sometimes whole windows were made up of stiff set of figures from front to back, without any break or relief. At the present time we have quite a different and opposite arrangement, doubtless owing to the soft sleazy nature of the goods in vogue. Either extreme as a set practice is unnecessary, whether it is rows of stiff puffings, having the appearance of "wooden figures," or rows of piles, which have little better effect than a number of irregular steps.
Almost all figured materials may be puffed by the aid of strong paper, or even without in some cases, to form very handsome figures which will give point or finish to the window. Whatever order is proposed, the first row should be allowed as much room as possible. Large windows are often most effective, owing to this rule being observed throughout.
A great number of fancy materials may be shown to advantage by raising to any of the figures already given for silks and cottons.
Striped and fancy skirts or skirtings, as forming part of "The Dress Window," will be found very useful in giving variety to the whole. They may be treated in many different ways. A whole window is very effective when composed solely of tiers of skirts, each skirt showing a cylindical form about five-eights of a yard long. A length of striped skirting opened upon the counter in about yard folds, and "folded over into about three or four pleats running the length of fold, which, being afterwards doubled in the center, will improve some parts of the dress window