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What is a Window Dresser?

By Sheri Cyprus
Updated Mar 02, 2024
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A window dresser, or visual merchandiser, displays products in store windows. Visual merchandising in windows is an important marketing strategy as interesting window displays can catch the attention of passers by. Once their attention is caught by a product displayed in the window, these potential customers are more likely to enter the store to take a look around than to pass by it. A window dresser usually has an art or design education as well as marketing training.

Window dressers must think of the target audience and how best to attract them. For example, the windows of a budget-friendly kitchen supply shop could include brightly colored signage along with the displayed dishware that advertises the low prices in order to entice shoppers into the store. Of course, the items displayed must be attractive to the target market as no one wants to buy unattractive products. Well-coordinated colors and designs help make the products look even better; this is an area in which a talented window dresser can really improve sales.

The materials a window dresser uses to enhance the displayed products, such as fabric, signs, painted backdrops and other accessories, must stay within the business' marketing budget. The cost of these materials and the window merchandiser's fee are considered advertising expenses for the store. Spending too much money on window displays isn't usually worth risking, since other types of advertising are needed to reach more potential customers than only passers by. The salary for window dressers varies widely and must be negotiated with store managers.

Creating seasonal displays is a common task for a window dresser. He or she will use colors and symbols associated with the season, such as a pastel color scheme and a bunny motif for an Easter window. Experienced window dressers know how to persuasively display store products in a beautiful or whimsical backdrop. Window dressers must consider how the display looks from the street and decorate the sides and bottoms rather than just the center areas of store windows.

Window dressers who work for clothing stores often use mannequins to model the clothes. Mannequins, or dummies, are look-alikes of the human form. Unlike dressmaker's dummies that feature only the torso or midsection, mannequins have a head, torso, and limbs. The limbs of store mannequins are usually made with metal or plastic pieces that act as joints so that the arms and legs can be posed into different positions. Flexible mannequins allow the window dresser to use them for many different types of displays.

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Discussion Comments

By shell4life — On Feb 01, 2012

I love the way that window dressers design displays around Christmas time. They play with textures and colors, and they really bring on a holiday spirit.

My favorite retail window dressing display was at a greeting card and gift shop on the town square. The window dresser had used a combination of white felt, fleece, sugar crystals, and glitter to make a dazzling snow scene.

On top of the snow he placed various ornaments and lights available inside the store. The lights were arranged in such a way that the color reflected off of the snow, and the ornaments appeared to be standing in it, with their feet partially covered.

By cloudel — On Jan 31, 2012

Window dressers know how to take the most attractive clothes in the store and showcase them. Generally, these are also some of the more expensive items in the store. I think the hope is that once your desire for them has set in, you won't let the price deter you.

It almost worked on me. I was walking past a store with the cutest dress I have ever seen on a mannequin in the window, so I had to check it out.

The price was $80. Since this was a dress that I would only get to wear on special occasions, I knew it wasn't worth the money. That didn't stop me from considering it strongly, though.

By kylee07drg — On Jan 31, 2012

@Perdido – You might try applying at a few other, less picky stores in your area. Once you get your foot in the door, it can open up several others.

My cousin is a freelance window dresser, and his first job was designing the display at his mother's gift shop. He had always had a natural talent for laying things out in an attractive way, and the window he designed was absolutely beautiful.

He took plenty of photos of it from every angle, and he used these in his portfolio. He just started inquiring in every store around town, and he found out that several of them were in need of help in that area. Once they saw his previous work, they were sold.

By Perdido — On Jan 30, 2012

I applied for a window dresser job at a home décor store last fall, but I didn't get it. I thought that my degree in graphic design and experience in building ads would be enough, but this store was very particular in its requirements.

Their classified ad stated that they wanted someone with a degree in design, but candidates also needed some sort of merchandising experience. I had hoped that maybe no one meeting both of these qualifications would apply, so maybe I would get the job by default, but this didn't happen.

I think it would be so fun to be a window dresser. I would love to walk by a store window and know that I was responsible for the artistic display that everyone on that street got to see.

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