You are here

Window Dressing For Beginners

Consider your storefront windows. Does the display draw people in to your shop? A window display is the aesthetic presentation of merchandise and props inside a shop/store window. The act of decorating and putting up merchandise in a store window is called window dressing. A shop window is part of your advertising. Although most of us groan inwardly when we think about doing up the windows; the potential sales gain is worth making an effort on window dressing.

There are only a few basic rules for window dressing. What are the rules? I am not an expert, I have no training in art or visual merchandise but I offer what I have learned through my years of experimentation. The basic rules as I see them are to Tell a Story and Keep it Simple.

Basic components:

  •     theme
  •     backdrop
  •     lighting
  •     movement

Choose a theme – this is often based on the season or holiday but can be about anything. Your theme is what you use to tell the story. If you want to tell about a new product, let that be your theme. Think about the colors, shapes, and sizes you want to use in the display. Now, take a walk around your back room and your shop floor. What jumps out at you in the color or shape? What can be used as bases to build around? Or accents?

Start making a list. Then visit your shop window/s. Consider the size: width, height and depth and the distance for viewers.  Many windows have a section built up for display and separate from the floor stock area. It may or may not have a backdrop. If it does not, build one. Use anything that will create a break from the shop merchandise floor. This helps the window to stand out. Foam board, plywood, fiber board or simple lengths of fabric are ways to make a backdrop.

In general, the saying, “less is more” is your guide - Refrain from cluttering the window. Before you start pulling stock and setting things in the window take a walk and look for inspiration. I go to the Dollar Store and start looking at colors and shapes of objects. Forget what their normal use might be, would it work in your window theme? This past summer I used flyswatters in lime green leaf shapes as trim on hats because the color was perfect and they were large which made them dramatic on the hats. For our situation, the fact they were made of non fading material was also a plus. Our large windows get bright morning sun and things fade quickly.  I also pick things up at local garage sales or thrift shops. Your imagination is your best friend for finding inexpensive items to re-use.

When starting a display ask yourself, Who do you want to attract? Who are you selling to? Windows that are mostly seen by street traffic need to catch the driver's eye in a couple of seconds. Windows  for pedestrians can have more detail because people walking by can stop to take in the display. Make your mantra, “keep it simple”. Visit other businesses, check out their store window displays. What works and what does not seem to work in your opinion? No one wants to have boring product display; everyone wants to have an interesting shop window display to capture the attention of the customers.

Varied height and angles gives movementBack from your inspirational walk, let's take another look at your window space. Where is eye level from the street fall? That should be your main focus area. However, you do not want everything at that level. You want  Movement - A good story has ebb and flow. Use all of the window space in some way.  You want the viewer's eye to move around the window, to take it all in. That means pulling the eye up, down, sideways. For example, my windows have plywood backdrops, two 4x8  foot pieces hinged together (the corner window uses more). These are covered in fabric. Our window floors are three feet deep and rise about 18 inches from the merchandise floor. We drape additional fabric from these solid backdrops, being sure to shorten the corners. This way corners are rounded and the viewer is not left with nowhere for the eye to go.

Next I arrange bases, items I am using to hold the product. I want a variety of heights for the most part. This could be a wooden chair, brightly colored shelf, or a cardboard box covered in fabric. Sometimes my bases are part of the display and sometimes I make them blend into the backdrop by using the same color or fabric. Once in a while, I like to do a window with everything on one level. It is usually a one or two color window with little in it. Maybe three hats on stands at street level, for example. Once you have the movement items positioned the actual placing of the product is simple.

Another tool to consider is Lighting. It will provide a quiet guide to the viewer of what in the display is most important. If there is no lighting built into the window area you will have to create it. We use a combination of back and spot lights. The back lighting gives a warm glow to the display while the brighter spotlights point to your chosen product. Holiday-related lighting is useful. We use LED net lighting that hangs from the top of our window display all year. These 3 x 8 foot nets are like twinkling stars at night. After the holidays shop for the discounted lights to use in your windows all year.

Good windows do not require a large budget. Inexpensive party decorations and seasonal items can be used over and over again. Household items can be given new looks and uses to displays. Paint is your friend. We store items in large boxes marked with the season. When beginning a new display, I can go to the box for that season and peruse the items. Aim for window display changes every 2-3 months. More frequent is fine, but 4-6 times a year is normal.

Besides general searching online for ideas, Pinterest is a great resource for inspiration. I have begun a Pinterest Board for VISUAL MERCHANDISING  and invite you to visit it for more ideas. I try to post good and bad examples on the board. Search for window dressing and/or visual merchandising. There are lots of articles and helps to be found on the Internet.





Jane Porter - associate editor at, “7 Tips to Create Winning Window Displays”
Norbert Grüger -  display designer and author, “Interview with Norbert Grüger” by Euro Shop Trade Fair
Jyppe A Quidores -  graphic designer and visual merchandising specialist,  “9 Visual Merchandising Tips and Ideas for Retailers “

104 S. Detroit St, LaGrange, IN. 46761  •  EMAIL  •  260-499-4407 • Toll Free: 877-499-4407 (U.S. only) •  Fax: 260-499-3477
© 2012 Judith M. All Rights Reserved.   Privacy Policy  •  Contact Us   About Us Refund Policy  •Help & Information