Friday, February 1, 2013


"... where others find safety in numbers, I find safety in Selfridges. This department store seems synonymous with familiarity. Standing on its own rectangular island of city space, imperious and independent, the great inverted shoe box of Selfridges presents the weathered masonry of its Empire façade with a flourish which sings its own praises, reaching the crescendo, as it were, in the high solemnity of the welcoming angel who crowns the great clock above the ceremonial entrance.

The windows at street level look like the massive tanks of some giant aquarium. Today, lined and carpeted with reams of multicolored crêpe paper, these tanks were each inhabited by three languid mannequins, female in form. They had the same shade and texture of whiteness as plaster of Paris or chalk dust. Tall and demure, their limbs tapering and elongated, they stood with one arm akimbo, hand on hip, and the other gesturing upwards, as though each extended open palm had once been carrying a tray of cocktails. Their bald white heads, with blank indentations to signify expressions of fashionable hauteur, were turned to the left and slightly inclined, deflecting the vulgarity of the stares they hoped for.

Each set of three mannequins had been dressed in the outfits of a different designer and their common theme was the promise of summer:  linen suits, wraparound skirts, cotton dresses and snappy, athletic swimming costumes. And each window had a slogan: 'Love and Cool!', 'Wet and Wild!', 'Verve and Dash!'  –– panic and emptiness."

Michael Bracewell
(from the novel Perfect Tense, Jonathan Cape, 2001)