Friday, January 29, 2010

elegy for an uncommon mannequin

I stumbled upon the department store in the summer of 2005, drawn by its charming window display: four handsome mannequins tenderly posed and positioned in a manner reminiscent of yesteryear, a painstaking re-creation of a mid-century fashion aesthetic. Surely some savvy designer had rescued them from an attic, swept the cobwebs and dust from their faces. Then it hit me. “This is Lafayette.” It was no re-creation. The mannequins were so old they had come back to life.

I returned to the store in 2009 to visit the mannequins again. The store-front was deserted. The awnings were rolled and tied. A half-century of grime traced the shapes of seven letters where a sign spelling SALOOM'S used to hang. The USE OUR LAY AWAY PLAN sign sat with frozen and barren delicacy on the pile of an off-white carpet. Where mannequins once stood boldly empty dresses draped from hangers. I recognized three of the four dresses from my last visit there four years ago. “The turnover made a fabulous museum ,” I thought to myself, “but it didn't do anything for business.” A note with a telephone number was taped to the inside of the door. The woman who answered the phone said, “Oh there's years the mannequins have been spoken for.”