When I was small, Lisbon Street in Lewiston was a retail shopper’s paradise. Driving through downtown Lewiston today reveals a shabbiness and lack of any retail options I’m interested in. There are a handful of eateries, but mostly storefronts with dirty windows.
Maine’s major cities all had functional downtowns; Augusta, Portland, Bangor, Waterville, Biddeford. Most are now a shell of their former glory. Retail has all moved out to the mall, or big-box complexes that ring Maine’s population centers.
I was fascinated by the large display windows that many of these shops had. Downtown Lewiston’s department stores like Peck’s, or Woolworth’s, all had large windows bordering the sidewalk, and shoppers would peer in through the glass (usually cleaned daily) at the various displays. Peck’s is now a call center, and Woolworth’s is but a memory. Long gone are Ward Brothers, Kresge’s, and Spark’s Department store.
These windows were designed and oriented with mannequins and other displays with the intent purpose of drawing you into their establishment. Putting a window display together featuring merchandise was called “window dressing.”
Window dressing is now a figure of speech, usually meant in terms of making a more favorable expression. It’s also a term that might tilt towards shady practices and fudging numbers. Like the following definition from Investopedia:
A strategy used by mutual fund and portfolio managers near the year or quarter end to improve the appearance of the portfolio/fund performance before presenting it to clients or shareholders. To window dress, the fund manager will sell stocks with large losses and purchase high flying stocks near the end of the quarter. These securities are then reported as part of the fund’s holdings.
So much of what frames success and life in these United States is filled with the latter. Some might refer to it as “smoke and mirrors.” The perpetrators of this false window dressing are “empty suits.” They usually occupy positions of power and prestige.
It’s a practice that’s built on deception and hucksterism and the hustling keeps on keeping on.