window dressing

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window dressing (usually uncountable, plural window dressings)

  1. The decorative display of retail merchandise in store windows; the goods and trimmings used in such a display.
    • 1897, S. R. Crockett, The Surprising Adventures of Sir Toady Lion with Those of General Napoleon Smith, New York: Frederick A. Stokes, Chapter 33, p. 252,[1]
      The linen-draper at the corner under the town clock was divided between keeping an eye on his apprentices to see that they did not spar with yard sticks, and mentally criticising the ludicrous and meretricious window-dressing of his next-door neighbour.
    • 1938, Graham Greene, Brighton Rock, Vintage, 2002, Chapter 3,
      [] a shop where a shingle could be had for two shillings in the same building as a coffin-maker’s who worked in oak, elm or lead: no window-dressing but one child’s coffin dusty with disuse and the list of hairdressing prices.
    • 1991, Winn Schwartau, Terminal Compromise, Seminole, Florida: Inter.Pact, Chapter 18,[2]
      On Sundays when the Red Light District is closed until 6 P.M., many Dutch families use the window dressings as the textbook for their children’s sex education.
  2. (uncountable) The process, skill or task of creating such a display.
    • 1905, H. G. Wells, Kipps: The Story of a Simple Soul, New York: Scribner, Book I, Chapter 2, p. 46,[3]
      Such days as there was no window-dressing there was a mighty carrying and lifting of blocks and bales of goods into piles and stacks.
    • 1921, Joseph C. Lincoln, Galusha the Magnificent, New York: D. Appleton & Co., Chapter 15, p. 252,[4]
      Down in the village Ras Beebe began his twice-a-year window dressing, removing the caps, candy, sweaters, oil heaters, patent medicines and mittens to substitute bathing suits, candy, straw hats, toy shovels, patent medicines and caps.
  3. (idiomatic, uncountable) A means of creating a deceptively favourable impression of something or someone; something for appearance only.
    These latest modifications are mere window dressing; the same problems remain.
    • 2011 December 14, Angelique Chrisafis, “Rachida Dati accuses French PM of sexism and elitism”, in Guardian[5]:
      Meanwhile, the left is deliberately running more ethnically diverse candidates in the parliamentary elections next year, claiming Sarkozy's one-time "rainbow" cabinet of racially diverse women had turned out to be window dressing.


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