Window inspiration and installation – by Gemma Burgess

Since I started working at Barnardo’s a year ago, our shop windows have been one of the biggest changeGemma Burgesss I have implemented, changing them every month (three times a week sometimes). I strive to showcase all of the great donations that we receive daily at Barnardo’s Vintage. Our windows highlight our speciality within the business and make us a destination store in the heart of the bustling village of Cheadle. Here is a step by step guide and an insight into how I prepare and install Barnardo’s Vintage Windows:

Inspiration: This usually starts with a theme if it’s seasonal – for example, what’s happening on the catwalks, latest trends, and new discoveries I find through Pinterest and Instagram. I base it around collections I have in store, for example I’ve just had some great pieces for autumn/winter so have kept them in the stock room to use in the window. I hope to recreate the feel and mood of a grand old library; take a look at my mood board for colour palette and prop ideas!

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When planning a window we tend to get suitable items donated which is fantastic! A lady donated two imperial typewriters and a counting machine which will look great encased in an old writing bureau we already have in store. I keep costs down to a bare minimum by utilising current stock and if I don’t have something in particular, I make it; it’s very different to when I had a commercial brief and a budget to stick to. Designing and installing your own windows is very liberating as long as you stick to the correct principles, the possibilities are endless!

I make sure I incorporate everything we sell for example a piece of vintage furniture, lighting, linens and of course men and women’s clothing, so the display is eye catching and intriguing to passers-by (your captive audience). I make sure there is something for everyone.

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Once you’ve got your theme and you’ve picked your stock it’s now time to plan the finer details and make sure that what you have selected is going to fit in the space you’ve allocated to your window. I keep the furniture to a minimum of two pieces normally to give the display depth and height (and somewhere for the mannequins to sit). I’m keeping it to four mannequins this time – two that were kindly donated by John Lewis when we did a ‘Store Wars’ event with them and two bust forms that belong to me, which I use in-store for displays.

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I’m going to use the huge frame we have, which is great as you can set up a focal point and it frames the window. I’ve also put in a curtain pole to hang curtains that give a splash of colour to the backdrop and create a dark moody feel so I can use lots of lamps. It will block out some of the natural light, however I think this will add to the overall effect (and I can always swag the curtains during the day to let in some daylight). The curtains will also form a natural barrier to stop customers going into the window and taking the clothing off the mannequins – this happens regularly (nothing surprises me after working nearly 20 years in retail)!

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Prepping your clothes is important so steam out those creases and make sure that all of your clothing is priced with the ticket attached so that people can clearly see it without disturbing the display.

I always dress a mannequin in an outfit and style it like you’d wear it with accessories so it fits your body. It’s also important to make vintage accessible to everyone by styling it in a contemporary way so people can imagine themselves wearing the outfit you’ve put together (and so they buy the whole outfit) or just a key piece that they can incorporate into their existing wardrobe.

I’d love to hear what you’d like me to incorporate in our next window, and if you’d like more styling tips. I’m also open to any ideas or collaborations – contact me via my Instagram @VintageCheadle!

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A Selection of the windows I have set up since I started a year ago, including Madhatter’s tea party styled with Danielle Brett, American Hustle, Vivienne Westwood, and Halloween (Beetle juice inspired).

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Want to check out Barnardo’s vintage store in Cheadle for yourself? Find store details here.

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