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Dazzling and Deceiving: Reflections in the Nineteenth-Century Department Store

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The seemingly ubiquitous object, the mirror, simultaneously advertised new commercial goods and shaped subjectivity in the late nineteenth-century department store. Mirrors could be found throughout the store, serving simultaneously as entertainment, advertisements, and monitoring devices. This new reflective environment implicated the female consumer in unexpected and contradictory ways, thereby complicating an understanding of the flâneuse. I show how, on one hand, mirrored interiors worked to manipulate women by reflecting consumers into the displays, and encouraging them to buy while simultaneously monitoring their shopping. On the other hand, I suggest ways in which these mirrored spaces had unintentionally liberating effects by expanding the consumer's viewing position and creating more mobile social identities that temporarily documented her within the expensive merchandise and décor of the store.
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Keywords: Advertising; Department Stores; Flâneuse; Grands Magasins; Mirrors

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: June 1, 2012

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