MetaTOC stay on top of your field, easily

The changing ethos and personae of shop-window mannequins within consumer culture: Expressions of gendered embodiment


Journal of Consumer Culture

Published online on


In this article, the invention of new forms of desire that target the gendered body in consumer culture is examined through the lens of the visual rhetoric of shop-window mannequins. The article is a result of cross-disciplinary research combining rhetorical and sociological theories and methods. Inspired by nonverbal methods and theories of embodiment, successive modernities and gender, the changing ethos and personae of mannequins from the 1930s until today are decoded. The shop window could be seen as a microcosm of consumer culture and is, therefore, interesting to study over time to unveil its shifting ideals. The empirical data consist of over 1000 pictures of window displays. Questions that are asked in analysing the empirical material are the following: (1) What ethos and personae do the shop-window mannequins nonverbally express? (2) How do the ethos and personae they nonverbally express change during the transformation of modernity? and (3) Are there any differences between the ethos and personae nonverbally expressed by the male and female mannequins, as well as within each gender? In the two first sections, a theoretical understanding of the concepts of ethos and persona as forms of embodiment that emerge through the interaction between the shop-window mannequins and the consumer is developed. In the third section, the empirical technique that has been used to capture the ethos and personae expressed by the shop-window mannequins is treated. In the fourth section, the notion of successive modernities is introduced, as the study aims to observe the transformation of the ethos and personae of male and female shop-window mannequins during the course of modernity. Also a gender perspective is added as the observation shows differences between and within each gender category. In the fifth section, the result of the analysis of the empirical materials is presented.