On the Boulevard de Sébastopol in the second arrondissement of Paris is a shop window that displays unclothed mannequins de vitrine. When you think about it, it’s a shop window for people who are shopping for their shop windows. Here you can find mannequins that have plainly come out of the closet—outspokenly gay mannequins dressed up in cowboy hats or construction helmets like the Village People, and also mannequins of women who you can never have, bold Parisian women with perfect breasts whose nipples point indifferently at the longeur they have inspired. These are not like the mannequins you find in New York or Chicago or even in Vienna or London. They are very French, to the extent that they exude the delight in sexuality and in appearance that characterizes life along all the great streets of Paris—St. Michel, St. Germain, Raspail, Montparnasse, and Montorgueil (a small thoroughfare emerging at the heart of one of Paris’s most trafficked neighborhoods). A store window has to be populated by mannequins that customers can relate to. Otherwise, they won’t buy the merchandise. Though these mannequins are silent, they radiate the self-possession and almost jingoistic confidence that characterizes the French. These mannequins wear French culture on their non-existent sleeves.
[This was originally posted to The Screaming Pope, Francis Levy's blog of rants and reactions to contemporary politics, art and culture.]