It’s Tuesday so it’s The History Of Retail In 100 Objects post – This weeks object is The Mirror
Reflections of our own image had a magical significance in ancient cultures. In early times glass polished stones or metal were used. The Ro mans coated flat glass with silver or gold foil. Justus von Liebig discovered the chemical process of coating a glass surface with metallic silver in 1835. Today, mirrors are still made by coating a thin layer of molten aluminium or silver onto the back of a plate glass in a vacuum. How ever, mirrors and their capabilities are still evolving. During the Renaissance, Nuremberg and Venice became centres of excellence for mirror production but by the middle of the 17th century mirror making was practised extensively in London and Paris. The Royal Palace of Versailles had incredible mirrors in the staterooms, which created a sensation at the time. Craftsmen such as Grinling Gibbons in the late 17th and early 18th centuries produced elaborately carved mirror frames, and English brothers Robert and James Adam created ceiling-high fireplace units that used mirrors to create a special ambiance. As the 19th century progressed, mirror making became cheaper and mirrors were put into wardrobes, sideboards, and clothing retailers began installing them in and around store interiors and in changing and fitting rooms. Three-way mirrors were also introduced to help customers see themselves from different angles when trying on clothes. Today, mirrors are taking on new dimensions as digital technology begins to extend their capabilities for retail use. For example, interactive mirrors in stores incorporate a camera which captures the customer’s body dimensions and stance. Using hand gestures, the customer ‘swipes’ different outfits from a display menu and the mirror shows their reflection with the selected garment superimposed over their on-screen image. The digital delay mirror records the customer’s reflection and outputs it on a two second delay, enabling them to see what they look like from the back.
Contribution to Retail History
Mirrors are key to encouraging purchase of garments as the ability to see how they look on the wearer plays a major role in the decision-making process. The fitting room is a key part of the shopper experience. Mirrors give consumers the ultimate reassurance of the validity of their purchase decision and as such help generate millions in retail sale.
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