The mannequins in department-store windows traditionally are posed in attitudes of stiff propriety. But a countertrend is under way at some fashionable stores, spurred by young window dressers who group their figures to enact little immobile dramas of sex, bizarre fantasy, even suicide—just about anything that will make a jaded passer-by stop and look. Explains Candy Pratts, 26-year-old window designer for Bloomingdale's in New York: "You've got to reach anybody who walks by and zap 'em."

At times the displays get risqué. Example: a series of windows at Los Angeles' May Co....

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