NEW YORK — What do Miss Piggy, the Mouse King, Cher, Sleeping Beauty and Christy Turlington have in common? The holidays — and particularly the togetherness of New York retailer’s Yuletide windows.

Stores may be approaching the holiday selling season with trepidation, but they’ve lavished as much money as in the past on their windows in the hopes of beckoning shoppers inside. For some, the classics have provided the inspiration, while others have taken on more whimsical topics. The Christmas window-unveiling season kicks off tonight when Lord & Taylor and Saks Fifth Avenue reveal their designs. Other stores will follow over the next two weeks.

Barneys New York, spurred by creative director Simon Doonan, opted for an homage to Cher this year, cleverly entitled "The Holidays are a time for ‘Cher-ing’." Each window on Madison Avenue and the one on 61st Street will be devoted to a decade of Cher, starting with the psychedelic Sixties. Rounding out the windows for the current decade is a giant-sized, papier-mâché rendering of Cher’s face, decorated entirely with candy and festooned with hot pink ribbons as her hair. All the displays are titled with clever word-plays such as "Cher and Cher Alike" and "Cher-ing and Caring." The windows will go in throughout this week.

Elements like old album covers are used as backdrops while real bagels are used decoratively in the Eighties, a nod to the singer’s former bagel-shop beau Rob Camilletti, and torn fishnets in the Nineties, when the singer in a video wore an ensemble that most closely resembled a bathing suit accessorized with ripped stockings. Cher mannequins will be dressed in original gowns Bob Mackie created for the singer. Also, witty quotes from the star appear in each decade, including, "If I want to put my tits on my back, it’s nobody’s business but my own," referring to plastic surgery.

The use of the diva as the focus of Barneys windows was fitting, according to Doonan, because she has such a broad appeal. "Cher is very self-deprecating, so she’ll appreciate these," he said of the window treatments. "The thing about Cher is that there is a Cher for everyone. If you hated her in the Eighties, you might have loved her in the Nineties."Bergdorf Goodman hit upon allegorical tableaux to create windows that had "a very optimistic feel, along with a certain exuberance, and they are also very resolution-oriented," Linda Fargo said, vice president of visual merchandising at the store. Each window urges shoppers to do everything from "Explore Distant Shores" and "Dance with a Stranger" to "Create a Masterpiece" and "Seize the Sublime."

Once the windows are installed on Nov. 23, they will showcase ornate vintage pieces like chandeliers and hats, antique mirrors and decorative fabrics, which become the underpinnings of the display.

"We have a visual tradition of mixing luxurious pieces with humble materials like branches and pine cones. Our windows tend to have a freshness and the unexpectedness of a dream," Fargo said. "We’re not a real Santa Claus-reindeer store."

Saks Fifth Avenue looked to St. Petersburg, Russia, and the ballet for inspiration. The windows are based on the book, "The Sleeping Beauty: A Journey to the Ballet of the Mariinsky Theatre," illustrated by Nikita Polyansky. Tim Wisgerhof, director of windows for the store, created individual ballet scenes set on a miniature stage that was modeled after the Mariinsky Theatre.

The characters are ornately clothed in baroque gowns, capes and headdresses that are heavily jeweled. The use of sparkling tulle and detailed costumes in rich fabrics depicts a winter landscape with a Russian folk fantasy.

"There is a return to luxury and this idea was one of fantasy — a beautiful, romantic story," Wisgerhof said. "It ties into the folk-luxe theme in fashion." The retailer has also incorporated the Russian theme in its interior decor for the holidays, its catalog and in its ancillary windows.

At the other end of the spectrum, Henri Bendel is taking a futuristic approach with its windows, which will go in this Saturday. The windows will contain flat-screen TVs that will play videos with holiday messages from designers and celebrities including Anna Sui, Patricia Field, Christy Turlington and Vanessa Williams. Sui, for one, asked shoppers to pray for world peace.

"We wanted to do something that was interactive," said Teril Turner, director of marketing at Henri Bendel. "We felt good about the idea of connecting with people as they walk by the store."The windows will also be decorated with fuchsia ornaments and lava lamps. As for the pink color scheme, Turner said blithely, "Bendel’s is not about red and green or blue and silver. It’s about fuchsia."

Sam Joseph, vice president of creative design and visual merchandising at Macy’s Herald Square, was inspired by the Kermit the Frog balloon that will appear in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade this year. Joseph created six cityscapes of the Muppets "wreaking havoc all over Manhattan."

Scenes include Kermit and Miss Piggy on a horse and buggy ride, Miss Piggy high-kicking like a Rockette on stage and the Muppets frolicking in the Statue of Liberty’s crown. The windows will be unveiled on Nov. 22.

Lord & Taylor is another store that has gone the classic route with a depiction of the story of the Nutcracker. The store’s windows are built underground in a sub-basement area; once the miniature sets are finished, they are pulled up into the window space by a hydraulic lift.

"The Nutcracker is a classic. We were very true to the story, but we put our own twist on it," said Manoel Renha, the store’s visual creative director. The mechanized sets include dream sequences with fairies and a playful food fight involving the Mouse King.

Bloomingdale’s decided to pay tribute to the Radio City Rockettes, who will perform at the store’s window unveiling on Nov. 20. The windows will feature scenes from the Christmas Spectacular.

"There is a whole history of Radio City and the Rockettes — they are such icons of New York’s glamour and glitz," said Joe Cotugno, operating vice president of visual merchandising at Bloomingdale’s. "I think [our theme] really represents Christmas in New York to people around the country."

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