The shop

Bentley's is a ladies' outfitters selling dresses, hats, shoes and anything else a lady might need.  
 It is owned by Ellen Bentley who is bringing it into the exciting, fast changing, twentieth century. 

In 1908 she changed her family's long-standing drapers shop into a ladies outfitters where she offers a quality dressmaking service where you can get all the latest (French) fashions copied at a fraction of the cost you would have to pay a fashion house.  

Ladies are able to choose every garment they might need, from head to toe; having access to the very latest Paris fashions.  Ellen returns to Paris as often as she can and has many friends in the fashion world who send her sketches and chit-chat about the latest modes.

Inspired by department stores such as Selfridges in London and the wonderful Galeries Lafayette in Paris Ellen has caused a bit of a stir with her very modern dressmakers and milliners.  She has removed the old backing boards from behind the windows.  Goods are displayed on shelves which allow the customer to see and touch them without the demands of formal service.  Window displays are uncluttered and are changed completely every month.  Even within that month Small items on display may be changed as an item is sold and replaced with something else.  There are no window blinds and the shop and salon lights are left on until 10 pm so you can look in the windows in the evening when passing.  Its not unknown for ladies to go out of their way to do so.

Ellen chooses a theme and a set of colours for each month and makes one garment to display the notion.  This month it is based on peacock colours and the two window displays reflect this.  The sample garment is made in an average size, mostly tacked together, so that it can be remade to fit whoever wants it after the display month. Between herself, her friends and her family, the garments always find a home.  This has given Ellen the idea of a future project of 'mass-producing' clothes for the rising middle class and she is beginning to test the market.  

There is a counter with bits and bobs of ribbons, feather, hat trims and lace which can be ordered or even bought there and then and taken away.  She avoids too many of these as she doesn't want to compete with the drapers and haberdashery across the street. There isn't a visible till as not much money changes hands.  There is a cash-box under the counter on the shelf at the back, along with the order book.

The shop is light and attractive and warm, with a comfortable seat for anyone accompanying the client.  The whole emphasis is on welcoming your customer and displaying what you do.

It is Wednesday 11th October 1911, 6 pm.  The shop closed at half past five, but Mrs Singer is still choosing bits and pieces.  She is ordering several pieces of lace and ribbon as some new ones have caught her eye.  Meanwhile Molly is dusting off a small wooden box which Mrs Singer thinks might make a small gift for her hostess at the weekend.