Thursday, November 19, 2009


Silks, 1996

Silks shows a pair of manikins that stand in front of a store on the Campo Franceso Morosini in Venice. My sister came home telling us about them after her first visit to Venice in the early 1990s. She’d seen them in the window of a shop there (the shop was closed) and wasn’t quite sure what was being sold. On a subsequent trip five years later--her husband and my wife and I were along for this trip--we all went to the shop to see the manikins and again found the shop closed.

My wife and daughter and I visited Venice in 2001 and found the shop open. It sold silk attire, mostly underwear, that looked like it was best suited for a flamboyant gay clientele. If the scant fabric and sequins weren’t enough of a tip-off, the word “SEX” woven into most of the items made it clear that these shorts weren’t intended to be hidden behind pants.

Needless to say, the shop and its titillating array of merchandise was a popular stop for chaste tourists whose visit to Venice had to that point consisted of a sober diet of churches, museums, glass furnaces and lace shops.

One of our guides knew the owner of the silk shop and explained that the owner had been involved in some of the more flamboyant Venetian parties of the early 1990s. At that time, she related, high government officials liked to get away from Rome on weekends and party in Venice.

These weren’t country parties in the oh, so proper British sense. Rather, our guide described them as bacchanalian celebrations of food, alcohol, art, music and sex, not always in that order. The silk shop owner was in charge of organizing the parties and procuring pretty girls (and boys) for the adult entertainment. In return for his services, he was allowed to operate his silky sex shop in an otherwise Disney-fied stretch of Venetian tourist real estate.

When the partying government eventually fell, the next government leaders to come along felt the need to set a slightly higher moral standard. There would be no more parties in Venice, or at least none organized by government officials. The silk merchant quickly fell out of favor, though his shop remained in the Campo. Perhaps someone who has been to Venice more recently can tell us whether it’s still there.


  1. Oooooh--I don't remember seeing those two. Priceless. I wish I'd known about that place. I'd definitely have gone seeking it out. Great photo--I love the off-centeredness of it.

  2. Sorry to hear that the "good times no long roll" at Silks. We I guess I will have to take my aluminum hat (to protect against space alien's mind control broadcasts) and find another party.

  3. Abducted by aliens? That's when it gets interesting. Didn't you like "Close Encounters..."?

  4. I suppose the high heels should have been clue....

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  6. Interesting story... And I never knew that "mannequins" could be spelled as "manikins"! I guess the first one is used more frequently. Did you use it intentionally as a cue? (man-ikins?)