The Garment District, New York City

At one time in our history, 95% of the clothes Americans wore were made in the United States, and a great many of those were made in New York City’s garment district.  Even more were designed or promoted there, with companies from all over the US feeling like they had to have a New York presence.   Seventh Avenue became synonymous with fashion, so much so that today it is even called Fashion Avenue from about 34th to 40th Street.

Of course we know that American manufacturing has taken a big hit, but the garment district, sort of re-named the Fashion District, is still plugging away.  Some of the major fashion businesses still have their offices there, and the streets are full of suppliers to clothing makers and home sewers.  Some of the suppliers are very specialized, selling only zippers or trims.  Others, like Mood of Project Runway fame, is a full service fabric and notions store.

Mood is located on the second and third floors of a building on 37th Street.   It’s not the only store of its kind in the garment district, but it is certainly the most famous.  The day I was there they were very busy.  After seeing the place, I can see that the Project Runway contestants have to be very focused when shopping for fabrics there.  The top photo shows a small section of the rolls and rolls of fabric available.

They also have buttons and everything else you need to make, well, just about anything.  Unfortunately, Swatch the Boston terrier was not there, but a lovely ribbon store around the corner had a friendly shop cat.

This is a very small selection of the trims, at just one of the stores.  It’s the type of thing where you really do have to know what you need.  Aimless browsing would be very confusing.

Probably my favorite store that I visited was a store for menswear fabrics, Beckenstein Fashion Fabrics.  The selection of quality shirtings made me want to go into the shirt making business just so I could handle the fabrics all day long.

And then there were the tweeds.

A shop of just zippers and closures

And just because I loved it, here is the window at Stoll Fashion and Technology, which is a company that is involved in mechanized knitting.  The little sweaters read “The right way to knit.”

Some of the ultra-modern knitting machinery…

contrasted with a store display utilizing an antique Singer.

Not all the great sources for home sewers are located in the garment district.  Later I’ll show some other great New York City fabric sources.

27 Comments

Filed under Shopping

27 responses to “The Garment District, New York City

  1. Wow, what a statistic! 95%! *sigh* I would be horrified to know what it is today. I never got around to reading Overdressed, since I feared it would just throw me into a huge rage and start yelling at people when I saw them shopping at the mall. But I would assume that the book provided more statistics?

    This post is rather magnificent! I can’t even begin to think about all of the different fabrics there! So many elegant and fun choices!

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    • The book says 5% to 2% of our clothing is now made in the US. And there are a few positive signs that manufacturing is returning to the US. I noticed that many of the higher priced makers are making their clothes in the US, or in Western European countries.

      Buy thoughtfully.

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      • sigh, i think it’s a common problems also in Europe…. nowadays it’s hard to find, say, something made in the UK, Italy, France. I’m sad to read the latest % for the US market.

        I agree on being a thoughtful consumer. I try to buy local or second-hand. It’s also important to look at the work conditions and production practices behind a product (read: sweatshop, environmentally damaging sourcing and production).

        Thanks for sharing your trip in NYC, i enjoy reading about the shops

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  2. Oh the zipper & closures shop! Would love to browse that for a while. And the little sweaters in the window – so cute! Thanks for sharing your trip! =)

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  3. Catherine Sweeney Singer

    Thank you for your excellent blog and this useful, thought-and-action-provoking post. Are the tweeds at Beckenstein’s? What is the name of the shop with zippers and closures? I live in NY and appreciate having a guide, as there are so many shops and you have found the gems.

    Catherine Singer

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    • Thanks for the nice words, Catherine. Yes, the tweeds are at Beckenstein’s. I’m afraid I can’t find the name of the shop with the zippers, but I’m pretty sure it is on 39th Street, near Beckenstein’s. There are several zipper stores in the area.

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  4. I go here often just to touch and smell and see the magnificence .

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  5. This is fantastic! Great insight, I’ve been reading more and more about sewing, and would love to find some interesting fabrics, and I live in NY currently. :)

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  6. Great post, Lizzie. What a great visit you had. I would also like to visit Beckenstein!

    I agree with the thoughts on giving lots of consideration to where and how our finished clothing, as well as the cloth going into clothing, is made. One thought that is shaping where my dollars are spent, whether it’s made in the US, the UK, or the Far East and so on, is: “Slaves do not make quality products.”

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  7. You are a great tour guide, Lizzie! My husband loves beautiful shirts – if he ever got into Beckensteins (which he might, now that I know about it!), I might never get him to leave! Looking forward to more posts on your time in NYC!

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    • Karen, my friends refer to me as “The Tour Guide.” And considering some of the crazy places I’ve exposed them to in our travels, I’m afraid the name is justified.

      Beckenstein’s has a website. No shopping, but some fantastic photos of the place, plus their history.

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  8. Liz…I am at a loss for words (if you can believe that). THESE WERE MY FAVORITE PICTURES. I will save it and look at it in larger detail. Thamks for it.

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  9. Lynne

    Another fascinating post, Lizzie. I read your made-in-the-USA statistics to my husband and he nodded and said he saw that in an HBO special titled Schmatta: Rags to Riches to Rags. I don’t see in this link a way to watch the whole thing (maybe it is on YouTube), but here is a mile-long link to a promo, teaser, and ‘featurette’ (click on lower left links):

    http://www.hbo.com/documentaries/schmatta-rags-to-riches-to-rags/index.html#/documentaries/schmatta-rags-to-riches-to-rags/video/promo.html/eNrjcmbO0CzLTEnNd8xLzKksyUx2zs8rSa0oUc-PSYEJBSSmp-ol5qYy5zMXsjGyMXIyMrJJJ5aW5BfkJFbalhSVpgIAXbkXOA==

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  10. More, More!!
    I never tire of seeing and reading anything NYC.

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  11. liz hess

    Thanks for the great article focusing on American manufacturing and the Garment District (and the handsome ribbon selling cat!) ellelauri is a fashion brand made in the USA in the Garment District. http://www.ellelauri.com Looking forward to hearing more about the Garment District.

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  12. I’ve been looking around. If you do some Googling, you’ll find a few US companies making jeans as well. However, I am having difficulty finding jeans that work for my eight-year-old. Does anyone know of any children’s clothing being made in the US? I’m getting the hint it’s just too expensive. Back to the sewing machine we go…….

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