Next week I'll be in NYC for work related fabric and costume shopping. I'll spend 2 1/2 days in and around the garment district looking for all sorts of fabrics, trims, clothing and accessories. I'm currently designing the Christmas Show at AMT and this trips purpose is to find everything necessary to execute the designs. It's a lot to accomplish in only a couple of days. Fortunately, I'll have help- another member of the AMT wardrobe team is accompanying me on the trip, so between the two of us we should be able to find pretty much everything we're looking for. On the list this year are fabrics for cirque-style elf costumes, fabric & appliques for a "Riverdance" style costume, and perhaps the tallest order, fabric & trims for full Victorian attire for the entire cast. For that number we'll visit not only the standard fabric & trim stores, but also millinery supply houses, hat shops and all sorts of specialty fabric stores carrying materials that include faux fur, silk flowers, beaded fringe and all sorts of other special things. You're probably thinking that we'll never get it done in 2 1/2 days, but that's where you're mistaken. A couple of years ago before I was familiar with the garment district, it might have been nearly impossible, but having visited these stores so many times in the past, it's less of a guessing game than it used to be. You don't have to be building an entire Christmas show to take advantage of the shops in the garment district, and so I offer to you, the Beginner's Guide to NYC's Garment District.
225 W. 37th St.
Due to the popularity of Project Runway, Mood has become the iconic "garment district" fabric store, but you really have to see it to appreciate how difficult it must be for the designers to find what they're looking for in the short amount of time the producers allot. The store is overwhelming at first, simply due to the sheer amount of fabric stacked to the ceiling. But once you look around, you realize everything is clearly organized and labeled and every bolt has swatches hanging from its end. The staff is very knowledgeable and friendly and there are cutting tables stationed around the store making it simple and easy to get your fabric cut to your specs. What's really cool about Mood is that they have a lot of designer fabrics- I once walked in and there was a big bin of Pucci prints at 40% off. Ding, ding, ding! We have a winner!
525 7th Avenue
Walking into B&J is like walking into a fabric museum, the lighting is bright, there are floor to ceiling windows that wrap around half the floor space and the fabrics are all neatly arranged and easy to sort through. Most fabrics on the floor are only in sample form which makes it very easy to get a good look at everything. Rather than pull bolts of fabric out from a shelf, you merely have to slide the samples along a rack, just like you would clothing at Marshalls. The prices are high because the fabrics are luxurious. Go to B&J if you are planning to make something really special.
SPANDEX HOUSE, SPANDEX WORLD, STRETCH HOUSE:
I'm lumping all the stretch fabric stores together because they're all pretty much the same. There are similarities in stock from one store to the next, although if you're looking for something very specific, you might have to try a couple to get exactly what you're looking for. People laugh when they see that I shop at these stores, but when it comes to dancewear, stretch fabric is the only way to go. And at AMT, we do a lot of dancewear. Honestly, no matter what your dance costume needs, you will find it at one of these- everything from stretch velvets and knits to sequins and glitter, polka-dots and plaids and everything in between.
210 W. 38th St.
B&Q Bridal is such a fun store. It's pretty tiny and it feels a bit claustrophobic, but they have such cool embellishments- everything from bridal appliques to Swarovski rhinestones to silk flowers to feather trims and everything else you can imagine. They even carry costume jewelry and tiaras. The staff is always friendly and helpful. Check it out next time you're down that way.
235 W. 40th St.
It's not often that I need Chinese brocades or Indian saris, but when I do, this is my shop. The selection is good and they're willing to haggle a bit with prices. If you're purchasing a large quantity or taking the remainder of a bolt, ask for a good deal. The worst they'll say is "no," but in my experience, they've always said "yes" and taken a percentage off my bill.
256 W. 38th St.
Remember Stella from Season 5 of Project Runway? I always think of her when I go to this store. After being buzzed in, just stand for a moment and inhale. The scent of leather really is intoxicating and this store is chock full of it. I couldn't possibly do justice to the pieces they have with mere words on a blog. You have to visit it to truly appreciate the artistry of the pieces they sell.
These few stores I've mentioned merely scratch the surface of the garment district. I recommend to anyone who is interested in sewing and/or crafts to take a couple of days and just wander through the districts stores. It won't take long to learn to navigate the streets and stores and before you know it, you'll be giving ME advice on where to shop!