Monday, August 10, 2009

Eye Candy That Will Make Your Heart Go Pitter Pat

What a lovely adventure I had today! I hopped on a bus near my home and I was in NYC in less than 45 minutes. It's hard to believe that I live so close to the City and yet I rarely go there. I guess that it is so readily available to me that I take it for granted. Yes, I know that those of you who live far away will probably find this hard to believe. I am embarrassed to admit this and am hanging my head in shame.

But today was different. Bev, one of my online art friends from Modesto, CA was visiting NY along with her friend, Cindy, from Miami. We had arranged to meet today so we could wander through the famous Garment District and shop in the wonderful stores in the area.

The Garment District has been the center of our country's fashion design and manufacturing since the early 20th Century. New immigrants to this country, who entered via Ellis Island, usually wound up settling in one of the five boroughs of NYC and many of those from Eastern Europe wound up working in the garment district's factories (sometimes called sweat shops).

Coincidentally, my first job was working for Modern Bride Magazine and I had to walk through the garment district every day on my way to work. Forty plus years ago, it was a bustling, noisy, smelly place with double-parked delivery trucks blocking the streets and messengers pushing clothing racks on the sidewalk with the latest fashions being transported from the factory to the showroom. For about two years in the late 60's, I walked through the Garment District every day and never paid any attention to all the store fronts displaying fabrics, beads, buttons and baubles. I was busy trying not to get run over by the craziness going on around me.

A lot has changed during these 40 years. The original wave if Eastern European immigrant workers has been replaced by some of our country's newest immigrants who are mostly from Asian countries. Almost all of the manufacturing of garments has been out sourced to foreign countries so you no longer see the fashions being whisked past you as you walk on the sidewalk.

Perhaps most important, I now covet every single accessory, frilly piece of lace, sequined fabric and feather which is displayed in the stores. Manufacturing may be a thing of the past in the Garment District, but the fashion designers still work and shop right in that one square mile of NYC between Fifth and Ninth Avenue and 34th to 42nd Street.

And so, today, Bev, Cindy and I walked our feet off exploring many of the famous, and not so famous, shops in the area. As an aside, today was the hottest day we've had so far this year. The temperature coupled with the humidity made it feel like it was 104 degrees. But we were undaunted, and had a wonderful time exploring to our heart's content.

Our first stop was M & J Trimming. Now I know how Dorothy felt when she landed in OZ. This store is definitely in technicolor.

Ribbons, silk flowers, buttons and lace were displayed from floor to ceiling.
There were walls lined with ribbons all beautifully displayed by color and type of fabric.

There were amazing buttons on display everywhere you looked.
Just when I thought I was finished seeing everything, I discovered there was another room filled with even more buttons and trim.

It was hard not to buy everything in sight. One thing that was nice was that the buttons were sold individually and not on cards. This way, you only had to buy exactly what you would need for a project. That is if you had a specific project in mind. I had nothing special in mind, so I bought a few buttons just to hold and look at and drool over after I got home.

Our next stop was MOOD. Does that name sound familiar to you?
If so, it's because that is one of the places that Project Runway (TV show) contestants go to purchase material for their creations.
If you are a fan of Project Runway and ever wondered if MOOD was as wonderful in person as it is on the show, the answer is a resounding Yes!
MOOD covers three floors of a building on West 37th Street. One floor is entirely devoted to woolen fabrics of every type and color. Cashmere, Alpaca, Flannel. You name it, they have it in an amazing variety of colors and weights. I kept thinking that this place would be a feast for moths. I wonder how they keep them from attacking the fabric. Another floor was devoted to upholstery and drapery material.
But the third floor was the place to be. Rows and rows containing bolts of every type of fabric you could imagine from mundane polyester knits to brocades and silks fits for royalty. In northern NJ where I live, there is only one store left that sells fabrics and it is Joannes. I had always wondered where the serious home sewer went to get fabric. Now I know. I wasn't in the market for fabric, but I did look at prices and they didn't seem extraordinarily high to me for what you were buying. Polyester knits were about $6 to $8 dollars.
Of course, there were some very pricey fabrics on display. But, if you're royalty, I guess you can afford the prices. In addition, to fabric, MOOD also has a variety of trims, but certainly not as much as M & J.
However, they had some very unique buttons.
They even had buttons the size of plates that were about 6 inches in diameter. I'm wondering how they will be used.
You may have heard of Tinsel Trading. I know Martha has mentioned that store on her show many times. We stopped in there for a brief visit. By this time, I was running out of steam, and I forgot to take pictures. I'm blaming my forgetfulness on the heat and not old age. Tinsel Trading is a sight for sore eyes. Everywhere I looked, I saw something amazing. Lots of gorgeous, large silk flowers that you could wear in your hair and pretend you were a starlet of the 40's. There was an amazing assortment of vintage buttons, unusual ribbons, and other assorted doodads. Their displays change constantly with the season, so you never know what treasures will be found at Tinsel Trading.

Needless to say, there are over one hundred stores, if not more, located within the Garment District. Most of them are tiny, dirty and disorganized, but if you're adventurous and visiting the area, stop in and explore a few of them. You can never tell what you'll find.

I'm planning to return to the Garment Center in early October when another friend, Kathy, comes for a visit. I'll be sure to post more information and pictures of that shopping spree so keep your eyes open for further postings.


  1. Wow--I wanna come play someday Judy!! Looks like you girls had tons of fun!

  2. OMG, I can't wait. I better start saving my money. I have a passion for fabric and buttons. I know you had a wonderful time with Bev. She is so much fun. I bet she was in heaven! See you soon.

  3. Judy, I had no idea you live that close to Fabric Heaven. Wow! What a wonderful trip! Be sure to post what you bought, so I can turn a cute shade of green.

  4. OH DROOL DROOL DROOL....pardon the green eyed slobber! How lovely to be so close. Okay girlfriend....If ever I get back that way I'm calling you to act as tour guide!

  5. Judy, thank you for sharing these wonderful photos and details of a dream day of shopping!! How fabulous that you are only 45 minutes away from fabric/button/ribbon/trim heaven!! I enjoyed your post immensely and can't wait til you and Kathy hit the streets in October!

  6. WOW!!! I have never been to Mood's but I am planning to get there, too! That was a wonderful tour and the wall of buttons and ribbons was something only a fanatic would love.

  7. Shame on you, Judy ... SHAME! How dare you post such distracting shopping adventures. Of course I had to google these stores and thus spent well more than my allotted computer time. tsk, tsk ....

    ps - I love the wall of buttons/trims photos!

  8. WOW what a great post! What fun fun fun! I'm not a sewer and even I was drooling! The buttons were awesome!! What a fun day, thanks for sharing!

  9. Absolutely fabulous!!
    I think you should go there like once a month!
    Heck, I would...we'd be broke but think of the pleasure!! LOL

  10. wow! my mom always talked about the garment district and knows it intimately..i was never fortunate enough to get to explore it with her..she is a textile that was one of her stomping grounds....all i can say is wow! the pictures made my head spin with all the lucious yummyness of it all..i can only imagine what would happen to my poor head if i was ever lucky enough to visit in person! ...thank you for sharing your adventure with us..maybe one day i could come visit you and get lucky enough to explore NYC with you too!