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July 31, 2017

How to plan a trip to the NYC garment district

Is there anything more fun than a fabric-buying outing when you’re on vacation? NOPE! I always try to scout out a quirky local option if I can, and pick up some “souvenirs” (that totally counts, right?). I know that lots of people occasionally get the chance to go to New York City, so I thought I’d pull together this guide to planning a short trip to the Garment District. Truly, it’s one of the wonders of the fabric buying world!

As a caveat: I’m not a NYC local, although I’ve visited a lot. This guide is meant to be a distillation of the highlights that I tend to hit when I’m in town, but there are lots and lots and lots more places to visit! Leave a comment below if there are any additional no-misses you’d recommend to any first time visitor.

How to plan a trip to the NYC Garment District

Where is it?

The NYC Garment District is roughly bounded by 6th and 9th Ave, and 35th to 40th St. If you’re not familiar with New York City, it’s just south of Times Square and Bryant Park. Most of the stores I go to are clustered between W 37th and W39th St, and 7th and 8th Ave. For out of towners, yes it’s a grid, so in some ways it’s easy to get around… but in some ways it’s harder when you don’t know which way you’re facing! Google Maps is definitely your friend, but luckily it’s also a small area so hard to get TOO lost.

Bear in mind that many (if not most) of these stores are not at street level, and in some cases aren’t even signposted. Make sure you have the address, and just be confident and go inside and to the elevator, and usually there’s a label in there. If not, you can just do some urban exploring…

Click on the map below to see shopping & dining suggestions!

When’s the best time to visit?

Seasonally, it doesn’t really matter, except for the fact you may be battling snow in the winter and burning sun in the summer (yay, NorthEast America!).

But, the key thing to remember is: a lot of the stores have limited opening hours, and many aren’t open at weekends or on Sundays (unlike almost all other American stores). Many a planned trip has gone awry because of this! Below, I’ve listed the current opening hours for my fave stores, but it’s a good idea to double check before you venture out.

Which stores should I go to?

Here are my highlights that I tend to visit, but bear in mind that the district is choc-a-block with options, and there are tons more, especially on the more budget/discount end. See the map above for all the locations/addresses!

Mood Fabrics

  • Open Mon – Fri 9am – 7pm, Saturday 10am – 5pm, Sunday closed
    • As Featured On TV, is Mood Fabrics really worth a pilgrimage? Yep! Queues of 14 year olds waiting to pet Swatch the dog aside, Mood is absolutely gigantic, and has a massive selection over several floors. You may be surprised to hear that it’s not all great quality – you definitely need to exercise some judgement. It can also be a little hard to get to the bolts because they’re stacked up to the ceiling – don’t be afraid to ask for help. But you can’t beat the range here, and you might even spot the occasional Project Runway alumni (a perhaps slightly disturbing number of them now work in the store).
    • As with many of these stores, it isn’t immediately obvious where Mood is from the street. They have a street level upholstery floor, but you need to go inside what appears to be an office building, and go up in the elevator. Don’t worry, there’s an elevator guard who’ll take you to the right place (old school New York!).

Metro Textiles

  • Open Mon – Fri 9.30 – 5.30pm. Closed at weekends. 
    • This is one of my favourite stores, and is a tonic after the overwhelm that is Mood! Metro is run by Kashi, and is a tiny one-room store hidden up in an office building. Kashi has a limited range of high quality fabrics (my understanding is that they are all extras from RTW production), and his prices are incredibly (sometimes unfeasibly) low. He can also ship things to you if you don’t want to carry them back with you. It’s always worth a trip to see Kashi!

B&J Fabrics

  • Open Monday – Friday, 8am – 5.45pm, Saturday 9am – 4.45pm, Sunday closed
    • B&J is a wonderland of incredibly upscale fabrics (think $500+ a yard), as well as more reasonably priced fabrics that we mere mortals can afford. It’s beautifully laid out, and for some of the fabrics, there are large swatches available to look at rather than bolts of fabric. They have big inspiration boards where they show you swatches of fabric they have that have been used in runway shows, and you’ll find yourself debating whether $100/yard is actually totally affordable.

Fabrics & Fabrics

  • Open Monday – Friday, 9am – 6pm, closed at weekends
    • Another upscale store, Fabrics & Fabrics has a lot of really unique designer fabrics, and again has a range of prices, although it skews higher.

Spandex House

  • Monday – Friday, 9am – 6pm, Saturday 10am – 5pm, closed Sunday
    • Ever wanted to make a swimming costume covered in palm trees? A leotard covered in bullets and coke cans? Why Spandex House will be your mecca. Every single possible novelty spandex & lycra/swimsuit fabric, as well as many more subdued versions, are available at this place. Service can be a little… odd – you may need to flag down someone to help you and be patient. But it’s worth it for the crazy fabrics. If you’re in the market for lots of synthetic stretch, you should also check out Spandex World (I always forget which is which, truth be told).

Pacific Trimming

  • Monday – Friday, 8.30am – 7pm, Saturday 10am – 6pm, closed Sunday
    • If you’re looking for zips, trim, buttons, or any other trimmings, Pacific Trimming is totally amazing. The selection is unbelievable and everything I’ve ever bought there is really high quality. It’s my go-to for notions.

M&J Trimming

  •  Monday – Friday, 9am – 8pm, Saturday 10am – 7pm,  Sunday 11am – 7pm
    • Another option for notions, M&J looks like a candy store, and is particularly good for ribbons, buttons, buckles and other fixtures.

Where should I take a break?

Shopping in the Garment District is definitely overwhelming! Even if you go in with a plan of what you want to buy, the decision overload is very real, so you’ll be needing some breaks. There are quite a few little cafes and restaurants (independent and chain) in the area, but here are three of my favourites (flagged on the map above).

Blue Bottle Coffee, 54 W 40th St

  • Right opposite Bryant Park, you can pick up a great coffee here and then sit in the park and watch the world go by.

Le Pain Quotidien, 70 W 40th St

  • Next to Blue Bottle, I often end up here for breakfast or lunch. It’s a European chain, and has nice sandwiches, salads and of course, lots of bread.

Houndstooth Pub, 520 8th Ave

  • Right in the middle of the Garment District, the Houndstooth has the usual pub food & drinks and is often the location of sewing blogger meet ups!

How do I get there?

You can get the subway to Times Square or Bryant Park and easily walk down; it’s also very close to Penn Station for people getting the Amtrak into town.

How much time do I need?

You can definitely spend 2 hours or 2 days in the Garment District and still have fun!

  • If you only have time for 1 store, I’d make it Mood Fabrics, because you’ll get a taste of everything and you’ll likely find something you like!
  • If you have a little more time, I’d do Mood Fabrics + Metro Textiles.

I hope this is helpful! I’d love to hear any more tips you have for people visiting the Garment District.

*Please note that store information including opening hours were correct as of July 2017 but may go out of date over time. If you’re planning an important trip, always check first! 

Cashmerette

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12 Responses to How to plan a trip to the NYC garment district

  1. Carolyn July 31, 2017 at 1:09 pm #

    Sadly the elevator men at Mood have been retired. You now must push your floor number on a panel outside the elevator to gain admittance to the 3rd floor.

    Other eats recommendations:
    Real Jewish Deli:
    Try Ben’s at 209 West 38th Street or Mr. Broadway at 1372 Broadway (bet 37th & 38th Sts).
    Also there is a Manga on the corner of 7th & 39th Sts that’s pretty good too.

    Also may I add Chic Fabrics and the Janky Fabric Store on 39th Street. All great stores that are street level with advertising and great bargains!

  2. Elizabeth G Jones July 31, 2017 at 2:06 pm #

    Janky store is actually a nickname. The store is really called HM. It looks like a hot mess inside (hence the nickname), but it’s a great spot for wool coating fabrics, boucles and silk prints and eyelet. I second Chic (aka Fabrics for Less) as well as most stores between 7th and 8th on 39th street. Black Iron Burger on 38th makes a delicious and affordable signature burger and the fries are great.

  3. Alicia Aime July 31, 2017 at 3:00 pm #

    And now I want to go there too! Living in SF, LA might be a more realistic option ;-). Ever made an article about the LA garment district? Thx for that great post <3.
    La bise
    Alicia

  4. Teri Sews And So July 31, 2017 at 7:47 pm #

    Great info Thank You

  5. EvelynEvelyn August 1, 2017 at 2:49 am #

    Hallo Jenny,

    thanks a lot for your detailed informations – super post! Great. Next spring I will go for the first time to NY and i definitively know where I will got besides the NY Musts. I like to buy italian high quality Italian silk prints, which I can find in Germany sometimes for very reasonable prices. I am very curios what I will find in NY…
    have a nice summer day
    Evelyn

    • Andrea Cuda August 8, 2017 at 6:55 am #

      Hi Evelyn

      That sounds interesting! I live in Düsseldorf, so I was wondering if you could share where you buy reasonably priced silks in Germany? We have 1 really great upscale fabric shop (alongside many more affordable ones), but I’ve never bought anything there as it’s a little outside my price range 😉

      Best wishes
      Andrea

  6. Erin August 1, 2017 at 12:33 pm #

    Don’t forget to check out the bias binding and piping at Pacific Trim, they get theirs from Japan and the colors and quality is A+!

  7. Nancy K August 1, 2017 at 2:07 pm #

    You’ve missed a lot of my favorites, and sadly many are also gone unfortunately. One to add is Chic fabrics for the best prices on silk organza and they have stretch silk crepe de chine at really good prices. I use it to line stretch wool for pants or skirts. I also like Botani for buttons and great Italian zippers. They also have the most gorgeous quality purse and belt hardware. They are on West 38th. There is SIL for thread and regular zippers. There are lots of other shops that are not on ground level, like Fabrics Fabrics that used to Lace Star. They have some gorgeous things and if you are making a wedding dress this is definitely a place to visit. Then there are the leather stores. Mood has lots of leather but there are 3 stores that specialize in only leather. Global is one, Leather Impact is another one. I think that that one is at ground level. There’s another one I can’t recall at the moment. I’ve bought gorgeous leather from both of these stores over the years.
    There are still some interesting specialty shops, like a pleater. I know that a couple of people who’ve used them. Do I know the name? no.
    I do like Pacific Trimmings for Riri zippers and rayon petersham. They label it rayon grosgrain, but it’s the real thing which is hard to find. They also have an enormous selection of twill tape in every color under the rainbow. If you want decorative elastic this is definitely the place to find it. There is also Daytona for trims and piping.
    One thing that I will caution is to know what you are looking for. While not what it was when I first started shopping here over 30 years ago, there is still an overwhelming selection. It’s exhausting too. If you are planning to buy a lot, have a backpack or small rolling bag. Or, have things sent home.

  8. Monette T August 8, 2017 at 1:16 pm #

    I haven’t read through all to comments to see if this was mentioned, but bring a rolling suitcase. I thought it an odd suggestion UNTIL I saw all the fabric I bought and wheeled around the garment district.

  9. Lynda Woerner August 8, 2017 at 7:39 pm #

    Ah, NYC Garment District shopping; one of my favorite things to do. For those whose shopping trip to NYC is a rare occurance, my advice is as follows. Yes, bring a rolling cart; fabric is heavy, even if your husband is gallantly carrying it for you. Have a plan. Map out the stores you want to visit and proceed in an orderly fashion. Prioritize the list; it is going to take longer than you think. It helps to have some specific items or types of items in mind. Without a plan, the Garment District is overwhelming. You will probably get “shiny thing” syndrome, so allow time for that. It was at several stores not on my list that I bought the most stuff or the most interesting stuff. For example, I discovered a store that sells nothing but linen. As linen is my favorite fabric, I bought a ton, especially since there was a sale rack at $5 a yard. For all the hype about Mood, I have never bought anything there. I found it to be crowded, jumbled and on my last visit, I was treated so rudely by a staff member that I will never go back. B & J Fabrics, on the other hand has been a wonderful shopping experience. There are few bargains at B & J, but every fabric is high quality, well-marked and organized. There is a nice place for beasts of burden (i.e., my husband) to rest and wait for me in comfort. I have purchased fabric from B & J on every trip. On my last trip, I purchased fabric in every price point from $1 per yard to $40 per yard. Linens, denims, leather, spandex, knits, silk velvet, Liberty cotton lawn, notions, silk charmeuse, silk organza, ribbon, trims, zippers…..yes, it was a fun and tiring day. Some of my personal favorites are B & J, Metro, Gray Lines Linen ( a paradise), M & J Trimmings, SIL, Botani (silk, zippers, ribbing), Mokuba (Japanese ribbon), several discount fabric places – take your pick, Leather Suede Skins, Inc.(leather of all shapes , sizes and finishes), Toho Shoji (beads).
    This website can help you in planning: http://garmentdistrict.nyc/fashion/fashion-directory/
    Eating? Who has time?

  10. MrsMcD918 August 9, 2017 at 7:24 am #

    Thank you! I am going on a fabric buying day trip in October with my sewing studio and this is a great guide!

  11. Lyndle September 10, 2017 at 9:14 pm #

    Shout out for Elliott Berman. https://www.elliottbermantextiles.com/. They’re upstairs and have a kind of wholesale-y vibe (most things aren’t priced) but will show you round, are super helpful and they have a great range. This is where I learnt the difference between French and Italian viscose-lycra.
    That tip about places not having a street front is really important.
    Since going to NYC was a once-off for me, given it is 10000 miles (14,000 km) from where I live, and I had less than a day for fabric shopping, I bought one of Mimi’s maps from http://shopthegarmentdistrict.blogspot.co.nz/ and it was well worth the money. I might have found all these places by myself, but probably not. She provides up to date addresses and opening hours for a curated list of stores and will direct you to those selling anything in particular that you are after.

Let me know what you think!

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