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!
- 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!).
- 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!
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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!