Neighborhoods Podcasts

Ready-to-Wear: The lofty history of New York’s Garment District

PODCAST The history of the New York City fashion industry and how it found its home south of Times Square aka The Garment District.

The Garment District in Midtown Manhattan has been the center for all things American fashion for almost one hundred years. The lofts and office buildings here still buzz with industry of making clothing — from design to distribution.

New York’s long history with the ready-to-wear apparel industry has an ugly beginning — the manufacture of clothing for Southern slaves. Garment production thrived here by the middle of the 19th century thanks to thousands of arriving immigrants, skilled in the production of making clothes.

By 1900, most of the clothes in the United States were made below 14th Street, in the tenement neighborhoods of New York. The disaster at the Triangle Factory Fire in 1911 brought attention to the terrible conditions found in New York’s new loft-style factories

Fears of the clothing industry encroaching upon Fifth Avenue provoked some New York businesses to stop working with garment sector unless they moved to particular area of the city. And so, by the mid 20th century, hardly a stitch was sold in the United States without it coming through the blocks between 34th Street and 42nd Street west of Sixth Avenue.

Listen in as we describe the Garment District’s chaotic flurry of activity — from the fabulous showrooms of the world’s greatest designers to the nitty-gritty bustle of the crowded streets.

FEATURING: Ed Koch, Lauren Bacall, the Brooks Brothers and more puns that you can possibly stand.

WARNING: Our show intro is bursting at the seams with clothing puns!

The Bowery Boys: New York City History podcast is brought to you …. by you!

We are now producing a new Bowery Boys podcast every two weeks. We’re also looking to improve the show in other ways and expand in other ways as well — through publishing, social media, live events and other forms of media. But we can only do this with your help!

We are now a member of Patreon, a patronage platform where you can support your favorite content creators for as little as a $1 a month.

Please visit our page on Patreon and watch a short video of us recording the show and talking about our expansion plans. If you’d like to help out, there are five different pledge levels (and with clever names too — Mannahatta, New Amsterdam, Five Points, Gilded Age, Jazz Age and Empire State). Check them out and consider being a sponsor.

We greatly appreciate our listeners and readers and thank you for joining us on this journey so far. And the best is yet to come!

Fashionable streets: hats in the Garment District, photo by Margaret Bourke White

Courtesy Life Magazine
Courtesy Life Magazine

There were as many trucks in the Garment District as models, taking supplies to the busy workshops and finished garments to retailers. Photo is from Nov. 29, 1943.

Courtesy AP Photo
Courtesy AP Photo

Another common site — racks of clothing being pushed down the street.

Museum of the City of New York
Museum of the City of New York

The Garment District at lunchtime, 1944. We told you it was insane!

Museum of the City of New York
Museum of the City of New York/US Office of War Information

The following are a series of pictures capturing workers in a clothing factory on 36th Street and Tenth Avenue, 1937

Museum of City of New York/Federal Art Project
Museum of City of New York/Federal Art Project

Behind the scenes at a Gimbels Fashion Show, 1949

Photo by Stanley Kubrick/Museum of the City of New York
Photo by Stanley Kubrick/Museum of the City of New York

Racks of clothing, 1955

Library of Congress/WikiMedia
Library of Congress/WikiMedia

The unique brutalist architecture of the Fashion Institute of Technology 1964

Wurts Brothers/Museum of the City of New York
Wurts Brothers/Museum of the City of New York

From ‘Press Week’ aka Fashion Week,  Jan. 7, 1972. (AP Photo/Ray Stubblebine)

Fashion Hats

The naming of “Project Runway Avenue” 2012

4 replies on “Ready-to-Wear: The lofty history of New York’s Garment District”

Boys, Love, LOVE your podcasts, but please, look up “conflagration.” It doesn’t mean “congestion.” Unfortunate word choice after describing the Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire.

Hi there ,
This is the first podcast I’ve listened to by you guys ! I really enjoyed it and am now listening to your past shows ! Thanks for your show!

Regarding garment puns: My dad created the title “Pins and Needles” for the satirical revue performed by actual members of the Ladies’ Garment Workers Union in the 1930’s, and when the play was performed in the White House for FDR, the newspaper headline next day was “President in Stitches, or Sew It Seams”.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *