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Fashion District, also known as the Garment District, Manhattan, New York

The Garment District is located in Manhattan, New York, between Fifth and Ninth Avenues from 34th to 42nd street.  It has been known since the early 20th Century as the center for fashion design and manufacturing in the U.S.  It is the home to many great fabric warehouses, workshops, and stores of the fashion industry.

New York began to get it's role as the nations garment industry by making clothes for the slaves who worked on Southern plantations. Slaves making their own clothes would take up too much time, so their masters would buy clothes from companies in New York. Clothing suppliers in New York would also make ready-made garments for sailors and western prospectors during "slow" times in their regular business.

Before the mid-nineteenth century MOST AMERICANS MADE THEIR OWN CLOTHES.



If you were wealthy, then you were able to afford customized clothing which were tailor-made to fit you. By 1820 ready-made garments of higher quality were being produced for a broader market.  Ready made clothing continued to grow and grew rapidly when the sewing machine was invented in 1854, by a man named of Elias Howe.  He introduced the first "lock-stitch" sewing machine which used two threads to "lock" together and create a stitch (just like we use today). Of course this was done by hand or knee or foot until years later when electric sewing machines were invented.

When the Civil war began there was a need for thousands of ready-made soldier's uniforms, which helped the garment industry expand further.  By the end of the 1860's Americans bought most of their clothing rather than making it themselves.

With Eastern European immigrants coming to America just as the garment industry was growing many joined the garment industry workforce in New York.  With ample supply of cheap labor and a high  demand, New York was on it's way to being the Garments capitol of the U.S.  It functioned as America's fashion center and helped the fashion industry by providing constant changes of styles and demand. (Not much has changed today...what's "in" this summer, won't be "in" next summer!) By 1910 70% of the nation's women's clothing and 40% of the men's was produced in New York City.

Unfortunately the manufactures of garments in New York city has been fading in recent years. The district has been losing over a thousand jobs per year.  There are a number of organizations and politicians trying to save parts of the garment industry. And great shows like Project RUNWAY are helping the garment industry of New York stand proud and keep it's great rich history alive!


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