|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
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
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!