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A (not totally overwhelming) tour of the LA Fabric district

Heading off to LA for Costume College, lots of people told me that one of the things I must do is go to the Garment/Fabric District.

The only people who didn’t tell me this were my sewing students who had been to the Fabric District in the last couple of years.  Every single student who has been in LA and gone has come back and reported that everything was either 1) polyester (blech) or 2) 3x the price it would be in NZ.

Most of it looks like this: tons of stretch lycra, tons of minky – not so much my thing.  Like this:

Touring the LA fabric district, thedreamstress.com

It really didn’t seem worth the fuss.

But pretty much half of the Costume College attendees go to the Fabric District in the days before and after the conference, and everyone there said I definitely should, and with local guides, at least I would see the best stuff!

So, with Lauren of Wearing History, and Beth of V is for Vintage at the helm; Ginger of Scene in the Past, Jenny-Rose of Jenny La Fleur, Taylor of Dames a la Mode and I (I know, look at us!  It’s worse than double-barrel surnames!) all did the Fabric District.

Touring the LA fabric district, thedreamstress.com

I really enjoyed the tour that Lauren & Beth took us on, because they knew the best of each type of shop, but we just went to one of each, so it didn’t get overwhelming.  We got to see a fantastic decor fabrics store, a fantastic trims store, a fantastic millinery store, a fantastic sewing machine & accessories store, a fantastic fabrics store with lots of natural fibres – and we went somewhere yummy for lunch.  Even with just five stores, I was quite shopped-out by the end, and very happy to decline Beth’s offer to go to Michael Levine.

With Beth & Lauren’s blessing, I thought you might enjoy a run-down of the tour they took us on, in case you’re in the Garment District, and want a guide that’s a little less overwhelming than most of the official ones.

We parked across the street from Home Fabrics for $6 or so for the afternoon – Beth’s advice was to pick a parking lot on the level with the street, and visible from the street.

Home Fabrics910 Wall Street

Since we’d so handily parked directly across from it, we started our tour at Home Fabrics, which has gorgeous home decor fabrics, including lots of silks (costumers LOVE home decor silks) and fabulous trims (and air conditioning!).

Despite the lure of dozens of silks marked down to below US$15 a yard, the only thing I ended up buying at Home Fabrics was this amazing bobble trim, marked down to $1 a yard, to make a dress that’s been on my wish list for ages.

Touring the LA fabric district, thedreamstress.com11

Scuttlebutt is that Home Fabrics will be carrying a lot less silk in the future (sniff), but their trims and decor fabrics are still well worth a look.  I wished I’d had an extra suitcase to fill with curtain fabrics!

Button & Trim Expo, 828 Maple Avenue

Next we were off to the Button & Trim Expo store, which was ALL THE TRIM.  I was so excited about trim I didn’t even notice any buttons, but I’m sure they were there.  I drooled over all the lace and ribbon, but settled on a fabulous metallic lace (so popular historically, so hard to find today), and a bunch of different elastics to trial different kinds of corset garters with.

Touring the LA fabric district, thedreamstress.com

Ace Sewing Machine Inc, 214 E 8th St

Ace Sewing Machine is where you go to get every possible colour of rayon seam binding, every possible type of ironing board, ham, sleeve-board, etc, and all those specialist tools like buttonhole spacers that are getting so hard to find these days.

I didn’t have room in my luggage for hams and sleeve boards (next time!), and already have a buttonhole spacer, so stocked up on seam binding, chalk refills, an awl (you can never have too many awls as a historical sewer), and my favourite type of seam gage and seam allowance ruler.

Touring the LA fabric district, thedreamstress.com

California Millinery Supply721 S Spring Street

California Millinery was our furthest-away goal, but well worth the walk:

Touring the LA fabric district, thedreamstress.com

It’s been around since the 1920s or so, and has stock dating back that far, with shelves and shelves of hat braid:

Touring the LA fabric district, thedreamstress.com

And hat blanks:

Touring the LA fabric district, thedreamstress.com

And hat trims:

Touring the LA fabric district, thedreamstress.com

Ginger, Lauren & I all splurged on vintage early 20th century Italian straw flowers – not cheap, but absolutely impossible to find these days:

Touring the LA fabric district, thedreamstress.com

If millinery isn’t your thing, you could skip this, and add in another fabric store, like Michael Levin (right on the next street over from Home Fabrics) or

With our tour 3/5 of the way through, it was time for lunch:

Market, 862 S. Los Angeles St

Market’s ‘New American’ cuisine is California hipster food at its most delicious.  I had the chile crusted ahi tuna salad, and was not disappointed:

Eating in the LA Garment district, thedreamstress.com

Refreshed and re-fuelled, we were off to our final two stops:

 

Having done every possible thing but straight-up garment fabric, our last stop remedied that:

Tex Carmel, 432 E 9th Street

This tiny hole in the wall shop was crammed with silks, linens, and wools,  I drooled over a warp-printed Italian silk faille in autumn tones on black (ex designer, US$20 a yard, and the original price would have been well above US$100), but decided that the only thing it would be suitable for would be a full-skirted 1930s evening dress (something vaguely along the lines of this, or this), which would need about 7m, and I couldn’t think of an occasion to wear it.

So I settled on a couple of yards of white linen – something I always use, and that I can’t always get in Wellington when I want it.  So I was honestly able to tell Mr D I only bought 2m of fabric in the fabric district!

Touring the LA fabric district, thedreamstress.com

So that was our tour!

LA Garment District Tour thedreamstress.com

Fun, successful, and not ridiculously overwhelming!  (I still like my local Wellington fabric shops the best though!)

Touring the LA fabric district, thedreamstress.com

13 Comments

  1. Lynne says

    I wish you could hear the ooohs and aaahs as I crooned at the lovely trim! And the hat shop!! Thank you for sharing. Wonderful walk.

    • You would have loved the hat shop! So amazing! Lots of the trims I posted on FB came from a vintage trim seller at the marketplace at Costume College.

  2. Tonya Clevenger says

    Pretty much all my favorite shops…those of us in this area are blessed to have the fabric district..all we have in the way of fabric stores is Joannes..and not a great selection there. I love going to the FD…aside from the stores I love the atmosphere..and it is fun to people watch..you may see just about anything LOL Next year hit some of the other shops…B. Black has fabulous wools and real vintage vibes in the building..So glad you had fun!!

  3. I live 35 miles from LA but the traffic is so awful I only go every 10 years. Thank you so much for listing the names and addresses of the stores. I may brave it one of these years!!

    • LA traffic is crazy. I just couldn’t get my head around it! We complain about traffic in Wellington, but we think it’s a travesty if it takes more than 25 minutes to get anywhere!

  4. Dee Gutierrez says

    One of the few things I miss since I moved out of SoCal to Washington state. The beach. Lane splitting on my motorcycle. In-N-Out Burger. Fabric District. Apparently, its not the same as it used to be years ago. Thank you for pointing out the place worth visiting. New grandbaby will arrive in January. I’ll have to bring a dry bag to pack everything in!

  5. Thanks for the recommended shops; I live in the area and usually get so overwhelmed I give up and leave empty handed! I still don’t really have a reliable hand for fiber-content and I trust myself even less when I’m going through the weirdest bunches of who-knows-what. I’ll try to check those out!

  6. Oh my word!! This looks like an absolute dream, especially that millinery shop. I really wish there was shops like that in the UK.

  7. Liz Webb says

    I have never been to CC. But a friend of mine did this year and hit the fabric district after it was over. She got me silk taffeta for $7:00 a yard for a ball gown. She also saw silk satin suitable for a ball gown for $15. In Toronto I would pay about $29 a yard for taffeta, silk satin is about $54…. Crazy!

  8. What fun! I’ve never been, but someday… That millinery shop sounds absolutely divine! Another interesting point is that I believe Home Fabrics is a chain- I seem to remember visiting one in Boise a couple of years back, and bought a lovely cotton brocade for $3/ yard.

  9. Tex Carmel is our fav place for silks, wools and linens. They always have AMAZING things, and you can often bargain the price down if you’re buying a lot.

  10. Anita says

    I’ve been “in the neighborhood” but have been going for fresh cut flowers just a couple of blocks over in the flower mart area. It’d be so much fun to stop by shops in the garment district (and I won’t have to worry about the fabric, notions, and hat goodies wilting in the heat of the sun, the way I do with my buckets of flowers).
    Thank you for the tour!

  11. Lyn Swan says

    Thank you for sharing this with us all…how much fun you must have had! I always have more fun shopping for fabric etc. with my sewing buddies. While I will not be getting to L.A. anytime soon, you have inspired me organize a group shopping spree in Chinatown – Boston where there are amazing fabric stores!

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