About New York's Garment District

Empire State Building overlooking the Manhattan skyline.
Empire State Building overlooking the Manhattan skyline. (Image: Manakin/iStock/Getty Images)

The Garment District of New York City, also known as the Fashion District, is a bustling section of the city with a rich history and a fascinating mix of fabric showrooms, fashion landmarks, designer showrooms and sights such as the Empire State Building. If you are also looking for deals on designer apparel, the Garment District is the home of numerous sample sales featuring markdowns as low as 80 percent off retail prices. A visit here is a must for anyone who loves fashion and is on the lookout for a huge selection of fabrics, discounted designer clothing and sewing notions.

Garment District Size

The Garment District is just one square mile in size, and notable for a number of landmarks, including the Jacob Javits Center, the Empire State Building and Madison Square Garden, to name just a few. The Garment District is between 34th and 42nd streets, from Fifth Avenue to Ninth Avenue. It is close to Penn Station and the Port Authority Bus Terminal, and Grand Central Station is a few blocks east.

Garment District History

New York City first became the center of the country's garment industry by, oddly enough, making clothes for slaves working on southern plantations, then for sailors and prospectors looking for gold out West. Before the mid-1800s, most Americans had always made their own clothing. But by the 1820s, and with the advent of the Industrial Revolution, ready-made clothing was being mass-produced and became industrialized when the sewing machine was invented in the 1850s. Garment District businesses grew during the Civil War, when the country needed mass-produced soldiers' uniforms. Today, the Garment District has been transformed, as many of the old factories have been converted into condominiums and retail shops. The Fashion Center Business Improvement District was established in 1993 to promote and improve the economic vitality of the District.

Historic Places to Visit

If you're visiting the Garment District, you can check out a number of places that fall into the category of tourism. The must-sees in the Garment District neighborhood, exclusive of shopping, include the following places:

The Empire State Building: This is at the top of every visitor's list, and with good reason. Take the high-speed elevators up to the 86th-floor observatory, stroll the outdoor promenades on all four sides of the building and use the high-powered binoculars to spot all the landmarks. The observatory is open 365 days a year from 8 a.m. to 2 a.m. With those hours, there's no excuse to miss it. Madison Square Garden: The 125-year-old Garden has a one-hour "All-Access Tour" that takes you behind the scenes of the arena, including team locker rooms, the WaMu Theater and more. Garden tours operate daily on the half-hour from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. The Garden is at 33rd Street and Seventh Avenue.

Discount Designer Shopping

The Elegant Tightwad offers a similar tour, the four-hour "Total New York Designer Discount Shopping Experience," which takes shoppers to private designer clothing and accessories showrooms in the Garment District. Elegant Tightwad claims that you can expect steep discounts in clothing, accessories and gifts, and that the showrooms on the tour are not normally open to the public. This tour can be reserved on theeleganttightwad.com, and plenty of tour dates are available in October, November and December.

Shop Gotham Holiday Gift Tour

For an insiders' shopping excursion in the Garment District, Shop Gotham offers a shopping expedition that gain entry for participants into designer showrooms and wholesale dressmakers not normally opened to the public. Shop Gotham offers a three-hour "Holiday $50 and Under Gift Tour" that takes you to sample sales and private showrooms for wholesale shopping, where many items are $50 or less. Most of their tours take place during November and December, which are the prime sample-sale months, and you can find designer clothing, accessories and gifts at 50 to 80 percent below retail. Tickets can be purchased at Zerve.com. Once you register, you'll be given meeting location information.


Be sure to either take a subway or walk to the Garment District from your hotel if you plan on visiting. Taking a cab to the Garment District, unless it's a Sunday morning, can be crazy and could take longer than a leisurely walk from Times Square. In addition, it's best to check online with most establishments you plan on seeing in the Garment District about hours. Many showrooms in the District are closed on weekends and will only do business with you during the week.

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