Posts Tagged ‘garment district NYC’

The pretty peacocks holding court in the Garment District

February 6, 2023

There’s a lot of leftover loveliness in the Garment District—the wide swatch of Midtown Manhattan west of Fifth Avenue between roughly 41st and 28th Streets.

In the early 1900s, the showrooms and factories here made the vast majority of women’s clothes in the United States. These days, the remaining garment-related producers share dingy side streets with ghostly faded ads and signage from long-departed companies.

But things are still looking bright at the Fashion Tower, at 135 West 36th Street. High above the freight entrance of this circa-1922, 17-story Emery Roth–designed building, two terra cotta painted peacocks sitting in the swirly leaves of a tree greet passersby.

Why peacocks? With their beautiful colors and plumage, these gorgeous birds are symbols of fashion—as well as power, strength, and confidence.

Seventh Avenue as a dark, mysterious canyon

July 31, 2017

If you’ve never imagined New York as a concrete canyon, this 1935 photo by Berenice Abbott just might change your thinking.

Abbott manages to turn utilitarian 35th Street—not exactly the city’s most picturesque east-west thoroughfare—into a river carrying vehicles and pedestrians surrounded by the shadowy cliffs of buildings.

It looks like Abbott aimed her camera in the Garment District. MOMA’s caption for the photo mistakenly says this is Seventh Avenue at 35th Street, but smart Ephemeral readers pointed out that MOMA had the caption backwards.

Hauling clothes in the Garment District in 1955

March 21, 2016

Around the time this 1955 photo was taken, the vast majority of clothes for sale in the United States was made in the states too.

Specifically, they were made in the square mile south of Midtown long known as the Garment District.


Today, only 5 percent of clothes are made in America. And while you still see factories and showrooms in the Garment District, the narrow, dark streets here compose a ghost town compared to what they were 60 years ago.

At least some faded ads continue to hold their own on former factory buildings.

[Photo: LOC/Al Ravenna]

The faded underwear ad of 28th Street

October 18, 2012

“Shirts Underwear Etc” this faded advertisement reads on the back of an old brick building on 28th Street near Fifth Avenue.

Perhaps the building housed an old Garment District wholesaler or manufacturer—long out of business, judging from the condition of the building?

The bronze plaque that honors a city industry

October 4, 2012

Next time you’re strolling down Fifth Avenue in the 30s, don’t miss the striking bronze loom above the entrance to 295 Fifth—also known as the Textile Building.

This lovely architectural plaque pays tribute to an industry that’s no longer in its heyday but once thrived in the city.

A long-lost stash of Depression-era school records

September 13, 2011

Fifteen years ago, Brooklyn writer Paul Lukas came across a treasure trove of ephemera: a stash of 1920s and 1930s records from the Manhattan Trade School for Girls on East 23rd Street.

Though the girls have probably passed on and Manhattan Trade School is long-defunct, Lukas took on the task of tracking down each student, learning as much as he could about their post–vocational school lives.

The result is a fascinating website called Permanent Record, plus a series of articles that will launch on on September 19.

The cards on their own provide intriguing clues about each student, such as Domenica Castiglia (above).

Her record notes that she’s Italian, was born in 1914, and left Manhattan Trade in 1931—sent to work in the city’s thriving garment industry at just 17.

The occupations of the students’ parents also tell us about 1930s New York City. Dominica’s father was a “ship-polisher—a profession that no longer exists in New York City,” writes Lukas.

Take a look at the blog to browse other student cards and info on the school itself (the striking Gothic structure at left).

[Card image used with permission]