Any trip to Los Angeles calls for a visit to the historic LA Garment District in downtown. Fabrics of every kind, rhinestones, fringe, lingerie foundations and everything else under the sun can be found on these bustling streets.
The Garment District in LA is a designer’s dream! Streets of fabric, trim and decoration stores are crammed into a several blocks easily walkable for anyone looking for materials for costuming. I’ve been going to the Garment District for years to find materials for my dresses and Erik’s pants and shirts. I love being able to select the exact colors and fabrics from a myriad of choices and knowing that I can almost name my own price for them.
However, for the first-timer taking a trip downtown, it can be a bit overwhelming.
Firstly, shopping aside, driving and parking in the area is busy, so be prepared for the one-way streets and city parking options. You’ll want to head to the area of Maple and 9th for the heart of the fabric stores. I usually get there off the 10, exiting Los Angeles St. You’ll see plenty of guys waiving you in to parking lots, usually costing anywhere from $3-5, so bring cash in small bills. If you’re lucky, you can park on the street, which has metered parking. But, as a disastrous parallel park-er myself, I always opt for lot parking. My favorite is in the alley before Wall St. at 9th on the roof parking lot. There are elevators down taking you out to Wall St. and there are usually several parking attendants on the roof monitoring the cars.
Next it’s off to the shops. Be prepared for your senses to be overwhelmed! You need both a plan before you get there of what you are generally looking for so as not to get distracted by the sheer amount of choices, and also an open mind in case you don’t find the exact thing you have in mind, so you can contemplate possible substitutions. You’ll find that many stores carry a variety of types of fabrics, but some will specialize in home decor, laces or stretch materials.
Be prepared to haggle and for aggressive salespeople. Bargaining is to be expected, and these guys are pros, so don’t be intimidated or afraid to ask for a certain price–they’ll tell you what they can offer you. Don’t forget to ask the width of the fabric too. Usually the salespeople are knowledgeable, but I when I’m ready to actually buy, I measure the width myself to be sure. When you find something you like, first ask the price per yard. From there you can start to bargain. Ask how much per yard for the amount of yardage you will require–more yardage will lower the price. Sometimes they will lower the cost if you are purchasing another fabric as well. You can also haggle by simply thanking them and walking away. You’ll get no fewer than a couple steps before they will counter with another offer to try and keep your business. If you’ve gotten a lower quote for a similar fabric at another store, you can toss that out as well and usually they will match or lower the price. Also, offer to pay by cash to get an even lower cost.
If the thought of bargaining is distasteful to you, you can still shop the district at one of the biggest stores there, Michael Levine’s. Located on Maple between 9th and 10th Streets, this mega store has courteous staff and a gigantic selection of fabrics, trims and notions. The prices are clearly marked on the fabrics and there are often great sales. There is no bargaining here. Checkout is easy with cash, check or charge. Keep in mind that at the smaller stores, not all forms of payment are accepted.
Trims, Rhinestones, Notions:
Besides fabrics, you can also get all matter of sewing related items–trims, rhinestones, underwear foundations and notions.
Bohemian Crystal, on Maple between 8th and 9th Streets, is a well known source for rhinestones and decorations. They have both the top quality Swarovski crystals and the less expensive Czech stones. Again, buying in bulk really helps reduce your expense. Rhinestones are sold by gross, which is 144 pieces. Personally, I buy rhinestones online but if you are in a pinch and don’t have time for shipping, shopping downtown is a good option. Several trim stores next to this one also sell rhinestones, so check around first for your best deal.
Next to Bohemian Crystal is a lingerie foundation store. I like to purchase bra foundations and cups here for my costumes. There is a huge variety of choices, so you can really customize your fit for your dress.
With so many choices, it’s easy to get distracted when on a mission to find costuming materials. Plan enough time to see a good number of stores, and don’t forget to take your design with you to help envision your costume completely.
For a map and further information, check out www.fashiondistrict.org.
Enjoy the downtown shopping experience at the fabulous LA Garment District!
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