So, I’m planning to trek downtown to the Fashion District tomorrow. I like to think of myself as pretty handy with a sewing machine, but not handy enough that I feel like dropping a lot of cash on fancy fabric would be a good idea. (My number of sewing successes are outnumbered by my sewing failures by about ten to one, but my dreams of being a fashion icon will never die!) The Fashion District is my most favorite place to go for fabric and sewing supplies on the cheap, plus it’s also a really vibrant, fun part of town. But the rows and rows of fabric stores selling polyester at 1.99 a yard can be kind of overwhelming if you’ve never been before, so here’s my survival guide for making it out of the Fashion District in one piece.
Wear comfy shoes. You’ll probably end up doing lots of walking. Also, parking in the Fashion District is (predictably) not good, so I’d suggest taking Metro – I usually take the Red Line to Pershing Square and then walk over, which isn’t too bad of a stroll. While the district is pretty big, most of the textile merchants are in and around Maple Street, between 8th and Olympic.
Have a plan. There have been times when I have, very idealistically, ventured downtown thinking that the right fabric and pattern will just jump right off the shelf at me, but this almost never happens. I find that there is just so much to choose from I can get easily overwhelmed. It’s been my experience that it’s better to know what you’re looking for and what you want to make, and to arm yourself with a list. Having said this…be flexible, too, because you never know what deals you’ll find.
Haggle? The question mark is there because I have never actually tried haggling, ever. I’m just not ballsy enough and I have no idea what kind of price point is good and what kind would sound totally unreasonable. But you should do it! It can be done, or so I’ve heard! And let me know how it goes, so that next time maybe I’ll feel brave enough to try talking down a few prices myself.
Don’t be put off by all of the neon lycra and fun fur. There is a lot of that shit in the Fashion District. But trust me, and don’t let the unfortunate relics of a less civilized sartorial period put you off! If you actually go past the bolts of awful spandex, there are hidden treasures that await inside those stores! You just have to dig.
Dig, dig, dig. Seriously. That’s the fun part. It’s like searching for treasure in Dungeons and Dragons!
In terms of stores to try, I’ve had really good luck on Wall Street, which is a couple blocks East of Santee Alley, the Fashion District’s main thoroughfare. You should for sure go to Mike’s Fabrics, at 821 Wall Street, because they have amazing silks at really great prices. It’s also one of the cleanest, most well-organized shops in the area, and the owners are a wonderful, friendly couple. My other favorite spot to hit is the Michael Levine Loft, at 920 Maple, where everything is $2 a pound! Of course, it’s also all randomly thrown in giant bins, and for every amazing piece of fabric there are at least ten totally awful ones, but if you give yourself time to dig, there’s some great stuff to be had for super cheap!
If you have any other favorite spots in the Fashion District, or any tips for other places to get sewing stuff in LA, leave them in the comments!