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Dressing America: Tales from the Garment Center    cover photo

Dressing America: Tales from the Garment Center 2011

Not Recommended

Distributed by Cinema Guild, 115 West 30th Street, Suite 800, New York, NY 10001; 212-685-6242
Producer n/a
Directed by Joel Sucher and Steven Fischler
DVD, color, 88 min.

High School - General Adult
Cloth, Commerce, Fabrics, Family, Immigration, Sewing, Textile Industry, Travel & Tourism

Date Entered: 11/13/2015

Reviewed by Linda Frederiksen, Washington State University, Vancouver, WA

Take a walking tour of Manhattan and chances are good that there will be a stop somewhere along 7th Avenue between West 36th and 37th Streets. For more than a century, this 20 square block area was the center of clothing manufacture, design and trade in the United States. During its heyday in the 1970s, nearly 80% of all ready-made apparel in the United States originated there. Although now greatly reduced in size and importance, with the majority of work outsourced and inexpensively produced elsewhere, remnants of the once influential New York garment district have not yet completely disappeared.

In this pleasantly nostalgic overview, the filmmakers interview a few of the remaining individuals and families still practicing the rag-trade, or schmatta, of their pioneering Jewish immigrant relatives. Archival photographs and clips from early Hollywood movies further the image of once-vibrant commercial village in the midst of Manhattan. Those familiar with the names Nicole Miller, Harve Bernard, Leslie Fay, and Scaasi may be interested in where these clothing labels began, as well as the accompanying personal stories. For a more realistic, less idealized, view of an industry that also has a dark underbelly, both past and present, viewers will need to look elsewhere. Of potential interest for libraries that support fashion studies programs.