LA Garment District Tips
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Los Angeles Garment District Tips

Shopping in the Los Angeles Fabric District for the first time may feel overwhelming, but just follow a few tips and you'll be a pro in no time. 

Given the high cost of local fabric shops, and their lack of selection, going to shop in downtown LA's garment district will actually save you time and money.  Besides, the wonderful choices will inspire you to new projects.

If you've never been downtown before a few tips.

Dress Matters

bulletDress down for power shopping.
bulletRegular shoppers come dressed casual ready to shop until they drop.
bulletAvoid anything that says "I don't come down here often" in clothing or attitude.
bulletSkip things like coat jackets, labeled bags or high end t-shirts
bulletSeriously, the proper dress can affect price 10% to 20%
bulletNo shiny jewelry even if plastic.
bulletShiny stuff attracts the few magpies that are in the area, better to just leave it off to not stand out.
bulletWear comfortable shoes.  Much walking. Very few places to sit.
bulletSun screen is a must as is a hat for the sun sensitive anytime the sun is out.  There are many small shops and no shade between them.

Money Maters

bulletBring CASH!  Cash speaks best downtown.
bulletChecks are a no-no most places. 
bulletThere are some ATM machines down there, but they're not always working and have $100 limits.
bulletResale Cards
bulletIf you have a resale card, bring copies to sent up accounts with merchants, bring many copies.
bulletSome of the bigger places prices are different with resale cards... but in most cases it's quantity.
bulletCards count at Bohemian Crystal and Michael Levine's though purchased quantity still matters.
bulletNo one is going to sell you a half a yard.
bulletCheap fabric places ($1-$2) may have a 3 yard minimum
bullet10 yards and over, you can see price advantages.
bulletIn the 15-20 yard range... find out the bolt price.
bulletButtons, Stones, Crystals and Accessory bits
bulletDon't buy ones and twosies even if you can (except for those really fancy designer buttons, but the rules apply to those too)  The prices will suck... even if you think they are good.
bulletBuy buttons/crystal  in dozens, at the minimum.  You will find  that most times, at about quantity 4... dozen makes more sense.
bulletIf you're buying a couple of dozen... buy a gross (144) or whatever their large package is (100).
bulletDepending on the store... 4-6 dozen may be the price break on the stores that don't have the items bagged.
bulletIn cases of bagged dozen, still ask.  (BTW, pre bagged dozen will be more most times.)
bullet "How much for a yard?"  then "How much for 10 yards, cash?"
bulletSome places with barter; some will not.  You're not going to change their minds.
bulletIf they say, "I give you wholesale."  Go for it.
bulletThose that don't barter may be more generous with their yardage if they like you... sometimes very generous.
bulletDO NOT barter on tax.  If you have a resale card, use it.
bulletIf you're going to need a receipt, let them know as they're writing it up... needing a receipt means you'll be paying tax unless you have a resale card.  (Read between the lines there for a tip.)
bulletMost places DO NOT have marked prices nor marked fiber content 
bulletBring paper to note prices so you can compare from place to place.
bulletIf you really need something, be ready to get a swatch and go out on the street and do your own burn test. (So bring matches.)
bulletKeep a close watch on your purse at all times.
bulletThis is more important in the ready made section than the fabric section... and doubly important in the "alley" south of Olympic.


bulletMost folks who go down to shop barely stop to eat.  There are hot dog carts and corner stands, snack shops.  These may are may not even have a seat.  People improvise by sitting on steps, on windowsills and then move one.  The "junk dogs" are great.  Don't be scared off them. Save your money for fabric.
bulletThere are now some "brand name" places on Santee south of Ninth. (One street west of Maple)  On the weekends lines can be long... and the bathroom lines even longer w/ purchase only.  Subway, McDonalds, El Polo Loco and more.  By long, it could be 45 minutes.
bulletStarbucks - SE corner of 9th and Santee.  Has seating, can be a slightly calmer place to catch you breath and load up on energy.
bulletKeep drinking water, you'll run it off. 
bulletYou can get bottled water from the carts and just about every place else. 
bulletStay away from the carbonated cans.  Some shop owners won't let you in with them... but never stop you for having water.
bulletBathrooms are few and far between.  Learn where they are... plan accordingly.


bulletThere are many, many small places you'll be weaving among.  When  you go out to an intersection... get yourself oriented with buildings and signs.
bulletPersonally, I like 9th and Maple --- $1.98 signs on the NW corner (and the "L" fabric mart on the inside) Pink two story building on the SW corner.
bulletYou're going into many small places.  Be prepared to take notes. 
bullet Some allow swatching and will staple the samples to business cards, some don't.  Then you need to make a minimum purchase to get a sample... half yard often.
bulletThe real cheep places, won't allow swatching... but at $1-2 a yard... just buy their 2-3 yard minimum.
bulletThe main area we're covering is Maple street between Olympic and 8th. We walk a figure 8 around there.  There are separate paths to take depending on what kind of fabric you're after or beads, or trim... etc.


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This page last updated: 07/27/09