Garment District History:
New York first assumed its role as the center of the nation's garment industry by producing clothes for slaves working on Southern plantations. It was more efficient for their masters to buy clothes from producers in New York than to have the slaves spend time and labor making the clothing themselves. In addition to supplying clothing for slaves, tailors produced other ready-made garments for sailors and western prospectors during slack periods in their regular business.
Prior to the mid-nineteenth century, the majority of Americans either made their own clothing, or if they were wealthy, purchased "tailor-made" customized clothing. By the 1820s, however, an increasing number of ready-made garments of a higher quality were being produced for a broader market.
Manufacturing in the state of New York, and in New York City in particular, faded in the late 20th century. This has been exemplified by the decline of the Garment District. The district lost well over a thousand factory jobs per year, and men pushing racks of garments from one workshop to another ceased to crowd the streets. Factories and showrooms are increasingly becoming condo apartments and retail.