A Stitch in Time at Garment District Museum

A Stitch in Time at Garment District Museum

Downtown Kansas City has gone through many phases over the past 150 years. The Historic Garment District Museum focuses on the period when Kansas City played host to numerous garment manufacturers. The museum is located at 801 Broadway, in the area that once held a thriving garment industry.

Garment District Museum - Kansas City attractions - dress making - clothing manufacturing

Garment District Startups

In the 1920’s the manufacturing of clothing, hats, and coats was began in the upper floors of dry goods stores in downtown Kansas City. Business grew, and spread over the next 10 years. By the 1930’s, Kansas City was known as the “Paris of the Plains”. In the US, one of seven women wore clothing produced in Kansas City. Many of the nation’s leading manufacturers ran shops in the city, and it was second only to New York City.

Garment District Museum - Kansas City attractions - dress making - clothing manufacturing

Garment District Museum - Kansas City attractions - dress making - clothing manufacturing

By the 1940’s, the garment industry employed over 4,000 people in Kansas City. This made it the second largest industry in the city during that period. One of Kansas City’s pioneer clothing designers was Nell Donnelly. Under the Nelly Don label, this Kansas City headquartered company produced about 75 million dresses through its 52 year history. Their success in part came from being one of the first to use assembly line processes.

Garment District Museum - Kansas City attractions - dress making - clothing manufacturing

Garment District Museum - Kansas City attractions - dress making - clothing manufacturing

The Peak of the Local Industry

In the 1950’s the garment industry in Kansas City was estimated to have employed about 8,000 people. There were about 150 companies vying for a market share. A large majority of the clothing made in Kansas City was designed for colder weather fashions. Coats, hats, and scarves were popular items, and the market was flooded with Kansas City merchandise. By the 1960’s the businesses were beginning to wane. At that point employment had dropped to around 5,000. In 1982 the industry had all but vanished from Kansas City.

Garment District Museum - Kansas City attractions - dress making - clothing manufacturing

Garment District Museum - Kansas City attractions - dress making - clothing manufacturing

During our visit, we spoke with staff regarding the collection. We were informed that because of the concentrated focus of cold weather styles, the museum has few warm weather outfits in its collection. They do possess around 300 garments, which they choose from for their displays. The museum staff rotates the displays twice a year, in spring and fall. She told us that while they would like to display more summer styles, they are difficult to come by.

Garment District Museum - Kansas City attractions - dress making - clothing manufacturing

The Historic Garment District Museum is open on Saturdays from 10:00 to 3:00. Admission is FREE, and tours are available by appointment only. For those craving a great Garment District selfie spot, head one block west of the museum to 8th & Bank Street. In a small park-like setting you will find a giant needle and button. Say “Cheese”.

By | 2018-02-06T07:35:08+00:00 April 21st, 2017|Historical Visits|6 Comments

About the Author:

We are Jeff and Crystal, a Baby Boomer couple who love exploring this big blue marble we all call home. After spending the first portion of our lives together raising a family, the empty-nest syndrome finally caught up with us. This has given us the opportunity to spend more time traveling, and seeking out new destinations. We developed this travel blog with the goal of showing how we “Visit Like A Local”. Our itineraries are designed to get us off the interstates, and into the heart of the places we visit. We believe this will allow our readers to choose a cultural experience, and eventually head home with a real flavor of the places they visit. We hope you are enjoying our website and will consider sharing it with your friends. Please come back often, as we post new articles three times per week.

6 Comments

  1. Deborah Howell July 4, 2017 at 9:12 am - Reply

    My mom worked with a great group of ladies, at Gay Gibson. They made clothing mainly, for Hartzfield’s. I was lucky, because she got to buy sample’s for $4 to $10. No, way, we could afford to buy a dress like that, in store.

    • Jeff & Crystal July 4, 2017 at 12:03 pm - Reply

      The lady on duty at the museum was telling us that the summer line of dresses are rare to find these days. Perhaps someone will see the article and dig out a memory from yesteryear. Thanks for sharing your memories.

  2. John W. Jourdan November 18, 2017 at 2:30 pm - Reply

    Thanks for the post. While we have been gone from KC for many years (1968) it was our home town.

    • Jeff & Crystal November 19, 2017 at 7:56 am - Reply

      Hope you can make a return visit to see all of the changes.

  3. Judy Bowe November 19, 2017 at 5:12 am - Reply

    My Aunt sewed for Gay Gibson and Nellie Dawn

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