New York City’s Garment Industry: The Tired, Poor, and Forgotten Masses

Wendy Potter, Apparel Production, Butler High School

Curriculum Unit (pdf)


This curriculum focuses on the valuable contributions of immigrants to the garment industry, with special attention given to immigration in New York City. The great immigration period of 1840-1940 shaped the landscape of New York City. As the city continued to grow because of immigration, the garment industry of New York City was established. Dependent on the skills of various groups of people, the garment industry of New York City is now considered a “fashion capital” of the world. Although sweatshops and child labor are an issue of the past in New York City, there remains an immigrant workforce that is marginalized. The glamour of fashion overshadows immigrant contributions. Through creative and hands-on activities, students will learn to memorialize and celebrate the contributions of immigration to the garment industry. With memorials, monuments, and architecture as touchstones, this unit exposes untold history of New York City’s garment industry. While natives of New York City may be aware of this concept, it is important that non-natives have a realistic view of New York City’s garment industry, rather than the often shared glamorous one.