Thursday, October 1, 2009

Underwear on Orchard

Orchard Street has long been known as an underwear hub. People have been shopping there for deals on bras, panties, girdles, briefs, boxers, and all other manner of underthings for decades.

You can still buy your underwear here, in shops, like at the wonderful Orchard Corset Center, and from tables on the street.



As new uber-high-end boutiques come in, however, the old underwear is vanishing--and new underwear is taking its place. Like everything else, it seems, the new stuff costs a bit more than the old.

Like the underwear at No. 8b, a boutique that recently replaced a Chinese signmaker's shop, and about which Mike Albo said: "doesn’t quite fit into the immigrant aesthetic. It looks like a minimal Swedish architecture firm beamed down from the near future. Inside is a selection of beautiful, crazily priced men’s fashion, which on first sight would send the entire dumbstruck Gumpertz clan into an insane asylum."



The Gumpertz clan lived in what is now the Tenement Museum. The wife was a seamstress and the husband sold dresses. But you don't have to be a schmatta dealer from the old country to be struck dumb by the sight of a single pair of underwear sporting a $98 price tag.

14 comments:

Mykola Dementiuk said...

Haha! Wonder what he's guarding and protecting...What if he needs to make pee-pee...At $98....Sheet! Gimme a break...

Mick

www.mykoladementiuk.com

David Ingle said...

My wife and I visited the Orchard Corset Center a few years ago -- we were visiting NYC from out of town, had read about the place, and it became a planned destination for us. It was a memorable experience for sure. I too sat in the plastic man chair while my wife went behind the curtain with the proprietress for a fitting. The proprietress told me that while she was in the back, I should handle any customers who came in. None did, but the thought that they might panicked me! She also told us about a documentary film that had been made about the business, but rather proudly said that she had never seen it.

It's a great place in so many ways! We'll always remember our visit there, and my wife still has the bras she purchased!

Bowery Boogie said...

there's never anyone inside 8b...

arielariel said...

Orchard Street is a gem. I say that as a fat Jewish queer with big Hebrew tattoos who can still go in there, get felt up by an Orthodox Jewish woman, and leave with a bra that fits just right, just like everybody else. There is a openness that these new places just don't have -- Orchard Street is in the business of selling bras. Anywhere selling $98 underpants is in the business of selling a lifestyle that is enacted through underwear, and that lifestyle doesn't have much room for people like me.

It's pretty gross. I am trying to imagine what on earth one gets for paying $98 for underpants. You'd have to wear another pair underneath to protect them from, well...your unders.

dotpolka said...

These are vintage German Schiesser underpants. Judging from the packaging, they are from the Thirties or Forties. These have to be extremely rare, probably the last ones in existence, which justifies the price, I guess.

Jeremiah Moss said...

i would be afraid to fart in these $98 manties.

are they for special occasions? or do you buy a pair for every day of the week? that, plus a few extras to deal with laundry lags, and you're spending a grand on underpants.

Goggla said...

I've always wanted to try the corset center, but have been slightly scared...for $98, I hope those briefs come with dessert.

Tenement Museum said...

It's amazing these stores can hold on considering the global changes in clothing production & sales. They're relics of the age when the bras & corsets were actually made in New York. I like the one on the west side of Orchard near Grand - they have lots of socks & tights, too.

Apparently there is an HBO show on the Schmatta business Oct. 19. http://www.hbo.com/docs/programs/schmatta/index.html. Don't know if it's any good, but we'll be watching!

Kate

Jeremiah Moss said...

i don't think those manties are vintage. according to the Times:

"The standout [at this boutique] for guys is the vintage-looking Schiesser underwear from Germany, which has been reissued in the 1950s packaging..."

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/01/11/fashion/11CRITIC.html?_r=1

Maybe Overpants? said...

I don't totally disagree, but I also have to say from my past experience that stuff like this is so crazy expensive because it is made of very labor intensive materials that have the insane side-effect of also feeling super nice.

And what seems strangely ironic (for the area of the city you are talking about), is that these expensive skivies also end up being so pricey because they are made in shops that pay their workers a living wage rather than in the Triangle Factories of our beloved past. I know this about Schiesser underwear in particular. It's what almost made them go out of business recently as a company. High quality + high wages is a tricky thing to pull off these days anywhere!

And if this wasn't enough... they also happen to be imported from Germany, which slams up against high US tariffs and duties. And here's the kicker... these tariffs and duties are imposed to protect the factories that used to be everywhere here in the US and have mostly now shut down or moved overseas because labor practices here are now regulated (mostly), and as a result, labor is expensive, leading to goods that cost more than we now want to pay.

And while I agree that $98 is a strangely high price to pay for a pair of underwear, I also can't imagine this store is forcing anyone to buy and wear them! If they did... now that would be a story!!!

Love your blog Jeremiah! You are so right so very often! Thank you for keeping track.

Jeremiah Moss said...

Overpants, you hit on one of the horrible complications of postmodern life! sweatshop vs. well-paid labor, quality going only to those at the top of the luxury economy, while the poor consume the sweat of the poor. it's dizzying, isn't it?

all i know is this: i felt with my own hands the $98 underpants, expecting manna from heaven, and they felt like cotton.

snuggle bunny said...

arielariel--my father & uncles used to own a shop on Ludlow street (next to the now defunct suba, a few doors down from Motor City), and let me tell you, I MISS buying my underthings on Orchard. I was telling someone about 2 days ago about going in to a shop, getting felt up by an old yenta, and walking out with a fantastic bra. One of the first ones I ever bought (which I still have) has a tag inside of it: UNION MADE IN THE USA.

Gotta wonder where and how!? But not knocking it. Still a great bra and still a great place.

I miss the old LES.

Jill said...

I may have told this story before, but I can't go to Orchard St without thinking of it. When I was about 10 I came into the city with my grandparents to go shopping on Orchard St., which was something they did every few years. Somehow the stuff in Queens wasn't as plentiful or cheap.

They bought a car-load of blankets, sheets, towels, underwear, socks and other fabricky goodies. Enough to last a lifetime. After we put everything in the car, we went to get lunch (Katz's?, maybe) and when we returned, the car door had been jimmied open and all the goodies were gone.

The Green Cat said...

I first read about Orchard Corset here an now it's the only place I shop for bras. These folks are fantastic and really know their business. You can read about my first trip there here: http://itsagreengreengreengreenworld.blogspot.com/2009/01/orchard-corset-shop.html