Shopping in Boston can be very boring. On every street corner Boston’s resident hipsters bemoan high prices and low quality, and how annoying it is to shop in the same little boutiques, day in and day out. But they should bite their tongues, because Boston is home to some of the coolest, most innovative unorthodox shopping experiences around.

The Garment District! 200 Broadway, Cambridge MA 02139

If you don’t want to pay out the nose for that adorable vintage-inspired lace dress, head over to The Garment District, where you can find the real thing for much (much!) less. From their discount contemporary, vintage, costume and designer offerings upstairs to their arguably unique By The Pound system downstairs, you can be sure to cover your bases (and whatever else you need to cover) here.

Heaps of innovation: The Garment District’s By The Pound system

Holy clothes heap, Batman!

Strewn over the floor in the Garment District’s By The Pound shop are clothes. Piles and heaps and small mountains of unwanted raiments from as far away as California, and as near as your bedroom closet. Wading through them, you can literally stumble over anything from sparkly “Daisy Dukes” to miniature baby overalls, and once you’ve picked out your diamonds in the rough, the nice lady at the register will charge you only $1.50 per pound of clothing, no matter what that clothing happens to be. A hipster’s wet dream? Possibly, but at 200 Broadway that dream is a reality.

An “alternative department store” is born:

In 1986, a defunct rag factory underwent a magical transformation…

After the rag-cutting industry abandoned Boston, outsourced to far off lands where labor was cheaper, one brave, clever innovator found a new use for the bales of discarded garments which once would have been shredded on sight. Chris Cassel, the Garment District’s president, started to sell them piece by piece, priced by the pound. Modestly, he credits the 1977 film Annie Hall with inspiring the second-hand craze which helped his business blast off, but I suspect his own stylish sensibility had something to do with it.

Woody Allen and Diane Keaton in Annie Hall, 1977.

In 1986 Cassel’s By The Pound project was officially installed in the massive Cambridge warehouse at 200 Broadway, and received a warm welcome from the people of Boston. The enterprise quickly blossomed into two separate entities: The Garment District, upstairs, where the choicest garments to pass through it’s fuchsia doors are carefully steamed and priced for the discerning customer, and the By The Pound clothing pit downstairs. Those garments deemed unsellable in either venue are sold to rag cutters in Mexico, where they are chopped up or shredded to make futon stuffing or car mat material. Chris Cassel’s extraordinary dedication to reuse and recycling is admirable– nothing that passes through the Garment District goes to waste. His philosophy even extends to the shop’s decor, which consists of bit and pieces he’s picked up at antique shows and auctions.

An airplane hovers, embedded in the wall, over the racks of vintage treasures.

The Garment District provides just one example of the many unconventional shopping experiences to be had in a city as vibrant and inventive as ours.  Boston has deep roots as a city which fosters innovative thought, starting all the way back with the Founding Fathers and branching up to today’s up and coming entrepreneurs. The stimulation of Boston’s creative economy is one of the Future Boston Alliance’s most important goals.

Rachel, Future Boston Intern


About Future Boston Alliance

Future Boston Alliance is a non-profit organization seeking to revolutionize our city's creative economy. By advocating for new talent and businesses and holding educational events, we aim to make Boston a hub for collaboration, innovation, and culture.

One response »

  1. isabelport says:

    This place is great! I actually got my daughter her prom dress there. It was nice and inexpensive!

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