A bewildered-looking high school kid approached me and my roommate in the trims and lace section of Pilsen’s Textile Discount Outlet, where he’d been dispatched by his prom date to buy material for her dress. “Do you know where they keep all that kind of fabrics?” he asked.
We didn’t know how to begin to respond—Textile Discount Outlet is a mazelike warehouse with all manner of materials stacked ceiling high, no rhyme or reason to its organization. It’s a favorite among local designers, who I’m sure navigate the place better than I do; once I got overstimulated and had to rest my head on a pile of sequined mermaid patches till it was time to leave. And I can barely even look at the basement, a free-for-all of old brocades hidden under cotton Garfield prints and hot purple suede.
Prices are cheap, but you won’t know what they are till you hit the cutting table, where the employees conjure up a figure on the spot. When they can’t, they summon owner Sol Lieberman, who shuffles over, eyes your purchase over rimless glasses, and mumbles a number. The store’s been in his Orthodox Jewish family for 30 years—don’t go on Saturday, it’s closed for the Sabbath.
That day last spring I did find a pretty cornflower blue silk that would’ve made a lovely prom dress, but then I couldn’t find that kid. I hope he made it out OK. 2121 W. 21st, 773-847-0572. —Tasneem Paghdiwala
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