Moving to a new city brings with it many challenges and surprises. I am a seamstress, and being able to locate fabric and notions, like plaid silk or silver thread or purple sequins, is a necessity.
I arrived in New Orleans a couple weeks before Mardi Gras. This being my first carnival, I knew my costume had to be memorable and homemade. I had some mustard yellow velvet from an old wedding dress project, and a great jacket pattern, so I wasn’t far from becoming a stepper, just like in the Mardi Gras parades. But where can a person find purple stretch sequin fabric for hot pants?
The answer is Jefferson Variety Store. It’s magical.
I’d first gone (twice) to Promenade Fine Fabrics on Saint Charles looking for something for my costume. While Promenade has amazing fabrics, they don’t carry purple stretch sequin fabric or accompanying trim. Both times, the kind gentleman who helped me told me to go to Jefferson Variety Store. After the second time, I looked it up on my trusty iPhone and drove there.
I followed Claiborne out to Jefferson Highway, turned down Iris Street towards the river, and pulled into a nondescript parking lot. While parking, I was a little wary. The one story brick building has just a small sign. It’s in Jefferson Parish, on Iris Street, and this was my first journey knowingly leaving Orleans Parish. Turns out Jefferson Parish is lovely, and nothing to fear. And also turns out Jefferson Variety is a short 8 minute drive from my house, taking River Road.
I walked inside and was suddenly blown away. After passing a room full of beads and parade throws, I saw rows of costume fabric and stretch fabrics and stacks of sequins and sequin trim, and even the beloved purple sequin fabric that became my hot pants for MOM’s Ball and Mardi Gras. A frequenter of the garment district in New York to forage fabrics, Jefferson Variety was an utter surprise. Right in my new hometown!
I’ve been back several times, all for different reasons. A mustard yellow hat, bright coral fabric for a curtain, feathers, zippers for pillow covers, silk for a dress, power mesh for undergarments– Jefferson Variety literally has it all. If you are a seamstress or crafter, or need to buy feathers by the pound, and have an extra hour while in New Orleans, this is a must.
My friend Elsa and I got inspired to see what else the south offers from a giant fabric store perspective, so we took a day trip to Biloxi, Mississippi and discovered Josette’s. Similar to Jefferson Variety, but with tights, costumes, costume rentals, masks, wigs, makeup, and dance shoes. Josette’s is a rarity, for sure, but a little out of reach for a quick run to get thread. Given the walk on the white beach, and a Tiger Blood snow cone reminiscent of my childhood in Iola, Kansas, it was well worth the hour and a half trip.
It’s great to know that I can fulfill my fabric needs in my new hometown. And it’s even better to know my seamstress desires for Mardi Gras and Halloween can now become a reality. Next year? Green sequined hot pants, with 3 pounds of gold feathers attached.