Midnight in the Garden of Leather and Lace

Have you ever wondered what's inside that shop next to Blue Bottle? Is it lingerie? Are those costumes? Our curiosity got the best of us and now we have all the answers. Join us on a tour of Dark Garden, a unique apparel store that has been designing corsets and garments for San Franciscans and international celebrities for years.

Upon arriving at Dark Garden, we met with Sarah Fishman, the Boutique Manager for the store and an employee for the past 11.5 years. What is Dark Garden, you might ask? It's self-described as a "unique corsetry & bridal couture for women and men" and is located directly next to Blue Bottle Coffee [321 Linden]. Sarah explained that Autumn Adamme, the owner of Dark Garden, started the business in a garage here in San Francisco. She told us "by the time she was 12, she knew she was going to make clothing for people. Her interest in historical fashion eventually led her to corsets."
front entrance on linden
The store has come a long way from the startup days in a garage. With 15 people on staff and a national reputation for producing "beautiful and detail-oriented corsets and dresses known for their quality and fit," clients can now find a wide variety of things to buy.
When you walk around the store, the first thing you notice are the corsets. You can buy ready-to-wear ones that are organized by size and can be altered like jeans or a dress. These will run you between $275-$350. For those of you who want something unique, or looking for a corset that fits your body perfectly, Dark Garden designs and creates customized ones at their store. Sarah said customized corsets have ranged anywhere between $1500-$15,000.
ready-to-wear corsets
In addition to corsets, another huge market for the business is wedding dresses. While they won't make copies of previous designers' works, they do like it when people bring in ideas of what they're looking for and then create a new or slightly altered design specifically for them.
If you're wondering who shops at Dark Garden, it's pretty much anyone you can imagine. "We have 'normal' people who want wedding dresses and it's the only time they come in" Sarah began. "We get men and women, cross-dressers, transgender clients, gay and straight, women going to the opera and even women stripping." "How about women stripping at the opera?" we asked. Sarah couldn't recall a time when that happened... yet. She did point out that while demand is steadily high, they get an influx in purchases right before Folsom Street Fair, Burning Man, Halloween, Christmas, the Dickens Fair and the Edwardian Ball.
And while this is their only retail store, they've been known to fly to LA to design and fit some special clients over the years. Some of these women include Pamela Anderson, Christina Aguilera, Tilda Swinton, Marilyn Manson, Kelly Osbourne and Heidi Fleiss.
When asked what she likes about working in Hayes Valley, Sarah told us a story. One night, a person broke the front window of Dark Garden and stole one of the corsets. Neighbors on Linden Street who heard the noise immediately ran downstairs, chased the burglar down and tackled him to the ground. They called the cops and the corset was returned to its proper owner. "That's what I like about Hayes Valley. It feels like a neighborhood where people are looking out for you."
The next time you walk down Linden and wonder what's going on in the big purple store, take a chance and walk inside. You're bound to have a great time.

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