John Wayne's True Grit played for 4 months at Ruby Moriarty clothing shop
Photo by Joshua Kristal
Ruby Moriarty is a dress shop with a sense of humor. Jessica Dineen, the owner and designer of skirts, ties, swimsuits, tunics, and most of the clothes sold at Ruby Moriarty, including a line of neckties for children, offers to meet me on a Monday, when the shop is closed. She answers the door to me and her son, who is waiting to enter their house, located above the store. As he makes his way upstairs, Dineen turns on the lights and a projection, onto the wall, of the classic, John Wayne version of “True Grit,” which played here for four months, without sound.
“I always have an old movie playing on the projector. I like to play a lot of Westerns because they show a lot of sky. I like movies that blend with my color pallet, bright movies with good colors.
“You learn a lot about a film watching it without sound.”
Dineen keeps her doors open to let young children run in and out and to encourage couples waiting for tables at nearby Prime Meats and Buttermilk Channel to browse and shop. She says she moved to Court Street more than a decade ago because she “wanted to live in a place that had street life and a public space.”
Dineen’s shop is popular with locals, and local celebrities. A hot item is her zipper skirt ($98); a denim version features a red zipper down the middle front. A whimsical evening dress with a French wallpaper print sells for $98; a classic key-hole dress for $109.
Dineen makes all the women’s dresses, skirts, tunics, swimsuits, kerchiefs and some shirts. Lingerie is coming soon. She also makes the men’s and children’s neckties. All Dineen’s stuff is under her label, Ruby Moriarty. The children’s clothing, including skirts, pants and cozy pajamas, are made by another local designer, Liz Pitofsky, whose label is Lady. Dineen also carries screen-printed T-shirts by Carroll Gardens designers Allyn Howard and Pomelo Press.
The shop also carries a large supply of monochrome T-shirts, made of soft, delicate cotton, such as the fitted button-down for $40.
A mom of two, Dineen wrote for Travel + Leisure in her past life, and taught fiction at Emerson College.
“I wrote about dress stores for many years. Writing is great and requires so much imagination but after 20 years, I wanted to create something more tactile, tangible,” Dineen told me as I stood there holding a half-sleeve cowl-neck dress ($109), thinking I could never make something so beautiful.
She names Cozbi Cabrera, the designer of women and children’s clothes, doll maker and owner of Cozbi, just a few doors down on southern Court Street, as her inspiration. “She’s so talented that I had to go down there and just learn from her.”
Dineen previously ran the shop as an art gallery. She has been at this location for 13 years. “The location defines the business,” she says, “we are part of the neighborhood.”
The custom designs are popular because they are individualistic, and affordable. Dineen emphasizes texture and juxtaposition, mixing classic cuts with unconventional treatments and prints.
“We have something for everyone here, from 14-year-olds to 81-year-olds. It feels good when you see someone walking around Court wearing your clothes,” Dineen says.
Dineen buys most of her materials from Maine and Japan. From Maine she finds quilted fabrics, for an “urban farm aesthetic,” and Japan appeals because its fabrics “are high quality but don’t take themselves too seriously.”
Ruby Moriarty is named after an 1800s Dublin street musician who played stand-up base. On Friday nights, Dineen often serves tea and wine, and welcomes people to enjoy her spot as both a dress store and a public hang out.
The previous owner of Ruby Moriarty’s storefront was an Italian family that lived on Court for generations. The space was a laundromat and the family lived upstairs, like Dineen and her family do now.
“Even though we are gentrifying Court Street with our new stores,” Dineen says, “I feel like we’re really just turning into the original owners.”
In the back of the store is a small workspace, where you can bring fabric if you like for custom designed clothing. If you can’t find Dineen in Ruby Moriarty, you might look for a woman on bicycle, riding her new patterns to a larger design studio on the corner of Douglass St. and 3rd Ave, where most of Ruby Moriarty’s sewing takes place.
It’s about as far as Dineen likes to leave her haven on Court Street.
“I could live only on Court Street. Court Street has some of the best bars and restaurants in New York. I guess that’s pretty sad since I was a travel writer for so many years. But it’s true. I love it here… the people only get more interesting.”
Ruby Moriarty is open on Sundays from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Fridays and Saturdays from 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. And, of course, by appointment.
516 Court St.