We decided to spend the day - sun! Finally! - lolling about Dihua Street and looking at the puppetry (bu dai xi) museum one block over (coming from Nanjing E. Road, turn left at Xiahai temple on Dihua and it's at the end of the lane on the right).
Afterwards we got shaved ice at the old-skool place under the old Dihua market facade; the famous one with only three flavors of ice - red bean, green bean and almond - and coffee around the corner. That's when I noticed that the ugly newer building behind the old market facade had businesses in it! I'd assumed it was closed because the only other time I looked, it seemed abandoned.
The only market I knew about was the fairly small one that doesn't seem to be connected to this one, also with lots of fabric vendors, but including fruit, meat and religious item stores as well.
It's not abandoned - the inside is a massive fabric, clothing making, alterations and clothing accessory/bead/feather/ribbon/string market. You can buy any cloth imaginable - from silver tutu fluff to elaborate Chinese silk to fake black fur with white fur hearts on it to old-fashioned floral-print cottons. You can get the cloth made into almost anything, or get old clothes altered or repaired.
And to think - I used to believe that the best way to shop for fabric at Dihua Street (well-known among locals and in guidebooks as a mecca for cloth) was to go into each separate store and vet their inventory!