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Padded Hangers for Garments, System No. 2


Ethnic garments are an integral part of many anthropology collections. The optimal storage condition for most garments is in flat textile drawers. An alternative and less expensive method is hanging the garments.

Traditional padded hangers and dummies are not suitable for certain ethnic costumes. Mexican and Central American indigenous costumes have different methods of construction (Cordry and Cordry, 1968). Special padded hangers have been designed to alleviate stress and provide better support for these ethnic costumes (Cooley, 1976; Wolf, 1984) (Fig. 1).

Figure 1. Huipil on a custom-made, straight-shouldered hanger.



Mei Wan Campbell
Museum of Texas Tech Univ.
Fourth and Indiana Avenue
P.O. Box 4499
Lubbock, TX 79409-3191 USA Tel (806) 742-2479

Photograph: Nick Olson

Illustrations: Mike Nickell

 Publication: 1992


Straight- and triangular-shouldered hangers can be made to provide proper support for straight-shouldered and diagonal-shouldered garments. Double-wall board is cut to fit the contour of the shoulders of the garment. Polyethylene cross linked sheeting covers the board to provide additional cushion, and unbleached, washed muslin covers the padded form to prevent direct contact with the garment. A piece of heavy gauge wire (12-14ga), is secured to the board to form the hook to hang the custom designed hanger.

Materials Tools Supplies

  • 100% cotton muslin, unbleached
  • Acrylic co-polymer adhesive
  • Coated steel wire, 12-14 gauge
  • Corrugated, double wall, pH neutral paper board (2.5cm thick)
  • Cotton string
  • Polyethylene foam sheeting, irradiation crosslinked or polypropylene foam sheeting
  • Sewing needle
  • Wire cutter


Straight-shouldered hangers

  1. Measure the shoulder length and width of arm openings of the garment.
  2. Cut a piece of board (2.5cm thick) slightly smaller (2-3cm narrower and shorter) than the measurements to allow for extra foam padding and ease of movement of the hanger in and out of the garment.
  3. Cut a piece of wire (25cm longer than the height of the board) with a wire cutter.
  4. Coat the cut ends of the wire with acrylic adhesive to prevent corrosion.
  5. Insert the wire through the center of the board lengthwise until 2-3cm of wire protrudes from the bottom (Fig. 2).

    Figure 2. left, Method of securing the coat hanger wire to the foam core board with cotton strings. 
                    right, cross section of straight-shouldered hanger, showing board, foam padding, muslin 
                    cover, and metal wire.
  6. Bend this protruding wire to form a small hook; secure the wire to the board with cotton strings tied to the hook.
  7. Apply acrylic adhesive to the string knots to prevent them from untying.
  8. Form a hanger at the top by bending the remaining wire (Fig. 2).
  9. Cut a piece of cross linked polyethylene or polypropylene foam sheeting (0.3 or 0.6cm thick) large enough to cover the board (allow 2cm for seam on all four sides).
  10. Sew the microfoam sheeting over the board.
  11. Measure the overall dimensions of the padded board and cut out the muslin cover, allowing 2cm for the seam on the sides and the same for the bottom hem.
  12. Sew the sides together, turn right side out and place it over the hanger.
  13. Fold 1cm of the bottom hem inward and sew the bottom together (Fig. 1).

Triangular-shouldered hangers

  1. Measure the diagonal length of the shoulders of the garment and draw the pattern onto tracing paper.
  2. Truncate the top (7.6cm high) to form a trapezoid-shaped pattern.
  3. Cut paper board based on the pattern, that is slightly smaller (2cm on all sides) than the garment (Fig. 3).

    Figure 3. left, Padded triangular-shaped hanger for a quechquemitl (shoulder poncho). 
                   right, Cross section of padded hanger.

  4. Follow the procedures described for straight-shoulder hangers to make triangular- or diamond-shaped hangers for shoulder ponchos (Fig. 4).

    Figure 4. Quechquemitl on a triangular shaped hanger.


Ideally, the width of the hanger is determined by the width of the shoulders of the garment. However, in some cases, the width of the hangers is dependent also on the depth of the cabinet in which the garments are hung.

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