Tutorial: How to Make Padded Clothes Hangers

In this tutorial we’re sharing a method for easily covering and padding out your clothes hangers to best support whatever special item you’re storing on it. By combining a metal clothes hanger with polyester wadding and plain cotton you can make a custom support for your garment from materials that are easy to clean, replace and won’t cause any damage.

If you are storing something particularly precious, that doesn’t need to be stored flat  in a textile box, there are many other methods you can look up that museums and collectors use. You could carve out shoulder pads from conservation standard foam (like ethafoam from Conservation Supplies) to add to your hanger, add on cotton fabric tape loops to help support the weight of heavy waistbands or trains, and create full cotton covers or sleeves to prevent dust from settling.

Equipment you’ll need:

  • Fabric scissors 
  • Sewing machine
  • Pins
  • A pencil, dressmaker’s chalk, fabric marker etc.
  • Large piece of newspaper/butchers paper/brown paper for pattern

Materials you’ll need (we haven’t given you measurements as it depends on the size/shape and quantity of hangers you are doing):

  • Polyester dacron wadding/batting- best in a sheet form rather than loose stuffing; we have also used a second hand cut up duvet but make sure to wash in a gentle detergent once or twice before using
  • Preferably undyed and unbleached plain cotton calico (note this can be bought in different thicknesses and we recommend a medium thickness/weight)- but you can also use sheets or pillowcases but preferable old ones that have had any chemical finishers stripped and won’t colour transfer dyes
  • Cotton or polyester thread
  • Last but not least,  as many metal/wire clothes hangers as you want to cover


Dacron wadding and wire hanger
A laundered old duvet as padding instead

Wait a minute, did you just say wire hangers?!

Now there’s a lot of debate about what clothes hangers you should and shouldn’t use. Some vintage collectors absolutely abhor wire hangers. When researching how to store your vintage items, you will more than likely find multiple articles degrading the humble wire hanger. So you may find it odd that wire hangers are in our equipment list.

In our everyday wardrobe we prefer wooden hangers and shop bought padded hangers, with the odd plastic one floating about, but  not plain wire hangers. The main reason for not using wire hangers, the same reason collectors dislike them, is the unsightly creasing they give to the shoulders and pant legs hanging on them. Using a preventive conservation mindset, this issue is more problematic than just aesthetics as all of the weight of the garment is resting on just two narrow wires, putting a great strain on those small areas of thread. Over a long term this strain is likely to cause not just permanent creasing but damage and tearing to the shoulders of your garment rendering it difficult to fix or irreparable. A quick note, the term preventive conservation refers to the methods used to protect and conserve items by being proactive rather than relying on conservation after damage has occurred.

So why do we use wire hangers in this tutorial? Again thinking of preventive conservation, plastic, wood and even pre-bought padded hangers are not as suitable for long term storage as 1. They generally do not disclose what materials they are made from and 2. Most woods and associated varnishes and stains, plastics, fabrics and other coatings and chemicals in these hangers can contain unstable components which degrade over time and release gasses or small debris that can further damage and decay your clothing. Generally the effects of these products are so slight they will not affect your everyday wardrobe which is why we keep manufacturing and buying them. But if your garment is already 50 to 150 years old and made from delicate natural materials a bit more effort in storing them will help keep it in good condition for the future.

For now lets get to making a basic padded, fabric covered hanger:

Step 1.
Assemble your equipment and materials.

– Make sure you have washed you material in a
gentle detergent and rinsed and dried well before using.
– If you are covering multiple hangers check their
shapes and sizes, as you may need to make multiple paper patterns.



Step 2.
Make a pattern by tracing around the clothes hanger onto your paper. Make sure you give yourself a seam allowance plus extra room for the stuffing. When in doubt make it bigger than you think! We also like to make the bottom hem longer than necessary. Hot tip, write on your pattern what it is for and whether it includes your seam allowance or not.



Step 3.
Fold your fabric in half and pin your pattern to the surface. Use fabric scissors to cut through both layers of fabric around your pattern. Now you have both sides of your cover.




Step 4.
Pin the two pieces of fabric together around the edges. Sew one sloping side with a straight stitch and backstitch near the top of the cover, leaving a hole for the hook of the clothes hanger to poke through. Then sew the second sloped side, leaving the bottom hem free. Turn the cover inside out and iron the seams flat if you desire.




Step 5.
Prepare your hanger. Cut one or two lengths of dacron wadding, wide enough to fold over the two angled bars of your clothes hanger. Fold the dacron around the shoulders of your hanger.
Tie on some cotton thread to one side of the hanger and wrap loosely around the wadding and tie off at the other side to hold the wadding in place. At this stage you can compare the hanger to the garment you want to hang up and check if the shoulders are wide enough. If the garment is especially fragile or heavy, add more layers of dacron and possibly add some around the neck and base of the hanger.



Step 6.
Slip your fabric cover over your padded clothing hanger. You may want to sew up the neck hole by hand to make it tidier. At this point you can decide either to leave the bottom hem hanging loose, hem it, or sew it together by hand or machine.

We sewed the seams together on ours to make them neater, but we will have to unstitch this to remove and launder the cover, ideally once a year.





So now you have your very own handcrafted hanger to support and protect your vintage treasure!
If you enjoyed learning a bit more about caring for vintage and antique items you can do a deep dive into appropriate materials to use for storage and display here: link https://www.canada.ca/en/conservation-institute/services/conservation-preservation-publications/technical-bulletins/products-used-preventive-conservation.html