By: Lidia Plaza
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When a garment is structurally sound and in good condition, we utilize our hanging storage system. Our standard archival hanger is made of two 18" coated wire hangers. These hangers are wrapped in two sheets of 1/2" polyester batting, which is folded over and between the hangers to create a soft and supportive base. Next, the now-padded hangers are pulled through a washed cotton stockingnette. The ends of the stockingnette are tied and tucked underneath. While this standard hanger works for some costume objects, many other garments do not lend themselves so easily to the traditional hanger size, and creative solutions must be used. Here are a few tricks we've developed for some of the more common problematic garments.
Typically, children's clothes require a smaller hanger to be properly hung. To modify our hangers, the metal ends are simply folded back- this flexibility is a benefit of using the covered wire hangers. First, the cotton stockingnette cover is untied and pulled back along with the polyester batting. Next, the ends of the hangers are folded inward, towards each other.
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Finally, the knit stocking can be cut to size and retied around the hanger.
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Skirts and wide-necked bodices
Bodices are usually ideal for hangers, but occasionally the neckline is too wide for a standard hanger. Similarly, skirts can dwarf our hangers and require extended support. Both problems can be easily fixed with a quick modification. Depending on the diameter of the skirt waistband and the support needed, the wire in the hanger can be bent downward in a sloping shape. Next, an extra layer of cotton stockingnette is fitted over the hanger, extending beyond the ends of the hangers by several inches or feet in order to support the bodice or skirt. Polyester fiberfill can then be added to the body of the hanger as well as to the extended stockingnette ends to make the hanger the appropriate size. Polyester fiberfill can be added or removed to the hanger as needed for adjustments.
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Often pants are hung on hangers with clamps or clips, even in some museum settings. However, this method can put strain on the fabric, crimping it and causing damage. A protective barrier of tissue or felt can minimize any damage, but not always with success.
A modified archival hanger can offer support to the pant while it hangs without causing stress to the fabric. To make this hanger, we started by adding another layer of washed cotton stockingnette to the hanger, much like the skirt hangers described above. The "legs" of the modified hanger will sit in the pants legs, but the edge of the metal hanger only just reach the edges of the pants. If the hanger is longer than the diameter of the waistband, it can be bent down into the pant legs or bent inward (see "Children's Clothes" above).
Next, polyester fiberfill is added to the body of the hanger to add width that will support the waistband. When adding the polyester fiberfill, it is added so that it forms a kind of halo around the hanger. If the pants require more support, polyethylene backer rod foam tubing can be added, following this halo theme. Finally, the "legs" of the hanger are filled with polyester fiberfill to give them shape and support for the legs of the pants.
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Each costume is different and comes with its own unique needs. We assess the condition of every object to understand these needs, as described in my earlier post. The flexibility of the wire hanger allows us to create a range of creative storage solutions for hanging garments. Stay tuned for more posts on our preventive conservation efforts in re-housing this eclectic and amazing collection!