By Angela Harrison
Some closets are organized like a shiny department store; some look like a tornado of early-morning struggle just whipped through. Both, however, are quietly capable of ruining your wardrobe. Hangers, bags, boxes, and hooks are all helpful tools in keeping things orderly, but they can also do damage to our clothes. Of course, we can’t just get rid of these organizational elements; they’re essential in any closet, so we need to be sure we’re using them the right way.
Every closet has the following: random plastic hangers, some sturdy wooden hangers, or too many hideous dry cleaner wire hangers — whatever gets the job done. We’re all guilty of it. Aside from this misfit crew of hangers looking terrible, most of them aren’t good for storing clothes and some things shouldn’t be hung up at all. Basic hanging rules: we do not cut out hanger tape, or the annoying ribbon loops in garments. They actually save your tops and dresses from losing shape. When you hook them on the hanger ends, their purpose is to take some of the weight off of the garment’s straps or shoulders. With this weight being supported by hanger tape, you don’t run the risk of stretching out knits or putting stress on delicate straps while hanging. Your hangers should have notches for these straps and a hanging bar across the bottom for any fold-over use; this way, all top hangers can be multipurpose.
If you’ve ever set foot in a Bed Bath & Beyond, you’ve seen there are thousands of different hangers to choose from. I’ve found the most practical options are the skinny velvet hangers, wooden notched hangers, and pant hangers. The skinny velvet style is a great space saver and should be reserved for lightweight tops and dresses. The velvet texture helps safely grab your tops without slipping; the only downside is these hangers tend to run wide, so make a judgment call if your tops have narrow shoulders. Wooden hangers are sturdy and perfect for blazers, coats, heavier/special occasion dresses, and pants folded over the hang-bar if you’re short on tall space. With heavier tops and dresses, be sure to hang the hanger tape along with any straps. These wooden hangers can take the weight and your garments will stand a better chance against gravity’s unwanted pull.
In a perfect world, knits should never be hung up. Any sweaters, cardigans, and knit dresses will stay in their original condition longer if folded on a shelf or in a drawer. By hanging these items, sleeves get long, hemlines become uneven, and shoulders start to droop; the garment becomes compromised. Yes, folding takes up precious dresser space, but you won’t be destroying the makeup of your knits and they’ll ultimately look great longer. For bottom hangers, I always suggest the clamp style for pants (fold them in half at the waistband) and clip style for skirts. Anything in the “dress pant” category reserves the right to hanging space. Everyone’s closet is different, so if you have the space to hang all of your bottoms, by all means, go for it. If you’re limited on closet space, fold your denim and chinos; these fabrics are thick and won’t crease if folded and stored in a dresser. Skirts can be doubled up on clip hangers back to back. If you have delicate fabrics like silk or chiffon, the skirts will most likely have hanger tape, so hang them accordingly.
While hangers can cause their fair share of damage, so can dry cleaning bags. These clear bags appear useful — your clothes come to you packaged nicely and it seems smart to keep them as is. Wrong! Strip that bag immediately and toss the hanger. Fabric needs to breathe, you don’t want a plastic bag trapping chemicals in your clothes for days on end — they’ll smell strange, discolor, and the fibers can break down over time. While the bag and hangers feel like free perks, they’re unbelievably bad for your clothes and will leave them misshapen and damaged. Plastic garment bags can be replaced with a cloth garment bag; this style of bag can be found at any home supply store, and it’s great for storing coats and eveningwear.
Another closet essential to resolve is boxes. I know a lot of people have carefully converted their shoe collection into clear plastic boxes, which can definitely be a smart space saver. However, a crucial step that’s usually missed is making sure your shoes are filled and supported on the inside before they lie flat on one side for an extended period of time. Ideally, shoes should be stored upright on their soles so the structure isn’t compromised or misshapen in any way.
Closets come in all shapes and sizes, so make the changes that suit your space and wardrobe. Work with the things you already have, move garments around, and fold the stuff that shouldn’t be hanging. With a new year comes new resolutions, and hopefully organizing and cleaning up your closet will be easier to accomplish. It’ll keep your clothes looking fab year after year!
Angie Harrison received her BS degree in fashion merchandising from Western Michigan University. After merchandising for a large retailer, she went on to start Angela Harrison Style: a personal, print, and film wardrobe styling service. Her experience has led her to styling wardrobe on local and national TV commercials; she has also created a visual merchandising branch of AHStyle, providing styling and merchandising expertise to Michigan retailers.