Textile history on a coathanger

a coathanger covered in vintage fabric

I own a number of covered coathangers which belonged to my mother. I think that she may have inherited them from other generations of family members. I decided this weekend to remove the covers from the coathangers (since the covers were showing signs of wear, as seen in the photo). I had several surprises which you’ll see below.

a coathanger covered in vintage fabric

All the hangers were covered in fabric. The one above was once a pretty cream with tiny blue polka-dots design. I suspect most of the hangers once had the hook bound in fabric too – just the remnants remain here. This was a light, drapey fabric.

a coathanger covered in vintage fabric
All the covers were hand-stitched on the bottom and the top edge. This fabric was heavier. The stitching was even and neat
hand stitching on a coathanger covered in vintage fabric

Having unpicked the top layerof each hanger, there were different arrangements beneath. This golden yellow hanger had a layer of wadding carefully bound onto the hanger with strong thread.

the padding layer of a coathanger covered in vintage fabric

The wadding itself was loose unbleached cotton.

unbleached cotton wadding used on a vintage coathanger

I can only guess at the age of the coathanger, perhaps from the 1940s? Under its worn cover it looked pristine!

a wooden coathanger

Under the first covering of this hanger, there was a surprise.

a coathanger covered in vintage fabric 3
This one had a woven stripe brown fabric which was folded over the hanger and was stitched with button-hole stitch all along the bottom in a reddish brown thread. But once the top layer was cut off, I found another fabric beneath, so this coathanger had been re-covered. I wonder if this older fabric is perhaps from the 1930s?
a coathanger covered in vintage fabric 4
The fabric is old and faded. The print is a small ‘windmill’ design in purple on a beige background.

One hanger had a rather more solid layer of cotton wadding under the outer fabric. The wadding was held in place by overcast stitches.

a coathanger covered in vintage fabric 5

Another had a ribbed brown satin ribbon as its outer layer. Below that was a shiny fabric in an olive green colour, which I think is silk. Below that was a soft blue flannel. Again, it looks as if the cover was repaired when the silk layer began to show signs of wear.

a coathanger covered in vintage fabric 6

This hanger was covered in a orange satin.

a coathanger covered in vintage fabric 7

Underneath the top layer was a strip of soft thick fabric, wound round and stitched.

stocking used to pad a vintage hanger

It was quite hard to take the layers off!

stockings used to pad a vintage hanger 2

Finally this one had a real surprise beneath the top layer. It was bound with stockings. Once again these were very firmly stitched and difficult to remove.

stockings used to bind a vintage coathanger
In the end I found two stockings.
stockings used to bind a vintage coathanger
This stocking came off complete. It shows signs of wear on the foot and there is a carefully mended ladder near the top. It has a stitched back seam which is visible on the inside of the curve in the picture. The second stocking did not come off in one piece, but on this one there is a very obvious dark back seam.
stockings used to bind a vintage coathanger

I do love textiles (well, you would expect that, wouldn’t you?) but I really felt moved by the exploration of these hangers. Unknown hands padded, bound, covered and beautified these hangers at some point in the last 90 odd years. I don’t know who they were, but there are human traces everywhere, from the mended ladder in the stocking to the buttonhole stitch on the outside of the covers.

What we make with our hands when we stitch is important and we should remember that it may last many decades.

Published by Amanda Jane Textiles

I am an artist, designer and maker living in Ramsgate, UK

4 thoughts on “Textile history on a coathanger

  1. I love the links to all those women who usd what they had to create somethng useful and good looking!

  2. What a marvellous find, to get down to the original fabrics and stuffings. They sound very familiar and were probably Christmas presents over time.were there any makers names or addresses on the coat hangers? S.

    1. No names anywhere, sadly and my mother died many years ago, so no-one to ask. She (my mother) trained as a nurse in London in the Second World War. The re-used, mended stocking made me think of ‘Make Do and Mend’ practices, but it’s impossible to date them too closely.

Let me know what you think!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: