Most people need two types of hangers in their closet, one type for tops and one type for skirts and pants (although in some cases all the functionality can be found in a single type of hanger). Here are some things to consider when making your choices.
Thicker is better. You may think you can cram more onto your closet rod with thin hangers but you just end up wrinkling your clothes. Joan Crawford may have been a nut-job but she was dead-on with the “No wire hangers!” policy. Also, the more three-dimensional a hanger is, the better—what I mean is that a hanger that is contoured front-to-back, or doesn't lie completely flat when horizontal, like most suits come with, is better.
Matching hangers are good—no, I mean great. Yes, I do have tendencies toward “matchy matchy” in many areas of my life but matching hangers serve several purposes.
Your closet will look less cluttered and more streamlined. Mismatched hangers are visually distracting, making picking out an outfit harder.
They will not tangle as much. Matching hangers slide right up and right in next to each other without getting caught on one another.
It looks pretty (or pleasing, if you're a guy). Enough said.
Hangers with swiveling hooks drive me batty. But some people love them. Here are the cons and pro (I could only come up with one):
Con: They tangle like crazy.
Con: They're usually that clear plastic which just feels junk-y and has a connotation for me of really low-end discount shopping.
Con: Metal hooks on hangers feel rough and unfinished.
Pro: You can make your garments face the right way more easily, although it can be easy to develop the habit of putting things on in the right direction in the first place.
Skirt hangers come in two major types, clip and clamp.
Clips increase the tangle factor. Sliding a clip hanger next to another one is not a smooth process, especially when the clips are metal. Look for the lowest profile plastic (or high quality metal) clips you can find. But clip hangers often allow you to adjust the distance between the clips, depending on your waist size.
Clamps have a low profile so they easily slide in and out of your skirt section. But if your waist is more than 18”, the edges of your waist band will droop down. Larger clamps are available but are more expensive.
Pant hangers come in three major types, clip, clamp and bar.
Like with skirts, there is the tangle factor. You can hang pants from the waistband or from the cuffs or hem, but doing the latter could leave crimp marks.
Clamps can hold pants from the waistband or cuffs. Felt-lined clamps are less likely to leave crimps. And again, they don't tangle.
Bars allow you to hang pants in a short-hang section of your closet. The thicker the bar, the less likely it will leave a crease across the knee. The crease factor depends on the type and thickness of the fabric.
Hangers for tops should be multipurpose in a way that makes sense for your wardrobe.
If you have a lot of tank-style tops, your hangers should have loops or slots that fit the width of your tank straps.
If you have a lot of slippery fabrics or wide necks, hangers with grippy rubber or ridges on the shoulder work better.
If you have wide shoulders or larger tops you may want to get a large size hanger or one with sloping shoulders so you don't end up with what I call “pokey shoulders” or what a client once called “shoulder nipples” (that cracked me up so I must share it).
Buy exactly as many hangers as will reasonably fit in your closet (with clothes on them). Ideally, there should be a minimum of 1/4” between every hanger. This defines the limit on how much can live in your closet while maintaining optimal closet function.
Other things I avoid:
Hangers with hooks designed to hold another hanger in a cascading fashion. Some people use these to hang outfits together. But to me that is an indicator that the wardrobe may not be flexible or mix-and-match enough, properties which apply to more streamlined wardrobes. And yet again, the tangle factor rears its ugly head.
Hangers or hanging devices designed to hold multiple garments. This just makes putting things away and retrieving things a hassle. And it usually compresses the clothes into too small of a horizontal space.
Check out The Container Store and Hanger City. And, to answer a common question, the cheapest places to buy wooden hangers are Target and IKEA, ringing up at about $10 for 20 hangers. Happy hanger shopping!