When most people think of coat racks, they think strictly of hanging coats, hats, and scarves. But coat racks can be a lot more than just a place to keep clutter off the floor. They can also provide you with an opportunity to display your own, unique decorating tastes.

One of my favorite ways to decorate with coat racks is to display vintage clothing on them. Wall-mounted coat racks work particularly well for displaying vintage hats and bonnets. And floor-mounted coat racks are natural for cloaks, gowns, shawls, and scarves.

Don’t go cheap when using coat racks as a decorating accent. True, you can pick up a generic wall-mounted coat rack for under $10 and a floor-standing one for under $30. But if your goal is to create an eye-catching accent, don’t expect a cheap one to have the effect you want.

Bentwood, rattan, wrought iron, or brass give you the best eye appeal in a floor-standing coat rack. And look for furniture-quality solid hardwood in wall-mounted coat racks. Don’t settle for generic, dime-store coat hooks on your coat rack when you can easily combine the beauty of brass and porcelain or get the rustic strength of wrought iron.

You can find wall-mounted coat racks with resembling, or other styles of decorative painting. These always add to your accent, as do such features as a plate rack or decorative shelf on top that allows you to display other collectibles.

And a mirror, whether etched or plain, on your wall-mounted coat rack, is always a big plus. Not only does it enhance the beauty of your accent, but it provides a much-appreciated service to your guests of letting them check their appearance after coming in from outdoors.

As for finding vintage hats or clothing for your coat rack, here are some places to try.

Larger cities have at least one vintage clothing store available. You can also find vintage clothing in many estate sales. And more and more second-hand stores gather vintage clothing donated to them into a special area.

Or you can look for reproduction vintage clothing and hats from merchants who specialize in supplying the participants of living history events with clothing and items from the daily life of the eras these participants portray.

I’ve found Renaissance festivals and Civil War Reenactments to be especially rich sources of quality reproduction vintage clothing (and many other interesting items useful for decorating). Both events attract many merchants who specialize in reproduction vintage clothing and other items of those times. And you can find many of these merchants on the Internet, as well.

Be aware, though, that while you can usually find a greater variety of items through these merchants in brand-new condition, the prices for reproductions can be expensive because of the amount of labor involved in faithfully reproducing construction techniques from a pre-made production era.

In looking for vintage hats to display on a wall-mounted coat rack, you can either go for a single era or go eclectic with vintage hats from a number of eras and styles. And don’t forget the eye appeal of including one hat in your collection that drapes a ribbon down beneath. Or consider dangling a vintage umbrella or cane from one hook to create various lengths of items hung from your coat rack.

And the hats you use don’t necessarily need to be formal. Some of the most effective hats I’ve found for decorating have been the well-worn, but extremely unique, vintage hats of everyday laborers.

For a floor-standing coat rack, avoid reproduction or vintage clothing that really needs a hanger for it to look its best. Look instead for drapery items such as cloaks, gowns, shawls, and scarves. Experiment with interweaving a colorful scarf or shawl among dark and elegant formal wear.

Or try hanging a coat or gown by the shoulder instead of by the collar for a casual, asymmetrical look. Include a vintage purse. Or, depending on the effect you want to create, consider the effect that draping some vintage silk stockings or lingerie could add to the accent you create.

The options are endless when it comes to combining coat racks and vintage clothing. Just use a quality coat rack that does justice to what you display and let your imagination, and your decorating taste, be your guide in selecting items to display on it.

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