Introduction: Shirt Rack Alt-Closet

About: Hello! I go by they/them pronouns and love Seattle, dogs, and vegan food.

So a fun fact about me is that I hate closets. I mean... as strongly as you can feel about something so mundane and unimportant. Hangers are also on my list of mortal enemies.

Given that you are likely an individual with access to a computer and the internet and that you have the privilege of being able to look up and consider this project, I'm going to venture a guess and say that any one of your shirts will spend more time off your body than on it as you probably have multiple to pick from. Why not put all the clothes you're not wearing on a cool display for the bulk of their lives?

I am also going to assume that many people on this site could look at the pictures and immediately set off and built what they want. As such, I am going to write a bit more of a verbose Instructable with all the excessive details. Please feel free to skip or skim as much as you like!

Please also do not hesitate to comment with suggestions, typos, ideas— anything.

Step 1: Picking the Space & Materials


Pick where you will want to place the bars and find a sturdy mounting point. For me, I have exposed beams in the ceiling that are super beefy and spaced the same as my shoulder width. I also wanted to be able to tilt this up and away from the wall in case I needed to repair the wall at any point, so having the vertical mounting of the threaded flange with a 90° elbow was the perfect choice.


I made one rack out of PVC and one rack out of iron pipe before writing this Instructable. I'm hoping my experimentation will help you decide what you like best. I, personally, heavily preferred using metal pipe, but PVC (or ABS) might be easier for most on a budget.

Benefits of Pipe

  • homogenous lengths
  • easily disassembled
  • easily repurposed
  • easily reconfigured
  • heavier
  • stronger
  • cool aesthetic... if that's your sort of thing (it's mine!)
  • no cutting tools required

Benefits of PVC

  • fewer separate purchases
  • slightly don't have to plan as carefully before buying
  • more size/length options and control
  • probably cheaper
  • possibly easier to paint
  • lighter
  • joints won't budge if done properly
  • original materials need slightly less cleaning (when bought from Lowe's, at least)
  • requires less physical strength and exertion to put together

Have another idea for materials? Please let us know in the comments! And if I think of any more notable qualities, I will try to update this list.

I used 1/2" diameter pipe for the metal set and 1" diameter pipe for the crossbars of the PVC rack; the PVC uprights were 1-1/4" (1.25") diameter. I thought I wanted the uprights to be thicker for aesthetic purposes, but it probably wasn't worth the hassle.

Step 2: Metal Pipe Purchase List

For iron pipe, I used the following items and quantities: (n means the number of shirt levels you plan on) ((all 1/2" dia. and threaded))

mounting hardware
2x floor flange (my desired way of mounting to the ceiling)
2x nipple close (if turning 90° at the flange)
2x 90° elbow (for the 90° turn I needed to add at the ceiling mount/flange)
2x 24" pipe (to descend down to the height I wanted the shirts to start at)

my chosen terminating aesthetics
2x 12" pipe (this was a few inches short of the distance between the last shirt and the floor)
2x tee (you could also use a 90° elbow — this will help keep the racks off the wall)
2x threaded plugs (to keep spiders out of the bottom of the tee — not needed if you go with an elbow)
2x nipple close (I didn't need to keep my rack that far off the wall, so I only used the close-length nipple at the bottom)
2x threaded cap (I liked the look of this contacting the wall instead of a bare close nipple, though it could be replaced with some soft plastic cap)
**Note: You may need to buy different materials if your space and/or taste require it, and you made need to improvise in the assembly method section, below. But whatever you choose will be awesome, because you're cool.

per shirt space
2n 12" pipe (if you wear a larger/longer shirt, pick a longer length for these; the two extras were for the bottom)
2n tee (the two extras were to put at the bottom of the racks to add a support that would hold it off the wall)
2n nipple close (joins tee and 45° elbow)
2n 45° elbow
2n 90° elbow (you could get by without these if your shirts have tight collars and you have no desire to make crossbars)
2(n-1) 3" pipe

*x wood! (Or whatever you want for the crossbars, if any at all.)

For PVC, you can use the same formulas, but you don't need to worry about buying the nipple closes nor the different lengths of pipe as you will be cutting this all down yourself. You can also go with slip instead of threaded. For my PVC version, I did add two threaded joints in the mounting section so that I could swivel the rack away from the wall and also unscrew the uprights, just in case it ever came to that.

Expect pipe to cost around $300 and PVC to cost around $150+.

Step 3: Metal Pipe Assembly Steps

After struggling with the first rack, the following procedure is the easiest way I have found to put all the pipes together while also making the connections as solid as possible. Having two vice grips can significantly help with this.

  1. Pick up a tee.
  2. Add a spacer rod (the 3" iron pipe, in my case) to one of the through ports.
  3. Add another tee.
  4. Repeat 1–3 (to get the second column started).
  5. Take the rest of the tees and the spacer rods and screw one rod into one tee (in either of the through joints).
  6. Grab the two T-T pieces we made in steps 3 & 4 and add one rod+tee from step 5 to each, alternating. Stop when you've used all the pieces and have two identical pipe columns. Neither tightening these nor aligning them matters at this point.
  7. Take your longest threaded pipes and screw them (not too forcefully) in to the open ports (the ones that are 90° from the other two) on the top two tees of one of the columns ("top" is a relative term and doesn't truly matter here).
  8. Use this extra leverage to screw these pieces together as tight as possible. Get this on the ground and use your legs if you can. Don't stop until these barely budge and are oriented in the same direction. I was sweating a remarkable amount after this, but it was worth it. Also, you are going to want to go equally H.A.M. on both sides or else they might be different lengths.
  9. Take the top long rod (which we were just using for leverage) and move it down to the next open port (likely from #1 to #3). Tighten and hop the rods down until you are done with everything and can't move any of the joints with your bare hands.
  10. Find your 45° elbows and nipple closes and make pairings of those, as well.
  11. Screw the 45° elbows into those open ports on each tee.
  12. Again, use the longest rods you have and lightly screw them in to the elbow to gain extra leverage. I recommend starting at the top (less relative this time: the side where the 45° bend will point upward) and going down from there. It's a little difficult to apply the force in the right direction to move the joint you're most interested in, but you can do it! And if something doesn't budge that should, use a vice grip or two.
  13. **If you do not have much clearance away from the wall at your mounting location, install the uprights into their ceiling/wall mounts before adding these rods.** Add a 12" (or whatever length you bought to match your shirt length) pipe into the top 45° elbow, which should be fairly tight by now. If you find one is moving more than you like, go back to screwing that in. It's 500x easier to do this before you install everything else.
  14. Add 90° elbows to the tops of each pipe.
  15. Tighten this all as best you can. You will likely want to use vice grips to do this. (Try to avoid clamping down on threads.) You may mar the material, but #aesthetic, ya know? Try to have these all line up facing 90° from the backbones. You will want them all pointing left on one column and right on another.
  16. If you had enough clearance to wait to screw this in to the wall/ceiling, now would be a good time.
  17. Add any terminating hardware that you desire. In my case, that involves adding another 12" rod, capping that with a tee, and putting plugs in the remaining ports.
  18. Clean with degreaser because the pipes from Lowe's were gross.

For PVC, my main pieces of advice would be to assemble before painting, buy good/new PVC cement, and measure a lot.

Step 4: Crossbars

I made crossbars out of some branches that I've had lying around. Below are the steps I used.

  1. Cut it down into the approximate length you need, leaving some extra length.
  2. Shave off the bark and get it down to the size/diameter I want. I like leaving it slightly smaller than the diameter of the pipe elbows. Sand (I used 120 grit) to, at the very least, avoid splinters.
  3. Cut ~1cm of the end down to fit inside the 90° pipe elbow. I took a Dremel with a cutting wheel and made a shallow-ish cut around the wood. I then put a chisel into the cut and pried the wood up toward the end.
  4. Line it up to the slot you are using it for and mark where to cut down the other side.
  5. Cut the other side down.
  6. Sand the cut areas you just worked on to smooth everything out.
  7. Get that dust out of here (either wash and let dry or use a lint-free cloth).
  8. Stain. I like using too much and running my hand (in a latex glove) down the wood, with the grain, to create streaks. I let this dry overnight, clamped upright in a vice.
  9. I recommend sandpaper that is for wet or dry sanding. I used 300 grit. I like sanding the wood, with the grain, under a running tap to sand some of the stain away in streaks, revealing the wood underneath. The goal here is to have it feeling smooth.
  10. Varnish/seal. I used indoor, heavy-use polyurethane. Also allow to dry overnight. If it's still kind of bumpy in some places, wet or dry sand again with the fine sandpaper (300ish) in the direction of the grain, and clean off the dust. Give this another really thin coat of polyurethane, and it should dry clear and smooth. You can repeat this as many times as needed or try wipe-on poly.
  11. Security! When you have all of them cut, put them in place. You may want to hot-glue one end in if they keep falling out while you juggle the other ones. I bought grey epoxy putty for this. Follow the instructions (break off and knead what you need) and use this to secure the wood bars so they will never rattle or fall out again! This is totally optional, and you could just stick to hot glue if you wanted. Remember that these joints won't be visible when the shirt is on it, so don't worry too much. Cut additional grooves in the ends of the wood if you feel the putty isn't gripping well enough.

Step 5: Considerations/Conclusions

The best thing about this is that you can build it to your space and wardrobe. As such, don't be afraid to experiment! You can also build these slowly if you don't have the financial desire to buy it all at once. Be prepared to go slow and take your time. You can also leave some gaps and use some longer rods to make room for hanging pants.

But, also, it's totally not for everyone, and that's okay.

You can also roll shirts up and place them into the racks. I do this will my bajillion identical black v-necks.

Please feel free to leave comments, and I may update this section with awesome suggestions from the crowd.

Here is a super lovely and similar Instructable with great comments that I found in my [limited] research that you should also check out: