Title:
Garment support device
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
Garment supporting devices and garment hangers are disclosed. One garment supporting device for attaching to a garment hanger comprises a shoulder receiving section operable to conform to a shoulder region of a garment when hung on the garment hanger. By being attachable to a conventional garment hanger, the garment supporting device effectively alters the dimensions of the hanger to accommodate the dimensions of the garment to be supported, especially its shoulder regions. Adapting the shoulder receiving section to conform to the shoulder region of a garment enables the same device to be applied to a conventional hanger in order to support garments having a range of differing sizes. Conforming to the shoulder region increases support in this region and reduces the likelihood of creating deformations therein.



Inventors:
Robinson, Alan John (US)
Application Number:
12/148466
Publication Date:
11/06/2008
Filing Date:
04/18/2008
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A41D27/22; A47G25/20
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:
20070062983Display caseMarch, 2007Barnett et al.
20070145086Self-help devie for handling socks, supporet stockings and stockings in generalJune, 2007Perez
20060261102Inflating body for pressing a piece of clothingNovember, 2006Damrath et al.
20100059557Perfect shirt hangerMarch, 2010Temali et al.
20090129972Clothes Conditioning Hanger and Method of Using SameMay, 2009Di Bono et al.
20070272717Necktie hangerNovember, 2007Sturione
20050274751Wetsuit rinsing hangerDecember, 2005Plumley et al.
20060011674Clothes railJanuary, 2006Finch et al.
20080035685INDICATOR DEVICE FOR A HANGER HOOKFebruary, 2008Matkovich et al.
20070257070Hanger with strap retainerNovember, 2007Richardson
20070012731Retaining device for hanger frameJanuary, 2007Tseng



Primary Examiner:
DURHAM, NATHAN E
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
WEIDE & MILLER, LTD. (LAS VEGAS, NV, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A garment supporting device for attaching to a garment hanger, the device comprising: a shoulder receiving section operable to conform to a shoulder region of a garment when hung on the garment hanger.

2. The device of claim 1, wherein the shoulder receiving section comprises a supporting surface having a garment supporting area which varies in response to a weight of the garment.

3. The device of claim 2, wherein the garment supporting area increases in response to the weight of the garment.

4. The device of claim 1, wherein the shoulder receiving section is deformable between a contracted position and a splayed position to substantially fill the shoulder region of the garment.

5. The device of claim 1, wherein the shoulder receiving section comprises a plurality of finger-like members.

6. The device of claim 5, wherein the plurality of finger-like members are operable to separate and retract relative to one another to expand and reduce their accumulative span.

7. The device of claim 6, wherein the accumulative span is expanded or reduced laterally.

8. The device of claim 6, wherein the accumulative span is expanded or reduced radially.

9. The device of claim 6, wherein the shoulder receiving section is substantially dome-shaped.

10. The device of claim 9, wherein the shoulder receiving section comprises a supporting surface, the supporting surface comprising an outer surface of the dome-shaped receiving section.

11. The device of claim 5, wherein the shoulder receiving section further comprises at least one slit extending a length adjacent to the plurality of finger-like members.

12. The device of claim 5, wherein each of the plurality of finger-like members has a tip, the plurality of finger-like members having increased elasticity towards their tips.

13. The device of claim 12, wherein the plurality of finger-like members have decreased thickness towards their tips.

14. The device of claim 1, further comprising a hanger attachment portion for attachment with the garment hanger.

15. The device of claim 14, wherein at least part of the hanger attachment portion is flexible.

16. The device of claim 14, wherein at least part of the hanger attachment portion is pliable.

17. The device of claim 14, wherein the hanger attachment portion is slideably attachable at different positions along the garment hanger.

18. The device of claim 17, wherein the hanger attachment portion and the shoulder receiving section are coupled by a spine.

19. The device of claim 18, wherein the spine extends into the hanger attachment portion and the shoulder receiving section.

20. The device of claim 18, wherein the spine is inclined at the coupling of the hanger attachment portion and the shoulder receiving section to elevate the shoulder receiving section into an unweighted position.

21. The device of claim 20, further comprising at least one slot provided at the coupling of the hanger attachment portion and the shoulder receiving section.

22. The device of claim 20, wherein the shoulder receiving section is movable between the unweighted position and a weighted position.

23. The device of claim 22, wherein the shoulder receiving section is resiliently biased towards the unweighted position.

24. The device of claim 22, wherein the shoulder receiving section is depressable to the weighted position by the weight of the garment to provide a cushioned support to the shoulder region of the garment.

25. The device of claim 18, wherein the spine reduces in thickness along a length of the shoulder receiving section.

26. The device of claim 21, further comprising means for biasing the shoulder receiving section to the unweighted position.

27. The device of claim 26, wherein the means for biasing comprises a spring or other compressible component.

28. The device of claim 1, further comprising air vents for the circulation of air.

29. The device of claim 1, further comprising a cushioning member.

30. The device of claim 1, wherein the device is formed from a plastic material.

31. A garment supporting device for attaching to a garment hanger, the device comprising: a shoulder receiving section comprising air vents for the circulation of air.

32. A garment supporting device for attaching to a garment hanger, the device comprising: a hanger attachment portion; a shoulder receiving section; and a spine coupling the hanger attachment portion with the shoulder receiving section, the spine being inclined at the coupling of the hanger attachment portion and the shoulder receiving section to elevate the shoulder receiving section into an unweighted position, the shoulder receiving section being depressable to a weighted position by the weight of the garment to provide a cushioned support to the shoulder region of the garment.

33. A garment hanger comprising: a hanger frame; and a plurality of garment supporting devices.

34. The garment hanger of claim 33, wherein each of the plurality of garment to support devices slidably engages the hanger frame.

35. The garment hanger of claim 34, wherein a distance between positions of the plurality of garment support devices is adjustable to substantially match a separation distance between the shoulder regions of a garment.

36. The garment hanger of claim 35, wherein the hanger frame and the plurality of garment support devices are integrally formed.

Description:

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Prior Application Data

This application claims priority to PCT Application No. PCT/GB2006/003826 entitled Garment Support Device which was published as WO 2007/045838 which is based on and claims priority to PCT Application No. PCT/GB2006/001434 filed Apr. 20, 2006 and Great Britain Application No. 0521128.9 filed Oct. 18, 2005.

2. Field of the Invention.

The present invention relates generally to the field of garment storage, and more particularly to a device which aids in the hanging of such garments during storage.

3. Related Art.

It is normal practice for persons to utilize garment hangers when storing garments in a closet. The garment is usually draped over the frame of the garment hanger so that the garment hanger supports the uppermost region of the garment, including its shoulder regions. The garment hanger itself having a hook, or other attachment means, so that it may be suspended from a rail, for example, within a cupboard during storage. The garment hanger provides an efficient use of the storage space available, and also helps to ensure that the garments supported thereby are able to be stored without unnecessary folding which can cause undesirable creasing of the garments.

Although known garment hangers offer the above-described advantages, they are, however, limited in that the dimensions such as the width of a garment hanger are fixed.

From the discussion that is to follow, it will become apparent how the present invention addresses the deficiencies associated with the prior art whilst providing numerous additional advantages not contemplated or possible with prior art arrangements.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

According to a first aspect of the present invention there is provided a garment supporting device for attaching to a garment hanger, the device comprising: a shoulder receiving section operable to conform to a shoulder region of a garment when hung on the garment hanger.

By being attachable to a conventional garment hanger, it will be appreciated that it is possible for the garment supporting device to effectively alter the dimensions of the hanger to accommodate the dimensions of the garment to be supported, especially its shoulder regions. Also, the ability to adapt the shoulder receiving section to conform to the shoulder region of a garment enables the same device to be applied to a conventional hanger in order to support garments having a range of differing sizes. Furthermore, conforming to the shoulder region increases support in this region and reduces the likelihood of creating deformations therein. Hence, the device helps to preserve the tailored shape and contours of the shoulder sections of garments when they are hung on a clothes hanger by adjusting and adapting its own dimensions to match those of the shoulder sections to provide balanced and individually contoured and cushioned support.

In one or more embodiments, the shoulder receiving section comprises a supporting surface having a garment supporting area which varies in response to a weight of the garment. Hence, the shoulder receiving section is able to react to the weight of the garment and to provide a garment supporting area which is appropriate to support the shoulder region and further reduce the likelihood of creating deformations therein.

In one or more embodiments, the garment supporting area increases in response to the weight of the garment. It will be appreciated that increasing the garment supporting area assists in reducing deformations by increasing the support given and decreasing the pressure experienced in that region of the garment.

In one or more embodiments, the shoulder receiving section is deformable between a contracted position and a splayed position to substantially fill the shoulder region of the garment. Undergoing such a dimensional variation makes it possible to provide shoulder receiving sections which have an improved fit and improved correspondence with the configuration of the shoulder regions of a garment, regardless of the dimensions of that particular garment. Any increased surface area of the shoulder regions provides improved support to the garment, from which the remaining parts of the garment may drape without generating negative aesthetic results.

In one or more embodiments, the shoulder receiving section comprises a plurality of finger-like members. The plurality of finger-like members may be operable to separate and retract relative to one another to expand and reduce their accumulative span. In one or more embodiments, the accumulative span is expanded or reduced laterally, or expanded or reduced radially.

It will be appreciated that finger-like members are particularly suitable for performing the function of splaying or contracting thereby changing the effective surface area provided to support the garment in order to reduce the pressure on the garment fabric and to assist in substantially filling the internal shoulder region of the garment. It will be appreciated that the finger-like members can be of any suitable shape such as, for example, having parallel or tapering sides.

In one or more embodiments, the shoulder receiving section is substantially dome-shaped. In addition, in some embodiments, the supporting surface comprises an outer surface of the dome-shaped receiving section. It will be appreciated that the pressure applied to the outer surface of the dome-shaped shoulder receiving section due to the weight of the garment assists in causing the shoulder receiving section to deform to conform to the shoulder region of the garment.

In one or more embodiments, the shoulder receiving section further comprises at least one slit extending a length of adjacent finger-like members. Providing a least one slit between adjacent finger-like members significantly assists in enabling the shoulder receiving section to deform to conform to the shoulder region of the garment whilst maintaining the general mechanical integrity of the device.

In one or more embodiments, an elasticity of the plurality of finger-like members increases towards their tips. In addition, in some embodiments, a thickness of the plurality of finger-like members decreases towards their tips. In this way, the tips of the fingers will displace more readily to conform with the profile of the garment, thereby reducing the pressure on the fabric at these tips and reducing fabric deformation.

In one or more embodiments, the device further comprises a hanger attachment portion for attachment with the garment hanger. Such means may operate with, for instance, flexible ties which may be wound around or through both the device and garment hanger, and then intertwined to lock the ties thereby holding the device firmly in the selected position. Similarly, a latch, strap, nut and bolt, or a hook and eye fastening, may be used.

In one or more embodiments, at least part of the hanger attachment portion is flexible. In addition, in some embodiments, at least part of the hanger attachment portion is pliable. In this way, the hanger attachment portion may be manipulated to adopt the shape of a conventional garment hanger before attachment thereto. The pliable properties may additionally be utilised as means for attaching the device to a garment hanger, that is by folding the pliable edges of the device around a garment hanger to hold the device firmly in position.

In one or more embodiments, the hanger attachment portion is slideably attachable at different positions along the garment hanger. Hence, garments having shoulder regions of differing breadths may be adequately supported.

In one or more embodiments, the hanger attachment portion and the shoulder receiving section are coupled by a spine. In embodiments, the spine extends into the hanger attachment portion and the shoulder receiving section. It will be appreciated that the spine helps to provide additional strength and support. The spine may, for instance, form a central core of the device or may alternatively be located with an outer surface of the device.

In one or more embodiments, the spine is inclined at the coupling of the hanger attachment portion and the shoulder receiving section to elevate the shoulder receiving section into an unweighted position. This is particularly advantageous for the purpose of realising the function of a cushioned support and also for stressing the shoulder receiving section by the weight of the garment to enable the shoulder receiving section to actively reconfigure itself to conform to the shape of the garment.

In one or more embodiments, the device further comprises at least one slot provided at the coupling of the hanger attachment portion and the shoulder receiving section. Providing at least one slot located between the hanger attachment portion and the shoulder receiving section facilitates bending of the device. Any flexibility in the shoulder receiving section may also encourage this action.

In one or more embodiments, the shoulder receiving section is movable between the unweighted position and a weighted position. In addition, in some embodiments, the shoulder receiving section is resiliently biased towards the unweighted position. In one or more embodiments, the shoulder receiving section is depressable to the weighted position by the weight of the garment to provide a cushioned support to the shoulder region of the garment.

The unweighted position is most likely to occur when the device is in a dormant state, in that it is free of any garment at that time. The unweighted position may be represented, for instance, by the shoulder receiving section forming an obtuse angle or having an elevated position with respect to the hanger attachment portion. More particularly, it may be that the hanger attachment portion, when in the unweighted position and connected to a hung garment hanger, matches the orientation of the upper supports of the hanger and is at an incline with respect to the ground, whilst the shoulder receiving section may extend generally parallel to the ground.

The shoulder receiving section may be depressed to a weighted position by the weight of garment to provide a cushioned support to the shoulder region of a garment. The weight of the shoulder regions of a garment may, in these circumstances, depress the shoulder receiving section towards a more aligned position with respect to the hanger attachment portion of the device, until an evenly balanced and cushioned suspension of the shoulder regions of the garment is reached. Such a cushioned support ensures that any tensional forces experienced by the garment are reduced by the device thereby restricting the formation of wrinkles or creases in the shoulder region of the garment.

In one or more embodiments, a thickness of the spine reduces along a length of the shoulder receiving section. In this way, the resilient effect of the spine can be reduced towards the end of shoulder receiving section to enable it to displace more readily to conform with the profile of the garment, thereby reducing the pressure on the fabric and reducing fabric deformation. The thickness of the spine may vary along its length in a range, for example, of 1 mm to 2.5 mm.

In one or more embodiments, the device further comprises means for biasing the shoulder receiving section to the unweighted position. In embodiments, the means for biasing comprises a spring or other compressible component. Hence, where the shoulder receiving section of the present invention is disposed between an unweighted and a weighted position, the means for biasing helps to return the shoulder receiving section to the unweighted position when the device is not in use.

In one or more embodiments, the device further comprises air vents for the circulation of air. The circulation of air is an important consideration in view of the fact that garments can, sometimes, be stored in containers, such as a cupboard, for extended periods of time which can lead to the accumulation of stagnant air. This occurrence is obviously undesirable for clothes which are to be worn by the user. Also, providing air vent can assist considerably in the venting of vapours following cleaning of the garment, or should the garment be damp thereby preventing mould growth which may otherwise occur should the garment be hung in that state.

In one or more embodiments, the device further comprises a cushioning member. The cushioning member may be a soft and/or non-abrasive outer layer applied to the device to preclude the tearing and abrasion of garments which come into contact with the device.

In one or more embodiments, the device is formed from a plastic material. Properties of the plastics material such as the rigidity, flexibility, and brittleness may determine the choice of plastics material which is used since, for instance, a heavier garment may be suited to a device formed from a plastics material which offers greater resistance to bending. Accordingly, the device may be color coded to signify the plastics material from which they are formed and as a consequence the properties which they possess, so that a consumer may make an informed decision on the choice of device which is particularly suited to his or her garment.

According to a second aspect of the present invention there is provided a garment supporting device for attaching to a garment hanger, the device comprising: a shoulder receiving section comprising air vents for the circulation of air. The circulation of air is an important consideration in view of the fact that garments can, sometimes, be stored in containers, such as a cupboard, for extended periods of time which can lead to the accumulation of stagnant air. This occurrence is obviously undesirable for clothes which are to be worn by the user. Also, providing air vent can assist considerably in the venting of vapours following cleaning of the garment, or should the garment be damp thereby preventing mould growth which may otherwise occur should the garment be hung in that state.

It is noted that in one or more embodiments, the second aspect of the present invention may include corresponding features of embodiments of the first aspect of the present invention.

According to a third aspect of the present invention there is provided a garment supporting device for attaching to a garment hanger, the device comprising: hanger attachment portion; a shoulder receiving section; and a spine coupling the hanger attachment portion with the shoulder receiving section, the spine being inclined at the coupling of the hanger attachment portion and the shoulder receiving section to elevate the shoulder receiving section into an unweighted position, a spine coupling the hanger attachment portion with the shoulder receiving section, the spine being inclined at the coupling of the hanger attachment portion and the shoulder receiving section to elevate the shoulder receiving section into an unweighted position, the shoulder receiving section being depressable to a weighted position by the weight of the garment to provide a cushioned support to the shoulder region of the garment.

It is noted that in one or more embodiments, the third aspect of the present invention may include corresponding features of embodiments of the first aspect of the present invention.

According to a fourth aspect of the present invention there is provided a garment hanger comprising: a hanger frame; and a plurality of garment supporting devices according to any of the first to the third aspects of the present invention. Although the garment hanger may comprise a hanger frame of any suitable shape and dimensions, the hanger frame may generally have a triangular shape and, more particularly, an isosceles triangular shape.

In one or more embodiments, each of the plurality of garment support devices slidably engages the hanger frame. In addition, in one or more embodiments, a distance between positions of the plurality of garment support devices is adjustable to substantially match a separation distance between the shoulder regions of the garment. In one or more embodiments, the hanger frame and the at least two support devices are integrally formed.

Accordingly, the plurality of support devices may be disposed at two corners of the hanger frame. The distance between the positions of the support devices is adjustable so as to be able to substantially mirror the separation distance between the shoulder regions of the garment to be supported. In this way garments having shoulder regions of differing breadths may be accommodated, thereby providing adequate support to the shoulder regions of such garments.

Other systems, methods, features and advantages of the invention will be or will become apparent to one with skill in the art upon examination of the following figures and detailed description. It is intended that all such additional systems, methods, features and advantages be included within this description, be within the scope of the invention, and be protected by the accompanying claims.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The components in the figures are not necessarily to scale, emphasis instead being placed upon illustrating the principles of the invention. In the figures, like reference numerals designate corresponding parts throughout the different views.

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a garment supporting device according to one embodiment;

FIG. 2 is an elevation view of the device of FIG. 1;

FIG. 3 is a plan view of the device of FIG. 1;

FIG. 4 is a side elevation of the device of FIG. 1 when in an unweighted position;

FIG. 5 is a side elevation of the device of FIG. 1 when in a weighted position;

FIG. 6 illustrates a perspective view of the device of FIG. 1 when in use;

FIGS. 7a to 7d illustrate one technique for attaching the device of FIG. 1 to a garment hanger;

FIG. 8a is a side elevation showing a garment hanger with integral garment support devices at either end thereof according to one embodiment;

FIG. 8b shows the garment hanger of FIG. 8a but with the garment support devices in an alternative position;

FIG. 9 is a perspective view of a device according one embodiment attached to a plastic garment hanger having a small width;

FIG. 10 is a perspective view of a device according one embodiment attached to a wooden garment hanger having a medium-size width;

FIG. 11 is a perspective view of a device according one embodiment attached a wooden garment hanger of a different shape;

FIG. 12 is a perspective view of a device according one embodiment attached to a plastic garment hanger having a large width;

FIG. 13a is a plan view illustrating in more detail a spine and slot arrangement of a device formed according one embodiment; and

FIG. 13b is a side elevation of the device of FIG. 13a.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

In the following description, numerous specific details are set forth in order to provide a more thorough description of the present invention. It will be apparent, however, to one skilled in the art, that the present invention may be practiced without these specific details. In other instances, well-known features have not been described in detail so as not to obscure the invention.

Though widely used, known garment hangers have numerous limitations. One such limitation lies in the fact that a conventional garment hanger is unable to properly accommodate garments of differing dimensions. More specifically, a garment, when draped over a garment hanger, requires that it be adequately supported, particularly at its shoulder regions since it is these regions which are most likely to drape over the edge of an improperly sized garment hanger which can, in some cases, cause permanent deformation of the garment. It is unlikely, therefore, that a conventional garment hanger will be suitable for a range of garments having a range of differing dimensions, particularly in the shoulder regions.

Moreover, dimensions such as the width of a garment hanger are conventionally fixed, and therefore are unsuitable for garments having shoulder regions of differing widths. In this way, unsightly bulges in shouldered garments are caused by the shoulder receiving sections of conventional garment hangers which often offer too little support, in that the surface area available for contact with the shoulder regions of a garment are insufficient for integrally supporting the garment without creating deformations therein.

A further disadvantage associated with conventional garment hangers is that it is unlikely that the distance between the two rounded shoulder receiving sections of the garment hanger, will correspond to the distance between the shoulder regions of a range of clothes differing in size. Consequently, if the breadth of the garment hanger is less than the distance between the two shoulders of the garment, there is a curving of the shoulder portions of the garment which hangs over the garment hanger, which often leads to the generation of creases or even distortions in the garment. Conversely, if the breadth of the garment hanger is greater than the distance between the two shoulder regions of a garment, the shoulder receiving sections of the garment hanger often project into the upper arm sections of the garment, which leads to similar undesirable results as mentioned above.

Referring firstly to FIGS. 1, 2 and 3, there is shown a weight-activated garment supporting device according to one embodiment. The support device, generally 101, comprises a garment shoulder receiving section 103 and an attachment portion 105. The support device 101 is a single, moulded piece.

Viewed from FIG. 3, it can be seen that the garment shoulder receiving section 103 has a generally oval, domed shape and the attachment portion 105 has a generally rectangular elongate shape. From FIG. 2, it can be seen that both the garment shoulder receiving section 103 and attachment portion 105 have a curved cross section, and the attachment portion 105 is obtusely angled with respect to the garment shoulder receiving section 103. As can be seen in FIGS. 1 and 2, this obtuse angle elevates the garment shoulder receiving section 103 with respect to the attachment portion 105. The outer surface of the device may be provided with a soft and/or non-abrasive layer to preclude the tearing and abrasion of garments which come into contact with the device 101.

The part of the garment shoulder receiving section 103 furthest from the attachment portion 105 is formed as a plurality of finger-like members 109 having elongate gaps 111 therebetween. As can be seen in FIG. 3, the elongate gap between the two central-most finger-like members 109 extends further towards the attachment portion 105 which, as will be explained in more detail below, facilities the spreading of the finger-like members 109. The ends of the finger-like members 109 are curved, in a manner similar to that of the end of a conventional leaf rake. The thickness of the finger-like members 109 reduce towards their tips. Hence, the flexibility of the device 101 increases towards the tips of the finger-like members 109. The attachment portion 105 is provided with apertures 113 for the purpose of attaching the garment support device 101 to a garment hanger (not shown), as will described in more detail below.

The garment support device 101 further comprises two air vents 107 which take the form of two elongate apertures located in the garment shoulder receiving section 103 towards to the attachment portion 105. It will be appreciated that the vents may take any suitable form.

Referring now to FIG. 4, there is illustrated a side elevation of the garment support device 101 when attached towards the end 119 of a garment hanger 115. In the arrangement shown in FIG. 4, the garment support device 101 is in an unweighted or resting position in which the garment shoulder receiving section 103 forms an angle with respect to the attachment portion 105. The attachment portion 105 lies along the garment hanger 115, to which it is attached, whilst the garment shoulder receiving section 103 lies elevated above the attachment portion 105, typically in a substantially horizontal position. When in the unweighted position, a bend between the garment shoulder receiving section 103 and the attachment portion 105 is clearly visible. The shoulder receiving section 103 may be depressed to a weighted position by the weight of garment to provide a cushioned support to the shoulder region of a garment. Arranging for the garment shoulder receiving section 103 to adopt the unweighted position provides for cushioned suspension of the shoulder regions of the garment which ensures that any tensional forces experienced by the garment are reduced thereby restricting the formation of wrinkles or creases in the shoulder region of the garment. The shoulder receiving section 103 is biased towards the unweighted position either by the resilience of the material of the device itself or by a spring or other biasing means (not shown).

Referring now to FIG. 5, the garment support device 101 is in a weighted or working position. More particularly, in the weighted position, the garment shoulder receiving section 103 of the garment support device 101, is depressed so that it is substantially aligned with the inclined attachment portion 105. The garment support device 101 is moved into the weighted position by the weight of a garment (not shown). The transition to weighted position of the garment support device 101 provides a cushioned suspension to the shoulder region of a garment which absorbs or alleviates any tensional forces that the garment may experience whilst being draped over the garment hanger 115 and garment support device 101. Also, as will be explained in more detail below, the pressure on the upper surface of the garment shoulder receiving section 103 causes the finger-like members 109 to spread. The amount of spread will depend on the weight of the garment and also the amount of available space within the shoulder region of the garment. The spreading of the finger-like members presents an increased surface area to support the garment. The increased surface area helps reduce the pressure on the garment in the shoulder region and reduces the formation of wrinkles or creases.

Referring now to FIG. 6, there is illustrated a shouldered garment 617 hung on a garment hanger 615, the garment hanger 615 being fitted with the garment support device 101. The attachment portion 105 of the garment support device 101 is attached towards an end 619 of the garment hanger 615 to receive the shoulder region 621 of the shouldered garment 617.

From FIG. 6 it can be seen that the weight of the shoulder region 621 of the shouldered garment 617, has caused the garment shoulder receiving section 103 of the garment support device 101 to depress and splay so as to conform to the shape of the shouldered region 621 in order to provide adequate support thereto. The movement of the garment shoulder receiving section 103 to reach the depressed state is represented by the vertical arrow which points downwards, whilst the splaying movement of the finger-like members 109, of the garment shoulder receiving section 103, is depicted by the outwardly pointing arrows. It will be appreciated that the fingers will flex more towards their tips thereby helping the device 101 to conform to the shoulder region 621 of the shouldered garment 617. Hence, the finger-like members 109 are spread apart and the gaps 111 increase in response to the weight of the garment 617 in order to substantially fill the shoulder region 621.

In contrast, the accumulative span of the finger-like members 109 in the unweighted position is substantially less than the span shown in FIG. 6, and consequently the finger-like members 109 are bunched much closer together thereby diminishing the size of the gaps 111 therebetween.

Now Referring to FIG. 7a, there is illustrated one technique for attaching the garment support device 101. The garment support device 101 has apertures 113 in the attachment portion 105 thereof. Two twist ties 1129 are threaded through the apertures 113 so as to hang from the attachment portion 105. The twist ties are formed from a suitable non-resilient material.

Now referring to FIG. 7b, there is illustrated garment hanger 615 disposed with a garment support device 101 at either end 619 thereof. The garment support devices 101 are placed at a distance apart which matches that of the shoulders of the garment to be placed on the garment hanger 615.

FIG. 7c displays a similar illustration to that shown in FIG. 7b, except that the twist ties 1129 are intertwined so as to hold and lock the respective garment support devices 101 firmly in position.

FIG. 7d displays a similar illustration to that shown in FIGS. 7b and 7c, but the intertwined twist ties have been bent, along the path described by the four arrows, into a recess (not shown) of the garment hanger 615, accessible from below. The twist ties 1129 are bent in this manner so as to prevent any tearing or abrasion of garments when hung on the garment hanger 615. It will be appreciated that any suitable fixing means could be used in place of the twist ties 1129 such as, for example, a latch, strap, nut and bolt, or a hook and eye fastening.

Referring now to FIG. 8a, there is illustrated a garment hanger, generally 1615, and two garment support devices 1601 integrally attached thereto. Each garment support device 1601 functions identically to the embodiment described with reference to FIGS. 1 to 7d, with the exception of having a modified attachment portion 1605.

The garment hanger 1615 comprises a hanger frame 1631 and a hook 1633 which is rotatably connected to the apex of the hanger frame 1631. Grooves 1635 are formed along a portion of the opposite ends 1619a and 1619b, of the hanger frame 1631, so that each garment support device 1601 can slidably engage a groove 1635 at ends 1619a and 1619b.

In the arrangement shown in FIG. 8a, only a fraction of the attachment portion 1605 of each garment support device 1601 overlaps with the ends 1619a and 1619b. This arrangement is particularly suitable for use with a garment which has shoulders of a wide breadth.

However, in order to cater for garments having shoulders of differing breadths, the position of the garment support devices 1601 can be adjusted by sliding them further along the grooves 1635 so that a larger fraction of the attachment portion 1605 of each garment support device 1601 overlaps with the ends 1619a and 1619b. Such an arrangement is depicted in FIG. 8b, where the entire attachment portion 1605 of each garment support device 1601 overlaps with the ends 1619a and 1619b. This type of arrangement is particularly suitable for garments having a shorter breadth, for example. A notching arrangement cooperating with the grooves 1635 may be provided to assist in retaining each garment support device 1601 in the desired position.

Referring now to FIG. 9, there is shown a garment support device 1201 according to an embodiment, which is attached to one end 1219 of a plastic garment hanger 1215 having a small width. The garment support device 1201 functions identically to the embodiment described with reference to FIGS. 1 to 7d, with the exception of having a modified attachment portion 1205 and being made of a very flexible material, making the garment support device 1201 more suited to lighter weight garments. The garment support device 1201 is uniquely coloured to assist the user in identifying that this garment support device 1201 is suitable for lighter weight garments. The attachment portion 1205, of the garment support device 1201, is formed from a pliable material such as aluminium, and is therefore attached to the garment hanger 1215 by manipulating the edges of the attachment portion 1205 to conform with the width of the garment hanger 1215 for attachment thereto.

Referring now to FIG. 10, there shown a garment support device 1301 according to an embodiment which is attached to one end 1319 of a wooded garment hanger 1315 having a medium-sized width. The garment support device 1301 functions identically to the embodiment described with reference to FIGS. 1 to 7d and is attached to the end 1319 of a garment hanger 1315 of a differing width to that shown in FIG. 9. Further, the attachment portion 1305, of the garment support device 1301, is formed from a rigid plastics material and is, therefore, attached to the garment hanger 1315 by use of twist ties 1329, in a similar manner to that described in FIGS. 7a to 7d. The garment support device 1301 is made of a medium flexibility material, making the garment support device 1301 more suited to medium weight garments. The garment support device 1301 is uniquely coloured to assist the user in identifying that this garment support device 1301 is suitable for medium weight garments.

FIG. 11 illustrates a garment support device 1401 according to an embodiment, which is attached to one end 1419 of a wooded garment hanger 1415 having a different shape and width to that shown in FIG. 10. The garment support device 1401 functions identically to the embodiment described with reference to FIGS. 1 to 7d. The attachment portion 1405, of the garment support device 1401, is formed from a rigid plastics material and is, therefore, attached to the garment hanger 1415 by use of twist ties 1429, in a similar manner to that described in FIGS. 7a to 7d. The garment support device 1401 is made of a medium flexibility material, making the garment support device 1401 more suited to medium weight garments. The garment support device 1401 is uniquely coloured to assist the user in identifying that this garment support device 1401 is suitable for medium weight garments. In this embodiment, the garment hanger 1415 is formed from wood and takes the form of a curved elongate beam.

Although two different garment support devices 1301 and 1401 are illustrated in FIGS. 10 and 11, it will be appreciated that the same garment support device may be used on different garment hangers if the attachment portion instead of being rigid is made pliable to allow it to be moulded to fit the profile of that hanger. This improves the versatility of the garment support device since the same device may be utilised with a variety of garment hangers having differing dimensions.

FIG. 12 is a perspective view of a device 1501 according one embodiment attached to a plastic garment hanger 1515 having a large width. The garment support device 1501 functions identically to the embodiment described with reference to FIGS. 1 to 7d. The attachment portion 1505, of the garment support device 1501 is made of a pliable material to enable the garment support device 1501 to be attached to a variety of different width and shaped hangers. The garment support device 1501 is attached to the garment hanger 1515 by use of twist ties 1529, in a similar manner to that described in FIGS. 7a to 7d. The garment support device 1501 is made of a low flexibility material, making the garment support device 1501 more suited to heavyweight garments. The garment support device 1501 is uniquely coloured to assist the user in identifying that this garment support device 1501 is suitable for heavyweight garments.

Referring now to FIG. 13A, there is illustrated a garment support device 901 according to an embodiment of the present invention. The garment support device 901 comprises all the features of the garment support 101, as depicted in FIGS. 1 to 3, and further comprises the features of a slit 923, two slots 925, and a spine 927.

The spine 927 is approximately a third of the thickness of the attachment portion 905 and extends along the entire length of the garment support device 901. The spine 927 improves the mechanical properties of the device 901. In particular, the spine 927 assists in biasing the device 901 to the unweighted position. The spine 927 forks into two separate portions as it extends along the garment shoulder receiving section 903 in order to provide the finger-like members 909. The spine 927 typically has a thickness of around 2.5 mm in the attachment portion 905 and reduces to around 1 mm in the finger-like members 909. A central gap 911 between the two most centrally positioned finger-like members 909 is provided.

The garment support device 901 is also provided with two slots 925 which are located on either side of the spine 927 towards the centre of the garment support device 901. The slots 925 enhance the ability of the garment support device 901 to bend which assists the garment shoulder receiving section 903 in moving from an unweighted position to a weighted position as illustrated in FIGS. 4, 5 and 6. The profile of the spine 927 and slots 925 can be more readily seen in FIG. 10.

The slit 923 is located at the junction where the two most centrally located finger-like members 909 converge. This slit has the effect of enhancing the splaying and/or retracting capabilities of the garment shoulder receiving section 903. It will be appreciated that more than one slit may be provided.

While various embodiments of the invention have been described, it will be apparent to those of ordinary skill in the art that many more embodiments and implementations are possible that are within the scope of this invention. In addition, the various features, elements, and embodiments described herein may be claimed or combined in any combination or arrangement.