If you own a really older home, you may have noted that, if there were closets, the original ones were probably narrow with a few hooks at the back.
More than likely the hanging rod - if it is there - was installed in more recent years. This was most likely due to the fact people didn't have that many changes of clothes and a hook did the job. As time moved along, folks began to have more clothing, so they had to get creative with storage.
We have all seen the elaborate wardrobes of yesteryear with their lovely wood inlays and carved ornamentation that our great grandparents used for storing clothes. Some are quite expansive, and some are smaller and simpler deeming them usable in foyers as well as bedrooms. An adaptation of the wardrobe is a chifforobe that had not only hanging space, but drawers and shelves for folded items. The word is a combination of chiffonier and wardrobe. The word chifforobes was quite popular in the southern part of the United States and was first advertised in a 1908 Sears and Roebuck catalog.
Going back even further before homes were equipped with closets and hooks, clothing storage was in a trunk that served more than one purpose. It was not only storage but worked as a bench as well. Often, it was padlocked to safe keep valuables. If these 16th century chests had drawers, the drawers were called tills and were built into the bottom of these chests. This was the beginning of the chest of drawers as we know it today.
Sometimes, it's interesting to know what intended use certain drawers were designed for in a chest. For example, many antique chests have several deep top drawers. Back in the day, people wore head gear in the form of top hats and sun bonnets, therefore many antique chests have deep drawers to accommodate those hats. Another storage unit for the hats was a bonnet box cabinet that much resembles a dry sink but is a bit taller with a lid that could sometimes be raised to insert a hat or two. That storage space could also take on the demeanor of a drawer in this type of chest.
All of these cherished storage units of old can still serve that purpose and many do just that. The added advantage is their history, monetary value and the panache they bring to modern dcor.
Jean McClelland writes about antiques for HD Media.