Posted by Kayleigh on 6th Jan 2022
It seems that pockets have become a running joke in women’s fashion, from our amazement at the seemingly endless pockets in mens clothing, to the classic “Ohh cute dress!” “Thanks, it has POCKETS!”, to the rise in popularity of wedding dresses with pockets. But have we ever looked deeper into the history of why we love our pockets so much?
Pockets have been about for some time…but just not in women’s clothing! They started being sewn into mens clothing as early as the 17th century, while women at this time were still making do with cloth pouches hanging from their dresses or even hidden underneath their skirts (As I’m writing this I’m having flashbacks of all the girls wearing denim shorts with pockets underneath our dresses at underage discos because nobody ever had a handbag, and thinking that we were the next great entrepreneurs!) But due to the layers of clothing, these pouches often weren’t easily accessible and women often had to practically get undressed to access them, making the pouches almost pointless.
In the late 1790’s, as more figure hugging dresses became popular, pockets were still a concept that was far out of reach, as small decorative bags were used instead. Mind you, these bags could barely fit a single coin, never mind the whole “keys, lipstick, phone, mask, hand sanitiser, purse extra mask…” routine that we now go through every time we leave the house! However, this is a far cry from the cute “tiny bag” trend that we’ve seen in the past few years, as in the 1790’s it was a symbol that women didn’t need pockets, as they had no control over finances.
In the 20th century, HALLELUJAH, we saw plenty of women rebellions. And in the midst of all this? Actual instruction manuals explaining how to sew your own pockets into your skirt. As the World Wars began, we saw a chance in women’s place in society as they began working, as well as campaigning for more practical clothing. Petticoats and tiny bags were out, and trousers with actual functional pockets were oh so in! 1910 Even saw the “Suffragette Suit” sporting six to eight pockets.Coco Chancel was also a huge part of this movement, as she began creating designs inspired by menswear, made out of a lightweight jersery fabric and featuring the all important pockets.
And just when we thought we had it, our beloved pockets were gone again, as women wearing mens styles were seen as too masculine (I hate to imagine what people at this time would have thought of our current love affair with blazers, grandad jumpers, and unisex clothing…but we’ll move on!) Women’s clothing became slimmer fitting, to make the silhouette seem more lean, making no room for pockets this essential soon returned to be exclusive to mens clothing. The popular idea at this time was based around Christian Dior’s statement that “Men have pockets to keep things in, women for decoration.” and that the main purpose of mens clothing was utility while the main purpose of women’s clothing was beauty.
With the rise in popularity of the likes of skinny jeans and slim fitting jackets, pockets were almost impossible! Designers of skinny jeans went as far as to add the detail of the universally hated fake pockets to their designs. At this time, women were told that pockets ruined the silhouette and made the hips seem wide or drew the eye to the parts of the body that we’re most insecure about, while we know now that this is a myth and that pockets can often add much needed structure and shape to an outfit, this was believed for a long time. This was a major reason for the rise in the popularity of handbags, as now pockets weren’t only impossible, but they were pointless. After all, who needed a bulky pocket when you could have a handbag to fit everything you need and more?
While we love our handbags, they can often be a real burden. Back when nights out were an actual thing, we often found ourselves trying to hold our handbag as close to our body as possible when walking through a crowd, usually at an awkward angle held tightly under our arms. And as the night went on and we got a bit more careless, the handbags would usually end up hidden under a seat as we went out to strut our stuff on the dancefloor, only for us to never take our eyes off of it for fear that it would be taken. And then comes the struggle of remembering to take it with you when getting out of the taxi home that night. So yes, as much as we love our handbags, how much easier would life be if we just had pockets?