I bought my four-year-old a pair of jeans. They were the sweetest thrift-find with kitty cat knees. She slipped them on and I watched as her happy face turned to disappointment.
Alas, the dreaded fake pockets were sewn in place. I imagine the majority of us can empathize with the “no pockets” feeling. This issue runs deep throughout history.
In the 17th century, men had pockets sewn into the linings of their clothing and it has remained this way since then. Women, however, had a pair of pockets, similar to a handbag, tied around their waists underneath their petticoats. The petticoats had openings in the side seams to put their hands through and reach their pockets. Although invisible to the onlooker and inconvenient for the wearer to access, pockets were often the only private, safe place to store small personal belongings.
It was typical for pockets to hold coins, jewellery, sewing wares, a pencil, knife, mirror, scent bottle, a comb, a biscuit, and a small bottle of gin. (Because when the patriarchy is influencing what type of pockets you wear, you better have a snack and drink handy.)
Pockets began to disappear as slimmer dresses came into fashion in the 1790s. Women carried small decorative bags, called reticules, that hardly fit a hankie and a coin. Since women had next to no access to money or property, it was deemed that they didn’t need functional pockets if their husbands had pockets. It was said that “women had four external bulges already—two breasts and two hips—and a pocket inside their dress would make an ungainly fifth.” (Insert my feminist rage.)
Pockets were seen as too liberating. Both external and internal pockets were banished in women’s clothing during the French Revolution to prevent the spread of revolutionary materials.
In the 1800s, the Rational Dress Society led campaigns for women’s clothing to be more functional. Instruction manuals on how to sew pockets into your own skirts became popular as women sought their independence. Pockets became an essential item for girls, older women, and working-class women during the 19th century. The 1910 “Suffragette suit” became all the rage, having at least six pockets. During the World Wars, women turned to more practical clothing like trousers with large pockets.
Unfortunately, the movement didn’t last as fashion once again deemed that “men have pockets to keep things in, women for decoration.” And here we are today with the dreaded fake pockets sewn onto women’s clothing.
Studies reveal that women’s pockets are nearly 50 per cent smaller than men’s pockets. The fashion industry has a long way to go in many ways, but there are brands that insist on changing fashion norms and are working pockets into women's clothing. Because it’s 2020. And women need pockets. All the pockets.
We are proud to carry on this fight, to wage war against the patriarchy, to bring you liberation when you don’t know what to do with your hands . . .
You bet we have pockets!
Written By Jade Paxton for FRANC