Pockets for Change
Episode 1: in which I make pockets, I sew pockets into and onto other things, I make fun of pockets, I impart pocket knowledge, and I empower you to pocket.
An abridged history of pockets and their politics
Middle Ages: The precursor to pockets - men and women wore pouches hung on a rope around their waist, under their overclothes which had slits in them allowing easy access to the pouches. POCKETS! EQUALITY!
17th century: “Ah man, I’m sick of putting on this separate belt with pouches to carry all my stuff! Why don’t we just sew these pouches into our jackets? Efficiency!”
At this point in history, men were in charge of money, documents, and therefore their fashion, ever practical, incorporates pockets and never looks back. Women, not needing or being allowed to handle such important things, are still stuck with their tied-on pouches, under huge skirts, making them largely inaccessible or functional for practical use.
And then it continues in this way, getting worse before it gets better.
1790’s: “We love a slim figure and empire waists, and they just don’t jive with pockets. That bulk ruins the line! What all do ladies have to carry anyways… just put your stuff in a small bag, like we all used to, but this time we’ll call it fashion.” The birth of the reticule, the minuscule ancestor of the purse.
It is rumored that women’s pockets all but disappeared during the French Revolution to prevent concealing revolutionary material - husbands could carry all of the money and necessities, so women needn’t be trusted with pockets.
It’s not until the turn of the 20th century that women raise enough fuss to get practical clothing back. Founded in 1891, the Rational Dress Society fights for functional clothing and in 1910 a six-pocket “Suffragette suit” is popularized. And with the onset of the World Wars, women for a time breathe easy with trousers and large pockets as they fill the many roles left vacant by men fighting in the war.
But where have these voluminous pockets gone? Where did we go wrong?
Well, in the wake of the war, men return and women’s fashion quickly falls back into its habit of catering towards the male gaze. Women’s clothing slims and large pockets are unflattering in slim and slimming garments, dontcha know. The handbag industry takes off to fill the space where pockets used to be. And from this point until now, women are stuck with small, useless, fake, or totally absent pockets.
A quick note for anyone who would argue that purses and handbags have far exceeded what pockets ever could be and we’re better off for it: Please consider this oft overlooked fact. Carrying valuables in a bag or purse leaves you a much easier target for theft (which happens to be a driving force in the invention and popularization of pockets in the first place). Pockets are much more theft proof, because they are attached to you.
So anyways, pockets are political.
And I’m hoping to do something about this inequality, cause I’m frankly sick of it.
This is the first iteration, in which I make pockets, I sew pockets into and onto other things, I make fun of pockets, I impart pocket knowledge, and I empower you to pocket. Down the line, I would love to turn this into a line of practically pocketed clothing, but everything in due time. For now, no longer will I abide having the perfect outfit with the caveat *sadly lacking pockets*.
It’s a subtle and easy to brush off offense, as (hopefully) no designers are actively thinking “How can I make this product less functional for a huge part of the populous?” But it’s hundreds if not thousands of these microaggressions that feel too individually small to raise a fuss about that make up a society that puts women and femme personages second, disempowers and turns us against our own sex, and minimizes our incredible power.
So, I’m starting with pockets.