Heroes of comfort and multitasking - Pockets
Author - Divyashree Thacker
If you grew up in the age of Levi's, you have always known the luxury of a pocket to guard your phone, stash your lipstick or plunge your hands into in an awkward situation. Pockets are the heroes of convenience and multitasking, in fact, they've even inspired a song or two.
However, things weren't always so easy. Pockets have seen many makeovers over the years, and their standard presence on both men's and women's clothing is relatively recent. In fact, their history is rife with class and gender politics, and deeper than we think! They’re deeper than you may think.
Pockets first began appearing on waistcoats and trousers about 500 years ago. As you probably already know, about half the population wasn't wearing trousers back then.
For women in the 1600s and beyond, pockets were a separate garment that tied on between a skirt and petticoat. They were able to be removed and worn with multiple outfits.
These pockets functioned like purses and could hold enough treasures Pincushions, thimbles, pencil cases, knives, scissors, keys, spectacles, watches, diaries, personalgrooming objects like combs and mirrors, and (obviously) snacks were just some of the items commonly toted around below the belt. That all changed in the late 1800s, when the Victorian era saw trends shift toward slim skirts and tiny waists. Pockets became smaller and more ornate and non functional. These “reticules” also known as early handbags were worn outside the clothes and meant to be pinned on or attached to a belt. Their very daintiness was a status symbol in itself, signalling a life of leisure and a spouse who handled the finances.
From there, purses took off. Pockets as we know them more or less disappeared from women's clothing, though they continued to be a fixture on men's tailoring. In the mid- to late-1800s, women started to rebel. Dress patterns started to include instructions for sewing pockets into skirts if you felt like being an independent woman.
Women also started to take their pocket rights back in the early 1900s when they started wearing pants. Women co-opted menswear styles for themselves, and therein took back the pocket.
Menswear inspired looks gained popularity in the late '20s, especially with Hollywood stars like Greta Garbo and Marlene Dietrich. But the trend remained somewhat controversial and off-the-radar until 1933, when Women's Wear Daily became the first big name to address the trend in an article called "Will Women Wear Trousers?”. While Women's Wear Daily has been reporting the acceptance of trousers in cinema circles, the consumer press has been discussing the controversial subject at least two progressive manufacturers, alert to the evershifting whims of fashion, have been quietly at work designing tailored cloths to meet this demand.
But with both World Wars came a boom of utilitarian clothing for women who were now working. And by that we mean that women finally got pants that worked, and by that we mean they had pockets.
But then, somewhere in the middle of the postwar 1900s, fashion had a crisis. Could there be trousers for women? How would they look? How would they be shaped? Because fashion is obsessed with slimming women's silhouettes pockets started getting cut out of women's pants completely.
So that awful feeling when you put on a pair of pants and discover, to your horror, that there are no pockets? Your mom probably relates to that too. Over the course of the century, some pants for women had pockets, while some didn't at all.
Consider this quote from esteemed designer Christian Dior in 1954, in a reported. magazine, "Men have pockets to keep things in, women for decoration."
The '70s and early '90s brought a period of relief when women dressing in menswear or menswear-inspired pieces became trendy. But after the brief, loosebottomed respite, the '90s brought the rise of the luxury designer handbags, which didn’t help the situation and made fashion more concerned with creating bags than ensuring clothing had pockets. Also unhelpful: the tight, low-rise pants that swept in on Britney Spears' teenage hips in the late '90s, which did not have room for pockets at all.
The 21st century, women want pockets big and wide on the back of their jeans and the front. We want pockets in every dress we own. We want pockets in shirts and skirts and jackets and any possible garment where one will fit. We want to put a screeching halt to fake pockets that fool us. But most of all, we want pockets that fit our phones.
Big pockets are popping up, of all places, on red carpets, where women such as Amy Schumer are rocking pocketed dresses with their hands tucked ever-sostylishly into them.
But that doesn't mean it's trickled down to real clothing, like, jeans, where we really need them for our iPhones. When you look back at history, what we're really asking for is equality. That said, people, mainly women are trying to change things. There are some clothing lines that have directly addressed the problem, ensuring their consumers that their pockets are indeed large enough. So change seems to be coming, albeit slowly.