The Sexist History of Women's Pockets

Education Fashion History

The uphill battle for pockets on women’s clothing has been a long one. For thousands of years, women have been fighting the patriarchy for the right to pockets on their garments that would allow them mobility, comfort, and freedom. It’s sad to say that still today, we are frequently asking ourselves and our friends around us, “why don’t women’s clothes have pockets?” The answer, while not surprising, has been thousands of years in the works. 

The History of Women's Pockets 

In the early 15th and 16th century, both men and women carried their belongings in small pouches worn around the waist, usually fashioned to the wearer's girdles or belts. The design for these pieces was the same for men and women. By the 17th century,  men commonly had pockets sewn into their garments, but women did not. Instead, women still had to carry a pouch and did not have the right to a hidden private space that was easily accessible. 

In the 18th century, waistlines became tighter. During this time, women were encouraged to opt for bags. These decorative bags, called reticules, were extremely small and had to be worn under layers of skirts and the petticoat, which meant a woman was still not able to access them in public. When in public, a woman would be in the company of a man, who would carry her things. These hidden reticule bags were often personalized with embroidery and held things like a smaller coin purse, glasses, a ring, a toothpick case, keys, and a thimble. The London Spectator reported that it was thought that “Women had four external bulges already, two breasts and two hips, a pocket would make an ungainly fifth.” Keeping their bags hidden away was the only solution.

In the 19th century, women campaigned through the Rational Dress Society to make clothes more functional. However, it took until the 1910s ‘Suffragette Suit’ to achieve six pockets. By this time, some men’s suits were up to twelve. The first and second world wars also provided some hope for more practical pockets in women’s clothing, however this did not last long with the continued advancement of the women’s handbag and the trend of slimmer silhouettes once again coming into fashion. 

Women's Pockets on Clothing Today 

When clothing began to be mass produced, pockets remained unequal. Today, the average woman's pocket is 48% shorter and 7% narrower than a typical man's pocket. Women’s pockets remain too small, are simply fake, or oftentimes do not even exist on our pants, dresses, and jackets. Our pockets are often decorative rather than utilitarian. We need pockets for keys, masks, phones, snacks, and wallets, just like men. Pockets, unlike handbags, are hidden private spaces that create safety and allow both hands to be used freely on the go. The sexist history of pockets has forced us to carry a bag or hold even the smallest items in our hands. 

The popularity of fast fashion has also impacted the lack of thought that goes into designing women’s garments. When clothing is designed and manufactured at such a quick rate, there is no time to think about how practical, utilitarian, or comfortable the garment is. More focus is put on how the clothing looks online or on a model on the runway, instead of how the piece could be useful in everyday life. 

Women's Pockets in Sustainable Manufacturing 

When manufacturing clothing at a more sustainable pace, designers are able to put more thought into what kinds of pockets can be added to a garment. You’d be surprised at how many different kinds of pockets can be used! Patch pockets, set-in pocket and flap pockets are just a few kinds of pockets that have been included on Meg’s current pieces. 

At the core of her brand, Meg believes that fashion should not forsake functionality. Like many of her customers, she is on the go from morning until night every day. Practical pockets have become a priority for her brand, and you will find that they are included in almost every piece she produces, from pants and jackets, to jumpsuits and dresses.  Browse our new collection online, or stop into one of our storefronts to see the difference in pockets on women’s clothing when they are designed realistically for everyday life. 



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