The Big Fashion Mystery – Why don't women's clothes have pockets?

Lockdown has given us so much time to think! And one thing we've been puzzling over is pockets. If you've ever wondered why so few women's clothes have pockets, you are not the only one. Here's what we've found out, plus a cool recommendation for you.

Fashion mysteries - The strange history of pockets

Hundreds of years ago nobody had pockets. Men's trousers and jackets, women's dresses and coats, none of us had pockets. Instead we carried our essential bits and bobs in little cloth pouches tied around the waist. One particular children's book illustration dating back to 1846 says it all. It illustrates the nursery rhyme Lucy Locket Lost Her Pocket, revealing ladies' pockets as completely separate bags tied around the waist, a forerunner of the handbag we all know and love... or loathe! We don't all appreciate having to lug a handbag around with us everywhere we go. At some point in time pockets as we know them arrived, and were being sewn into men's clothing left, right and centre. But, oddly, it didn't happen to the same degree in women's clothing. Pockets just didn't take off in the same way as they did for men. Some say it happened because of the smoother silhouettes demanded by female fashion. We were not meant to look all lumpy, with practical pockets full of useful things, like men did. Women were supposed to look pretty and smooth, and pockets just spoiled the outline. Others believe making women pocketless was a simple way to make sure they remained powerless. When there's no way to carry secret stuff around with you there's no way to have secret affairs, never mind have the audacity to travel anywhere on your own. 1891 saw a bid for freedom, when The Rational Dress Society was formed. They campaigned for comfortable clothes for women, recommending throwing out corsets in favour of comfy, useful trousers — which featured pockets. The 1920s saw Coco Chanel sewing pockets into women's jackets. But it took another 50 years before trousers for women finally became acceptable.

Pockets for women in the 2020s

Most women's trousers these days do have pockets, but since so many of them are designed to be worn tight, the pockets are not much use, hardly practical. Women's skirts and dresses rarely have pockets despite plenty of women making it very clear they want pocket equality. Most women's clothing is still predominantly pocketless, or has silly pockets you can't use, either too small or too shallow or in the wrong place. Is this down to the weird male dominance we still see in the female fashion industry, even now in the 2020s? Or is it down to old-fashioned designers who still insist that looks matter more than function? As a woman who wants pockets, it would have driven you nuts to hear Christian Dior say, "Men have pockets to keep things in, women for decoration." He should've known better. We are not models, we are not clothes horses, we are not mere sex symbols. We are human beings.

Why is the fashion industry so reluctant to change?

In 2014 Mashable did a survey of five fashion brands, asking questions about pocket size. It was inspired by the new iPhone 6, which was considerably bigger than most mobile phones at the time. Apparently fashion executives said they'd think about making women's pockets bigger to account for the new tech. They didn't do it. Women remain either pocketless, or stuck with pockets that we can't use; insecure, tiny, and totally impractical. A hundred and nine years later, The Rational Dress Society would be disgusted.

We do pockets!

Skirts with pockets are as rare as hen's teeth. Plenty of women we know would love to be able to enjoy life without a handbag permanently attached to their arm. On lockdown it's even worse. We're stuck at home, without pockets, and the only way to carry your mobile phone with you – unless your jeans have decent pockets - is to carry a handbag around the house. Crazy!Luckily our beautiful popper skirts come with an attached purse, rather better than a pocket because you can fit more in it, it has a zip, and there's often more than one compartment. Look at these little beauties!

Do you want pockets on more of your clothes?

As a pocket fan, do you have a bright idea of your own for some kind of detachable pocket you can wear with all your clothes, say on a pretty belt, attached with a hook or even velcro? We'd love to hear about your ideas if so, and we're also busy dreaming up solutions of our own...

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