The Politics of Pockets
October 26, 2019 10:34 AM   Subscribe

I wear utility kilts (off-brand Utilikilts) pretty much all of the time recently. And I get SO MANY questions, envious looks, admiration and compliments from women who like them, are amazed to see them, or even want one for themselves. And the one feature they all remark on is the pockets.

There really is a great need. Here's another way to meet that need: pockets that you can attach over your waistband with a magnet. Quite nifty!
posted by Too-Ticky at 11:24 AM on October 26, 2019 [5 favorites]

This is one of the reasons I learned to sew; I can put in my own damn pockets, and I can mend the hole from me tearing the ugly garnish from a garment.
posted by LilithSilver at 11:44 AM on October 26, 2019 [5 favorites]

I refuse to buy or make a dress that doesn't have pockets. Because fuck that. Dresses with pockets are so awesome. And I love wearing dresses. When I have a place to put a key and a phone and a couple of bills I can go lots of places without any kind of handbag. Freedom. I love it so much. Plus I feel very "modely" walking around with my hands in my pockets ;P I also love leggings and am so chuffed you can get so many styles with pockets now. I bought a fantastic winter coat last year online which fit me like a dream and made me feel amazing. I realized as soon as I buttoned it up that it had no pockets. Anywhere. Who wants a winter coat with no pockets??! I really liked the coat but it had to go back.

I didn't see this one among the links in the article (may have missed it tho) but it's a good companion read and lists a couple of designers who have been doing pockets in trousers.

Ya know? I think Hillary's iconic white suit did, technically, have pockets. The kind that usually need to have the stitches cut open for them to be utilized. She may not have opened them, to keep the clean lines (the irony...), but I think they were there. Apparently the suit was designed by Ralph Lauren, and made to look just like this other one she favored, in which you can see one of the pockets is open. Otherwise I agree with the general sentiment of the article (because women need and love pockets). Give us some damn pockets!
posted by the webmistress at 12:06 PM on October 26, 2019 [4 favorites]

I sew and I have allergies, which means that I put roomy pockets in everything I make (and then fill 'em with tissues). Invariably, female friends comment on how much they want pockets in their clothes too. It seems like "women want pockets" is such a well-known phenomenon, how come clothing manufacturers haven't started making women's clothes with pockets? Sure it adds a little expense to manufacturing but you'd think they could make it back by charging a little extra for a more desirable product ...?

Anyway, coming back to the pockets stuffed with tissues, I wonder if the problem is that women's clothes tend to be more closely fitted than men's, and anytime you actually put stuff in a woman's pocket it makes a conspicuous bulge. My husband can carry all kinds of stuff in his pants pockets and you'd never know it was there, but everybody can see my kleenex supply (and I don't make my pants particularly tight). It's not very attractive, and even *I* wouldn't stuff shirt pockets with tissues etc. In contrast, Hubby can carry his cell phone and other useful things in his shirt pocket and come off looking practical and prepared instead of lopsided and lumpy.

I sometimes wonder how well women's clothes with pockets would actually sell. If you put anything in the pockets the clothes don't look as nice, and if you don't put anything in the pockets why bother having pockets in the first place? I'd love to see some actual data about this, because I feel like the patriarchy is screwing us again, in both directions. It seems like the root cause is the pressure on women to look pretty whereas men can get away with looking useful, and that pressure seems so entrenched and pervasive I despair of it ever going away.

But until we're ready to nuke it all from orbit, here's a suggestion for people who can sew or alter clothes: those big foofy skirts and dresses of the 1950s are more practical than they look. While they're tight around the waist, there's so much gathering at the hips and thighs that there's plenty of room to hide pockets in the side seams. You can't even see my kleenex supply!
posted by Quietgal at 12:14 PM on October 26, 2019 [4 favorites]

I don't think manufacturers of women's clothes put any time or thought into what their customers actually want to wear, otherwise I'd be able to buy a shirt of any kind that wasn't see-through.
posted by bleep at 1:12 PM on October 26, 2019 [28 favorites]

There's a lot to be said about pockets. Marsupiologia, to blend languages, could be a field of academic study.

-There were pockets in women's clothing in earlier Western dress, as part of a complicated getup that required a helper (slave, lbh) to dress them
-To remove pockets from women's clothing is to remove things (literal, physical things) from women's possession
-To require a woman to carry a bag is to give her another (literal, physical) burden
Many women and people who do femme shit enjoy wearing:
-Light, thin, soft, flexible materials
-That's the whole list
And it's hard to sew a pocket into a thin, stretchy dress without ruining it. It's gonna look like garbage, especially if you actually use the pocket for anything weighty.

So, once I went to the park wearing a dress and that's when I found out that the point of female-gendered clothing is to discourage play. You can't fool around in the dirt, and use the swings, and run through the fountain, and do all that active stuff in a frilly white dress. Girl clothes are amazing but their origin ain't great: the purpose was to remove agency.

(PS a pox upon clothiers who would stitch homeopathic pockets on women's jeans. It's fucking denim, it can handle a pocket.) (PS when I wear a suit I have over 20 pockets, and it gets confusing. I find money sometimes.)
posted by Sterros at 1:35 PM on October 26, 2019 [16 favorites]

Sterros, I'm dying to know where all twenty of those pockets are. I just mentally ran through a three-piece suit and could only get up to 11, 15 if you include an overcoat.
posted by yeahlikethat at 2:03 PM on October 26, 2019 [1 favorite]

I've gained weight in recent years and had to start looking up places that sells affordable plus size clothing in my country, and I'll be sorry to go down a size or two because there's a local brand who clearly designed for women in mind because they're comfortable, with some silhouette definition but in a forgiving way (a lot of elastane/stretchy textile mixes in flowy designs), washes well AND HAVE POCKETS I CAN CRAM MY ENTIRE HAND IN. A dream. The only other brand I like that does this is muji which is expensive and not always made for larger sizes.
posted by cendawanita at 2:19 PM on October 26, 2019 [2 favorites]

I recently bought a fanny pack, er, HIP PACK for my trip to Disney next summer because none of my shorts have viable pockets and I need my phone and wallet to not go flying on Space Mountain.
posted by Biblio at 4:49 PM on October 26, 2019 [1 favorite]

I hate having to carry a handbag around. I avoid it at all costs. One more thing to take care of, so easy for someone to snatch, etc.

Same thing with high heels. Expensive, uncomfortable, and somewhat debilitating. Sometimes inflicting actual physical damage within a couple hours.

It’s understood in my family that I am uncouth, because I just fail at toeing the fashion line when it comes to dress-up events. I guess it would be nice to show up somewhere fancy and feel appropriately dressed, but not at the expense of my comfort and safety.
posted by mantecol at 5:23 PM on October 26, 2019 [2 favorites]

Yes to dresses with pockets. New York & Company has a set of A-line dresses with functional pockets, which also (bonus!) do not wrinkle and are machine washable. They are my perfect dresses and I buy no others. I wear them to conferences and get so many compliments from other women. Producing a business card without rifling through a bag feels like the greatest magic trick. I promise I'm not shilling for them, but they are truly amazing.

Historical Western clothing did have hidden pockets which tied around the waist with ribbon and were accessed through slits in the skirts. While a lot of fancier clothes did require a servant or slave to dress you, it's not a requirement for the working women of the era, who needed pockets just as much as the lady of the house. Crows Eye Production have a great video series on this.
posted by basalganglia at 5:43 PM on October 26, 2019 [2 favorites]

Extrnding that - working clothes for working women have pockets and have done as long as pockets have existed. Diner smocks, waitstaff aprons, lots of work aprons in fact, scrubs, Hooverettes.

Which was a huge oversight in the linked article; describing only women’s display clothing, and talking as though women only dressed for display, is either lazy or cheating. There are lots of 19th c novels written by and for women who are proud of their capacious pockets.
posted by clew at 6:08 PM on October 26, 2019 [15 favorites]

cendawanita, uniqlo is more affordable than muji and does pockets in majority of their clothing. Even the marimekko print dress i picked up for 29 SGD has two generous pockets
posted by Mrs Potato at 11:05 PM on October 26, 2019 [1 favorite]

If you are asked to comment on a clothing purchase be sure to mention yay! it has pockets, or drat! it is un-pocketed. Squeaking wheel, etc., etc.
posted by Cranberry at 12:28 AM on October 27, 2019 [2 favorites]

There is nothing to hide in Clinton’s pantsuit, for there is no place to hide it.
Also because she never has to carry anything. She has people for that.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 5:29 AM on October 27, 2019 [5 favorites]

I love pockets. But I also love knit knee-length winter dresses, and none of them could really take a pocket with my phone in it. They would hang completely wrong and stretch and deform, plus I'm already hippy so more bulk on the hips isn't very flattering.

Of course the solution to that is long cardigans with pockets, which I do have, but you can tell which are designed to be pockets and which are useless flaps that would just empty their contents onto the floor.

What I really want those is some kind of ankle holster that maybe rests above my boots like a boot cuff but can hold at least my phone, some cash and cards and tissues. But then most days I have a bag anyway with my water, snacks, umbrella, stuff I have to post, scarf, gloves, spare jumper..... I'm sure there was a whole metafilter thread about how women carry bags to be prepared.
posted by stillnocturnal at 5:42 AM on October 27, 2019

That said I recently bought a cotton "boiler suit" for using the workshop, and it has great pockets and is so comfy and it makes me want to abandon my vanity and self image entirely and wear boiler suits forever. Perhaps all those images of the future aren't entirely wrong, it's just that the depicted jumpsuits are too tight to have pockets, they need to be cotton and baggier.
posted by stillnocturnal at 5:46 AM on October 27, 2019 [3 favorites]

cendawanita, uniqlo is more affordable than muji

Absolutely, but frankly especially in their catalogue in Asia stores, their cutting for above L and for ppl with boobs and butts and generally a non-straight silhouette is just plain shit. I've given up on Uniqlo in my current body.
posted by cendawanita at 9:13 AM on October 27, 2019 [2 favorites]

(I'm still sore with that Hana Tajima modest wear collection. I frankly have no idea who can even wear them, considering she was shilling them first to the southeast Asian Muslim market that generally is more hip-y and hourglass-y than her East Asian silhouette, even the slim ones)
posted by cendawanita at 9:15 AM on October 27, 2019 [2 favorites]

To answer your question, yeahlikethat, I have suits like this:
Pants - 4 pockets
Vest - 4
Jacket - 5
Shirt - 1
Overcoat or raincoat - 3 to 5
My butt - 1
posted by Sterros at 11:09 AM on October 27, 2019 [1 favorite]

These are my pants. Gaze upon my expansive and numerous pockets and despair. I buy them for about $40 on the wornwear subsite, which between the pockets and ethical considerations is a quite palatable price.

[For the sake of text searches: Patagonia Women's Iron Forge Hemp Canvas Double Knee Pants]
posted by seraphine at 11:44 AM on October 27, 2019 [1 favorite]

I get really annoyed that there is not interior pocket in most women's blazers and suit jackets. I mostly wear them unbuttoned anyway, and even with ample boobage having some business cards or a chapstick or something in there isn't going to affect how they look and would be incredibly convenient.
posted by jeoc at 4:20 PM on October 27, 2019 [3 favorites]

> Historical Western clothing did have hidden pockets which tied around the waist with ribbon and were accessed through slits in the skirts.

I'd never heard of pockets as a separate (under) garment until Avery Trufleman's Articles of Interest series about clothing on 99% Invisible. The Pockets episode. Best part is when she visits the store that supplies the Oakland Police Departments uniforms & finds out women buy the men's uniforms because the pockets are big enough. Her "that's fascinating" exclamation is priceless.
posted by ASCII Costanza head at 4:14 PM on October 28, 2019 [2 favorites]

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