As iconic fashion designer Christian Dior once said, "Men have pockets to keep things in, women for decoration."
I’m sure this quote rings true for many women, as women’s fashion is all too often not functional for everyday life, and inadequate pockets are a prime example of this. According to member of the Council of Fashion Designers of America Sara Kozlowski, “In mid-market, contemporary brands, trends are what drive the industry”. Brands largely prioritize aesthetics over function, which is why many women find themselves pocket-less.
Sure, jeans and the rare dress or skirt have pockets, but good lucking squeezing anything more than your ID into them. I suppose we could keep our stuff in the more roomy back pockets, but the lack of security would only end in lost cards and stolen phones.
I’m sure all wearers of women’s clothing have at some point bemoaned the glaring lack of pockets and have been disillusioned by so-called ‘fake’ pockets, so the age-old question remains: why don’t we have functional pockets?
Lack of pockets may seem like an issue relegated to the present-day, but it turns out the history behind why women’s clothes are sans pockets goes back multiple centuries.
The foundation of modern pockets for women are what we call "pocket bags." and were widely used by women beginning in the 1600’s. These pocket bags were soft linen pouches, usually embroidered, that were separately tied on underneath skirts and petticoats and accessed through a slit in the fabric.
Over the years fashion evolved and Greek-inspired silhouettes rose to the height of fashion in the 1800’s. Elizabeth Morano, a professor at Parsons School of Design says, "Women would study the ancient texts and couldn't find pockets, so they didn't use them in the dress.”
Thus, pocket bags gave way to a new style of on-person storage: the handbag. The earliest handbags were called reticules, which were typically small in size. According to The Victoria and Albert Museum in London, these bags had “barely enough room for a hankie and a coin,” let alone all of the other things men had the privilege of keeping on their person.
Progress was finally made in the 20th century when women wearing men’s trousers became popular. The demand for more utilitarian clothing arose from the World Wars, which called for women to get their hands dirty while supporting the war effort.
Once fashion designers caught wind of this growing trend, they began to design trousers that were more apt for the female form. In order to do this, however, material had to be sacrificed somewhere. Thus, women’s pockets got the cut and modern pockets and all of the struggles that come along with them were created.The fashion industry has long been much too focused on the aesthetic qualities of clothing rather than the functionality, and in the process has done a great disservice to women everywhere. The time is ripe for reimagined pockets for women, pockets that can actually be used—it’s a demand centuries in the making.