Melanie’s Review: Cheryl and I have been commiserating over the state of pockets in women’s clothing for quite some time now, she has done a fine and humorous job of shedding some light on the egregious lack of pockets, short pockets, faux pockets, where’s my damn pockets already!
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Someone clever once said
Women were not allowed pockets
In case they carried leaflets
To spread sedition
Which means unrest
To you & me
A grandiose word
So ladies, start sewing
Made of pockets & sedition
In this new year, I reflect on the past and look forward to the future. One of my main goals for the new year is to put pockets in all my pants. I regret that none of my “Mexican food” pants (aka expando-wear) have pockets. Whether lounging, walking in the neighborhood or having a beer at the local brewery, I need pockets to keep my stuff in so that I won’t have to carry my backpack for these short excursions. The pocket problem isn’t new or probably very interesting and readers may be asking, “Why is she always whining about pockets?” I assure you; I am not alone. The revolution is growing.
I recently bought a really cool pair of pants, gray with some fading over the knees, a waistband that reaches my waist and a little bit of stretch in the fabric to go around my curves. When I got them home, I discovered the front pockets were just a sewn closure. The back pocket was minimal. My bus pass just about fits. I fussed for a bit, asking myself why I did not check the pockets more thoroughly. I still wear the pants; they feel comfortable and look great, though I am still fuming over the deception. I need/want pockets. Huge fabulous pockets.
Preparing to go out? Where do you stash your wallet? How about your keys and perhaps a comb? There is a gross misconception in the fashion world that men should have pockets in their clothes to accommodate their carrying around personal belongings. Why not women? Contemporary females have been trained from birth to carry their stuff in a handbag. There is a growing number of women who wish to change this misguided thinking.
If you are a man, you pretty much take your pockets for granted. It’s your due. Men need pockets and no asshole designer is going to make you a pair of pocketless pants, though fashion being what it is, men can find pants in every cut and stripe. I bet they still have pockets. Women must suffer the whims of fashion which have over the centuries determined for us whether or not pockets are a feminine or even desirable thing. It’s high time to be vocal and start supporting the companies who give us pockets.
A brief look at the history of fashion reveals three determinants in the dis-inclusion of pockets for women’s clothing: sexism, classism, politics. You know, the usual bullshit. My friend Melanie and I have been lamenting with each other across the country from Washington to North Carolina, about the lack of pockets in women’s wear. I decided to take a look into why women have been denied pockets.
In the really Ye-old-days of Europe and the western world, men and women wore a pocket or purse around their waists on a belt, but this went out of fashion when the criminally minded got the notion to cut the bounty off the belt. Since the best pickings came from well-to-do men, they were fabulous targets. Men’s pockets went inside the clothes. Honestly, men’s pants, shirts, jackets began to have the pockets sewn into them, while women were left to tie them to a waist string inside their clothes and struggle to get to them since they wore so many undergarments either to keep warm or to protect their most precious treasures—their vaginas. Women wore as much as 14 pounds of undergarments to keep their vaginas unobtainable. And also, their other personal belongings.
As time went by, women of means began to dress differently. Think Napoleon era, when dressing like a Greek goddess became popular. Women’s pockets would have simply gotten in the way of looking slim and fashionable! Men were busy doing stuff. Ladies were walking advertisements, to be admired for their beauty. Women began using the bag, which is still the standard of cool today. They called them reticules. Tiny little bags designed to attach at the wrist, to carry a hankie (for dropping as an invitation to check out one’s vagina and other goods) and possibly a tampon or something else that was small. They were elaborately decorated to show off how much money a vagina was worth. Women couldn’t carry stuff so were obliged to rely on their menfolk to carry money when going out, or to just stay at home where they belonged. Poor or working-class women had no money or tampons or hankies, so they didn’t have to worry about it. They were not the determiners of fashion.
A woman’s pocket had the potential to be the perfect hiding space that could be moved around town quite freely. Revolutions meant spies. The less a woman could carry into public spaces, the less free she was to go out on her own, hiding revolutionary materials or notes to her lover. The tighter the clothes, the less damage a woman could do to the presiding rulers and administrators and husbands. In short, the lack of pockets for women kept them from participating in public life, reduced their chances of doing anything industrious or of value. They were either eye candy, trotted out to pronounce a man’s wealth, or a stay-at-home drudge.
Fast forward to bigger wars and bigger changes, when women were required to be more than hausfraus and trophy wives. The western world began to suffer from the concept of women wearing pants and taking advantage of those pockets. Shocking! Women started wearing men’s pants for practical reasons. They worked at industry left idle by men for the sake of war. Corsets and their younger sisters, girdles, were abandoned with …well, abandonment! Even well-off women did their part to dismantle the rules of dressing.
A third of the way through the 20th century, fashion designers were making pants to fit women. Though some thought it scandalous, many women adopted the look for practicality and independence. Pockets were back! But not for long. Once more, pockets for women were deemed unnecessary and undesirable. The sleek female body became the mainstay of the fashion industry and we have been bereft of pockets ever since Marlene Dietrich made blousy, man-style trousers look cool. Now if there are pockets, they are useful only for carrying a hankie or a bus pass or a tampon, but not all three at the same time. The designer handbag is here to fill the need for something expensive in which to cart our belongings around.
Big, flashy bags robbed us of our pockets. You can carry a designer/status-symbol purse even if you are wearing sneakers and jeans and still pull off that polished look. Our figure lines must look sleek, even if they’re not. Curvy gals should not show one ounce of key bulge or phone distension lest it add to their inches. Thin is in. Once again, we must carry our stuff in bags, much like our greater grandmothers, though the bags have grown in size. We are required to use every effort at our disposal to look as sleek as a duck, as slender as a pole bean and as encumbered by luggage as a baggage handler at the airport.
Ever the trend rebel, I resist those damn designers. I tear apart their seams and install gigantic pockets meant to carry enough stuff to get me through my trip to the grocery store, the voting booth and the burrito place. This is my declaration: I shall not be encumbered at the burrito place!
I invite you to join the revolution. It has already started! Some designers are adding bigger pockets to their women’s wear. Pockets in pants. Pockets in dresses. Pockets in jackets. Not just for casual wear either. A quick search online delivers an array of companies that put useable pockets in their office attire. I am still on the hunt for hiking pants with large pockets and a waistline that comes up to my waist. But perhaps I should settle for one revolution at a time.
Guys, you lucky bastards, you can carry all the man bags you want and the clothing companies will still give you useful, wonderful pockets. Encourage your little girls to carry frogs and dandelions and writing utensils in their pockets. Demand real pockets for your loved ones and you will never have to go back to the restaurant for the handbag your child left under the seat.
Do you really need to carry your blender to the post office?
So ladies, now that you are the keepers of your own vaginas and you are free to move about in public with your own cash and your own dirty little secrets, you may want to have pockets so that your hands are freed up for activities like scrolling through your Facebook page and opening the door of the Uber car. If you have good pockets, you will never again have to worry about leaving your handbag behind while you volunteer for Habitat for Humanity or get a mammogram. If you add pockets to your Mexican food pants, you can expand at the mid line while keeping your phone and lip gloss close at hand. Bienvenido a la revolución!
Happy New Year! May your pockets be full and your Mexican food be plentiful,
Guest Editor Melanie is a Seattle-based artist who has long lamented the lack of serviceable pockets in women’s wear. Not only do I admire her for leading the pocket revolution, I love that she is learning how to weld. I imagine anything she welds will have bountiful pockets!