Women and Pockets: A Patriarchal Move

It’s a struggle for all women to find the perfect piece of shirt, jeans, or dress with pockets in it. And even if you are able to find one, much to your disappointment, it’s a fake one. The history of pockets in women's clothing goes a long way back. People used pouches made of leather and cloth to keep their valuables safe. The 15th century was when the pockets came into the limelight and almost everyone started using pockets. But they were mainly in the form of cloth hanging like purses from the belt area. It was the 17th century when the modern style of sewn pockets emerged but unsurprisingly that was for men’s clothing. Women continued to have bag-like pockets tied to and hidden beneath their skirts. There was gender inequality in even pockets in the clothing.

As fashion evolved, the baggy pockets also dissipated and women were back to using bags to store their stuff. Their pockets were just to show and their bags could also hardly keep anything other than handkerchiefs and coins. During the French Revolution, women were seen as someone to be the caretaker of the house, cooking for the household, and involved in homely activities. But men were seen as someone to carry money and other valuable things as the breadwinner of the family. Undermining women’s work to just household, their needs for pockets was deemed negligible and the pockets eventually disappeared.

Women depended on men to carry their belongings and that deprived them of their independence. As the 19th century began, women started demanding their right to have pockets in their clothing. A group that used to advocate comfort fashion and functional clothing for women started advocating for pockets for women. An instruction manual was also published for guidance about sewing your own pockets in skirts. During the 1910's Suffragette Movement, Suffragette suits emerged with 8 to 10 pockets. But this was hardly anything. People feared that women could carry weapons if given access to pockets. The World War period did see a rise in women’s pockets but after the end of the war, women were expected to go back to the “feminine clothing”, deprived of pockets. As a result, the handbag industry boomed.


Brands have started making women's clothing with pockets. JHOP, a fashion line launched by Anupama Srinivasan and Anisha Gopinath make dresses with pockets for women. Pivotte and Argent are some other brands making women's clothing with pockets. Pocketocracy connects women who want functional pockets in their clothes to brands that make them. Brands have taken steps on this issue but we have a long way to go.

Written by : Mayankita Singh


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