Please, Can We Start Giving Women’s Clothes Proper Pockets?

Believe it or not, this is a feminist issue

women's pockets

by Lydia Spencer-Elliott |
Updated on

An exhilarating thrill—that’s the feeling most women experience when they realise a dress has pockets. ‘I like your dress,’ our friends will say. ‘Oh, thank you and LOOK: it has pockets,’ we’ll respond.

The joy at something so ordinary, comes from its infrequency. Most dresses have no functionality to them, ditto skirts—and when women’s trousers do have pockets, they’re often tiny, or worse, fake. ‘Men have pockets to keep things in, women for decoration,’ Christian Dior is known to have said.

Women’s pocketless existence is such a widespread issue it’s even got its own Instagram account: Girls Carrying Shit [GCS]. Nearly every day women tag the account, sharing their plight (and skill) of carrying vapes, keys, phones and endless other objects between their fingers.

The average smartphone (5.5 inches long) is technically too large for most women’s hands, and it usually doesn’t fit in the tiny pockets we’ve been given, so we’ve seemingly biologically adapted: ‘After thousands of years without pockets, non-men have evolved a superior grip to carry their shit,’ GCS’s bio claims.

Yup, believe it or not, pockets are and have always been a feminist issue. In the 17th century men and women carried things in a pouch sewn to their clothes but, as thieves became more of a worry, that pouch was sewn under layers.

However, when men got pockets, women still had bags tied to their waists under layers of clothing. So, in order to access anything, women would have to take their clothes off—meaning they couldn’t access their bags in public. Then the French Revolution came along and made women’s pockets even more unlikely as tight-fitting skirts became fashionable and there was no room for pouches under closer fitting clothes.

Academics have theorised this was a way to make women feel powerless as, without pockets, women were less likely to travel alone, go out into public spaces, or carry literally anything without the men around them knowing about it.

But in 2022, it seems the reason our pockets are crap is simply to encourage us to buy bags—and irritatingly that plan is very much working (like, have you seen the Mashu collection?).

Yet, even the most gorgeous leather goods don’t deter that frustrated feeling you get when watching your brother, dad, friend or boyfriend shove his keys in his pocket and skip out the door. Or worse, ask to put their additional items in your handbag.

So, now pocket pioneers are trying to change the way things are. Specifically, Pockets For Women founder Mandy Fletcher. ‘I was so sick of struggling to find clothes with decent pockets on other websites I decided to make one myself,’ she writes of the enterprise. ‘I’ve scoured the internet to find clothes for women with pockets, so that you don’t have to, and I’m adding more all the time.’

None of the clothes are made by Mandy (‘I can barely sew on name labels!’ she says). Rather than a shop, the website acts as a curated list of items from other retailers, including All Saints and Whistles, with decent pockets for women to browse through.

'I have always loved dresses with pockets, but I thought of them as a a bonus rather than the norm,' Mandy tells Grazia. 'Once I started to notice how ubiquitous pockets were in men's clothing, particularly my kid's clothing it was something I couldn't unsee. It all just felt very unfair.  There are great clothes with pockets out there, but I struggled to find them, so this is what I can do to help other women find them too.'

According to a YouGov survey from 2020, titled ‘What Women Want: Pockets They Can Use’, for every item of clothing (jackets, trousers, dresses, skirts, shorts, pyjamas), more women wanted pockets than didn’t. And they really really wanted them in jackets and trousers.

Interestingly, women under 39 were more likely to want pockets than women aged 40 or over, meaning pockets really are the future. So, let’s just hope designers gets on board and make functional fashion more than just a trend that lives and dies with the return of combat trousers…

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