The power of pockets

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Photos: Claire Pepper

Who doesn’t love a pocket? Oh the joy of a good pouch! The main reason I’m into utility jackets and jumpsuits is because of their practicality. The sturdy, durable fabric simply gets better with age – not to mention the plethora of pockets. Enough room for hands, cards, keys, and a mobile phone if you’re lucky (cargo pants are good for this). And, previously, a home for the note book and pen; more recently the face mask. Even wedding dresses have pockets today. If you want a woman to get excited about something, just tell her that a dress has pockets.

This hasn’t always been the case. In the 17th century men’s breeches, waistcoats and jackets featured inbuilt pockets but, as we all know, women’s clothing was far from practical… Fortunately, the development of detachable, tie-on pockets, often worn in pairs, and occasionally threes (I would’ve gone for an even number and made it four pouches), underneath dresses, petticoats and bustles, allowed women more autonomy. There’s a brilliant feature on the V&A website HERE, that states, ‘The portability of pockets allowed for greater freedom and independence and provided security and concealment for valuables and objects of sentimental value.’

These tie-on pockets were quite large – even bigger than the latest portable pocket, the Uniqlo cross body bag– according to the V&A. So much so that in 1807, one woman thief managed to stash 17 pairs of stolen gloves in hers, while another cleared off with two of her neighbour’s ducks. Still alive. Quack, quack. Which reminded me of the woman who recently said she wanted pockets big enough to hold a bottle of wine…

The Rational Dress Society formed in 1881 and campaigned for more comfortable, practical clothes for women, such as, outfits to cycle in. Down with corsets, up with bloomers! An 1899 feature in The New York Times said, ‘ As we become more civilized, we need more pockets. No pocketless people has ever been great since pockets were invented, and the female sex cannot rival us while it is pocketless.’ And by the late 1920s, Coco Chanel had introduced several items of menswear – including trousers and jackets with pockets – into women’s wardrobes. Everyday garments we take for granted today were seen as quite radical at the time.

One thing is certain, we will not go back to the pocketless life. If an item of clothing doesn’t have pockets, you can forget about it.

Behold the power of pockets:

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STYLE NOTES

Utility jacket from Weekend MaxMara (style stalked in the sale, last year. Similar HERE, HERE and HERE). Ancient APC jeans. Leather tote is an old Ally Capellino. Hoop earrings, Auree Jewellery. Signet ring, Claire Stratton. Leather Curly Wurly boots from Ops & Ops.

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