Importance of pockets …

One of the reasons ZEBEIN was created was to bring functionality & practicality into women’s fashion. This is a desire that has transcended generations, has been a part of gender politics, and even caused struggle and resistance in the past. A significant aspect hidden at the root of this desire, and recognized by all women, is the frustration of the pocket.

Although pockets have been standardized in men’s fashion (conveniently sewn in, spacious and plentiful), women have seemed to lack this ease and security. Women often have to wonder if a garment even has pockets, check if they’re big enough to hold more than a few coins, and are skeptical of any garments with the pocket sewn shut: will they reveal a true pocket or is it purely a facade?

These are not exclusive frustrations to contemporary women; women have complained about their lack of pockets throughout history. In 1914, during the first wave of feminism, Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s short story “If I Were a Man” depicts a woman who spends the day as her husband and describes her experience wearing his clothes: Of course she had known they were there, had counted them, made fun of them, mended them, even envied them; but she never had dreamed of how it felt to have pockets In 1849, Anna Maria Hall’s children’s novel Grandmama’s Pockets was a response to the threat of modern fashion on women’s pockets: Let no demoiselle with a three-inch pocket stitched into her pretty little apron[…]imagine they understand a tithe[…]of the utility or comprehensiveness of GRANDMAMMA’S POCKETS! At one point or another ,all women have felt the envy of men’s pockets or even been nostalgic of their grandmother’s practical fashion (granny’s small batwa tucked in her shirt or hanging on the sides of her petticoat comes to mind). This inspired us to dig deeper and look into the history of women’s pockets, and we stumbled upon the tie on pocket: a detachable hidden pocket that women used for over 200 years before being treated to a standard sewn in pocket. Contrarily, men have had sewn in pockets since the 17th century, whereas women’s pocket used to be detachable, tied around their waist and hidden under their petticoats.

All women had tie on pockets, nobles, servants and shopkeepers alike, though the material varied. Some pockets were made of rough denim or leather, others of higher class were made of silk and damask, but all were uniquely designed and homemade. Sewing a pocket represented a girl’s progression to womanhood and was crucial to women’s networking. Women would gather in groups to stitch pockets using the time to share ideas, gossip and gain entry to social circles. Many of these tie on pockets were beautifully embroidered with images of deer, birds and botanicals. Different embroidery trends travelled through this vast network of women.

They elaborately decorated these pockets even though they were not made to be seen and went through the lengths to decorate them for their own self-satisfaction which was a powerful way for women to have a sense of identity. Pockets weren’t so much influenced by fashion as they were a practical tool for daily life. They were important to women because it was a means to hold possessions at a time when women’s right to personal property was legally constrained; it allowed them to keep the small amount of property they owned secure. Women kept small treasurers in them; jewelry, money, food, cakes and even bottles of gin! Needles, scissors, pins and mirrors, alongside jewelry, gloves and caps were also carried in a women’s pockets, showing pressure to adapt their physical appearance depending on circumstances. Something that still resonates true today.

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