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Hold Everything! In Praise of Pockets for Women

Kimberly Cihlar is passionate about pockets. Fortunately, women like Olivia Coleman and many designers are creating a revolution.

I realized my mistake when I heard my phone crash to the ground. I had reflexively put my phone in my pants pocket, like I do so often, except that day I had forgotten that I was wearing one of the few pieces of clothing I own without pockets.  So the screen on my phone ended up in tiny slivers of finger-cutting glass. Note to self: Get rid of those pants.

I mean, you’ve got to stash a smart phone somewhere.

I love pockets. I need pockets. I want to go hands-free, but don’t want to be a slave to handbags. I’m the kind of woman who will whoop and cheer when I find pockets cleverly tucked into a garment. On the other hand, I will walk away from a dress, tunic, pair of pants, hell, even workout wear, if it doesn’t have that extra little bit of fabric sewn into the side seam or patched onto the outside panel of a pant leg or skirt.

Pockets are essential these days. I mean, you’ve got to stash a smart phone somewhere, and most designers are becoming amenable to pockets in all kinds of garments. “I would say unless it strongly interferes with the line of a dress, we pretty much have pockets in everything,” says Loup Charmantfounder and designer Kee Edwards.

The Pocket Past

Historically speaking, though, women’s clothing did not incorporate sewn-in pockets. In the 17th century women wore pairs of pockets, a girth-encompassing garment tied around the waist that was very much like a handbag tucked underneath their petticoats.

Men, too, carried or tied their “pockets” under their garments, until sometime in the 18th century, when tailors began sewing them onto vests. Men’s pockets showed up on a wide range of garments. Women’s pockets, though, not so much. Small drawstring hand-carried “reticules” became the vogue, instead.

It seems women have been complaining about pockets–or the lack thereof–for years. In 1905, feminist author Charlotte Perkins Gilman  wrote about pockets in the New York Times.  “One supremacy there is in men’s clothing… its adaptation to pockets,” she said. “Women have from time to time carried bags, sometimes sewn in, sometimes tied on, sometimes brandished in the hand, but a bag is not a pocket.”

Pocket Pride

Who knew that a little jigger of fabric could make such a splash on the red carpet at the Oscars? That’s what happened in 2019, when Oscar winner Olivia Coleman (above) wore a gown by Prada that featured a sleeveless turtleneck design and an organza cape that transformed into a huge bow at the back and was decorated with Swarovski crystal flowers. “But the most impressive part would have been a secret if Colman hadn’t so obviously revealed its presence on the red carpet,” wrote Lauren Sharkey in Bustle. “Unlike many Oscars dresses, hers came with useable pockets, allowing her to pose in front of photographers Colman style.”  

Who knew that a little jigger of fabric could make such a splash on the red carpet at the Oscars?

Coleman may have sparked something because the demand for pockets seems to be on the rise. “As a woman, it’s been a lifelong struggle trying to find clothes of any kind with decently sized pockets,” Sam White wrote in InStyle.  “If you’re buying women’s clothing, you’ve likely come upon ridiculously small pockets, items that exclude pockets altogether, and—perhaps the most infuriating of them all—fake pockets. (Seriously, why?!)”

And now, entire businesses have cropped up to satisfy the pocket imperative.

Seams Friendly

You cannot help but love a business with a manifesto like this:

“Let’s take a moment to list all the problems you face because you don’t have pockets. Be real—the ones you have are not actually usable. Simply put, you have nowhere to keep your stuff. Women have been demanding pockets for a long time. Now read this slowly—We add pockets to dresses. Not only do our pants have pockets, but our dresses rock them too! In-seam, patched-up, kangaroo pockets—you’ll always have something to hold your stuff for you.”

That’s the commitment to pockets you’ll find on Seams Friendly, a women’s clothing company dedicated to plant-based natural fabrics and styles that are fashionable and functional.

Combining elegance and body-loving comfort, this Indigo Cotton Denim Dress is perfect for the minimalist and is on course to become your new go-to outing wear.

Dresses With Pockets

Dresses With Pockets isn’t just about dresses. The website also has pants, skirts, jumpsuits and more. The common thread (ha, ha) is pockets.

“We’ve scoured the web to find clothing with pockets— then did our best to ensure that they were real, functional ones. The result? Over 10 thousand items, from over 45 manufacturers. From leggings to wedding dresses. Pockets for all shapes and sizes. Pockets for all occasions. Pockets for all activities,” the site says, adding the hashtag: #pocketsforall

This sleek jumpsuit from Anthropologie (and curated on the Dresses with Pocket site, offers a Paris-meets-LA aesthetic. And pockets!


Leggings and Work Out Wear

Now that athleisure clothing is challenging blue jeans as the dominant everyday wear choice, smart manufacturers are adding pockets. My favorite choices are from Kuhl and Athleta.

Kuhl has some of the most functional casual pants anywhere. This pair has great patch pockets on the back and deep zippered pockets up front.


Of course, Athleta, always responsive to what women need, would come through with leggings that with two stash pockets look barely there.


Seams Friendly makes this challenge, which I absolutely agree with and hope you’ll contemplate so we can pressure other designers to deep with their pockets: “Where there is a will, there is a pocket! We are part of the Pocket Revolution, are you?”

A version of this story was originally published in March 2018. 



By Kimberly Cihlar


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