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In 2021 Why Is Women’s Clothing Still Missing Pockets? Don’t We Need That Convenience Too?

Pockets in women's clothing are usually fake, non-functional, small & mostly decorative. What about women's comfort and convenience?

Pockets in women’s clothing are usually fake, non-functional, small & mostly decorative. What about women’s comfort & convenience?

Have you ever come across an instance when you were at a party and wanted to eat or dance but were troubled by the phone/handkerchief in your hand? You would probably then hand it over to your brother/male friends, who were enjoying the party with their phones in their pockets which still had the space to carry yours? If yes, you are not alone.

It was some 400 years ago that pockets began to be sewn in men’s clothes. But women were restricted to the domestic quarters, hence were believed to have no use of pockets. It was as late as the 17th century that they were even allowed to wear ‘tie-on’ pockets. In 2021, we are still fighting to have pockets in women’s clothing!

Her pyjamas didn’t have pockets, her husband’s did!

A few days ago, while randomly scrolling through Twitter, my colleague showed me a  twitter thread by Foram Divraniya Agarwal , Senior Creative at GREY Germany. In this Twitter thread, she narrated her disappointing experience with a reputed night/loungewear brand. The incident happened as follows.

She had ordered a matching PJ set for herself and her husband. Everything was fine until the product was delivered. But as she opened the parcel, she was surprised to see that her PJs had no pockets, but her husband’s PJs did. She was outraged and shocked at this blatant sexism.

It was not a mistake or inability of the company to design pockets. After all, it was very much present and functional in their male clothes. It seemed to be a conscious practice followed by the company.

She wrote to the company…The reply was disappointing!

Infuriated and distressed, she wrote a mail to the company explaining how their PJs for women are problematic. She described how the absence of pockets in women’s clothing makes a political statement. It is rooted in stereotypes that women’s clothes are meant just for aesthetics and not comfort and convenience. 

She even suggested that they could at least offer women an option to choose whether they want pockets or not if men are getting them by default.

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But all her efforts and outrage were dismissed by the company’s ignorant and arrogant reply. Instead of realizing the fault in their product, they simply stated that this is how it has been since their company started.

They asserted that the founder of their company herself does not like to have pockets in the PJs. They had an obstinacy in their tone that made it clear that they would not like to change. They even took immense pride that none of their customers have had any complaints over the years.

People like these often fail to understand the larger gender politics that accompany such complaints and dismiss such arguments as bickering of women, which it is not. 

When it comes to women’s clothing, pockets have a political history!

Let’s try to understand the larger political background behind the pockets which might clarify how deeply gendered they are. In the middle ages, both men and women wore bags on their waists to carry their items. Equality check!

It was some 400 years ago that pockets began to be sewn in men’s clothes. But women were restricted to the domestic quarters, hence were believed to have no use of pockets. It was as late as the 17th century that they were even allowed to wear ‘tie-on’ pockets.

‘Tie-on’ pockets were additional pockets that were not sewn in the clothes but which women had to wear like a belt over their dresses. The idea behind it was to prevent women from owning a space that provides them with any form of privacy.

It was as late as the 20th century that pockets began to be sewn into women’s clothing

It was only in the 20th century that women were provided with the privilege of sewn pockets in their clothes. But, oppression has its ways! So now, the pockets provided to women were either fake/non-functional, very small, not wide enough to even carry a phone, or were simply designed for aesthetics and not comfort.

All girls have encountered a time when they have chosen clothing, but did not buy because of their fake, small or non-functional pockets. 

Some even associate pockets to power which was outright denied to women. They are considered secret spaces which we independently carry into the public domain, and any form of privacy provided to women scares our patriarchal society.

Sexism in women’s clothing has to end!

Such insight into the history of pockets alerts us to the male-dominated aura of the fashion/women’s clothing industry, which ought to change. It is high time for the fashion industry to rethink its design policy and make it mandatory for women’s clothing to have pockets.

Why is it a matter of extreme joy for women to get pockets in a dress, and it is as mundane a thing as getting up from bed every morning for men is a question we all need to ask.

What we demand is a right to own our private belongings, to be able to carry them with ourselves, to not need to hand them over to our male counterparts, and for that, we require pockets, not small or decorative but functional and comfortable ones!

Image source: Photo by Thirdman from Pexels

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About the Author

Muskan Sharma

Muskan is an undergraduate literature student, an avid reader and a writer. Her areas of interest include gender, sexuality and psychology. She feels strongly for read more...

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