Dresses and skirts with nowhere to stash your stuff may soon be consigned to history. By Sophie Morris
The demand for pockets is a growing movement (Photo: Carmen Cabrera/EyeEm/Getty)
In recent years I have watched a growing swell of women give thanks, mostly on social media (#ithaspockets) but also in real life, for pockets in their clothing. I am with them all the way.
While our jeans and coats do typically have pockets - albeit often smaller than men’s and sometimes just for show - we need pockets in dresses and skirts, too. Thankfully, designers of these hands-free items have been listening, and are increasingly adding pockets to their garments.
Even the Duchess of Cambridge is on board with the pro-pocket movement. In a photo released to mark her 40th birthday earlier this month, she struck a pose in a red silk Alexander McQueen gown, with her hands (both of them!) plunged into the deep pockets of the full skirt.
The clothing line Lucy & Yak, popular for its casual cotton dungarees with ample pockets, did a little digging and found that more than half of us - 55 per cent - feel that the lack of pockets in clothing makes life more of a struggle.
The brand says: “Although there have been significant changes towards women’s equality over the decades, there is still much that can be done to improve women’s wellbeing, which includes creating practical and functional clothing options.
“Many women choose outfits based on how clothing makes them feel. The industry needs to break away from fast-fashion trends and create items with women’s values at the forefront, including practical clothing fit with functional pockets. This small change can help women feel empowered and confident in clothing they trust.”
A 2020 YouGov poll, conducted in collaboration with activist and Invisible Women author Caroline Criado-Perez, looked at how women feel about pockets on various items of clothing, including nightwear. It came after a pyjama manufacturer said it didn’t include pockets because women didn’t want them. The results were split, but showed that the younger a woman is, the more likely she is to be pro-pocket.
“Women are very much aware of the lack of clothing standards currently available,” says Lucy Greenwood, founder of Lucy & Yak, “which should urge the fashion industry to start implementing change.”
Before the 17th century, people didn’t really need pockets. Both men and women carried around pouches for their money and other personal items. Fashions evolved and pockets became widespread, but they only appeared on menswear, as a practical aid to their busy and industrious lives. Women continued to carry around pouches or “tie-on” pockets under their many layers of skirts and petticoats, but these were challenging to access in public.
Come the 20th century and struggles for equal rights, an outfit called the “suffragette suit” - with no less than six pockets - became a popular and practical symbol of defiance.
Now, even on their wedding day, more women are seeking somewhere to stash their phones and tissues. Maria Yiannikaris, co-owner of the bridal boutique Mirror Mirror Couture, has designed several bridal gowns with pockets. She says brides appreciate being able to strike the more casual, hands-in-pockets, poses.
In 2019, one bride found her wedding pictures going viral on social media after she incorporated pockets not only into her bridal gown, by the brand David’s Bridal, but into the green dresses worn by her six bridesmaids. Eve Paterson, from Cambridge, said: “These dresses proved that it’s possible to look beautiful, feel amazing, and be practically equipped for the day, and I hope it encourages other brands to up their game on this as well.”
The US edition of Brides magazine has now offered readers a list of “44 Effortlessly Beautiful Wedding Dresses With Pockets”.
I like the approach of US-based designer Madison Durant, whose company, Thanks, It Has Pockets!, sews pockets into customers’ existing clothing, “so you don’t have to go buy an entirely new wardrobe in order to carry your damn phone”. Durant is waging a war against waste and misogyny in the industry, and wants to move towards sustainability and gender equality “one pocket at a time”.
Celebrity stylist Natalie Robinson says: “The future of fashion will be more functional and practical to accommodate hybrid working, and there will be a greater need for comfortable wear and larger pockets in women’s clothing.”
This is cheering, but wanting pockets isn’t really to do with hybrid working or homeschooling. We’re just sick of searching for our keys in damn great handbags.
Best brands for clothes with pockets
Sideline An independent brand with strong ethics, based on England’s south coast. It produces small collections of simple, beautiful and functional clothes, which means pockets galore across the jumpsuits and dresses, and generous depth on the jeans.
Whistles When I worked in an office full-time, I bought a few dresses with pockets from the Whistles sale each season. I’d wear the summer or pinafore dresses during the winter with a polo neck underneath. Now the brand has a wide range of jumpsuits, and even the dresses made from lighter fabrics often have pockets.
Boden has embraced women’s right to pockets with gusto, and these days its dresses are more likely to have pockets than not. Currently my lust is for its cuffed jersey dress with a Biba-esque motif, but there are several hundreds to choose from.
& Other Stories Following the example set by Kate Middleton and Alexander McQueen, the high street is fixing pockets into evening wear. & Other Stories has a strapless silk midi gown, in black or cream, with capacious pockets.