Why Have Women Gone So Long Without Pockets In Their Clothing?

Woman pulling money out of pocket
Unsplash | Sasun Bughdaryan

We wear clothes every day (well, most of us do, at least), but the history and conventions that went into making modern clothes what they are can become shrouded in mystery.

Why do jeans have metal studs on them? Why aren't you supposed to button up the bottom of a blazer? And the biggest mystery: why don't women's clothes include pockets?

A TikToker decided to investigate the mystery.

It isn't a new question.

Woman with hand in pocket of cutoff jeans
Unsplash | freestocks

While a pair of men's pants usually features deep, roomy pockets, women's pants tend to have pockets that are so tiny that they're functionally useless, or just straight-up fake pockets.

This hasn't gone unnoticed, and there's no shortage of results when you Google the question.

A TikToker investigated.

TikToker discussing pockets in women's clothing
TikTok | @dougiesharpe

TikToker Dougie Sharpe can be found @dougiesharpe, and he recently released a video designed to answer the big question of why women's clothes don't have pockets. It led him down an intriguing rabbit hole, one that reveals that things weren't always this way.

Before pockets, there were pouches.

Ancient Roman leather purse and coins
Wikimedia Commons | Wolfgang Sauber

Sharpe explains that in medieval times, both men and women would tie a pouch to a rope and wrap it around their waist. It wasn't until the early 17th century that tailors started stitching pockets directly into clothing.

At this point, women were done with pouches.

Giuseppe Maria Crespi - Woman Playing a Lute
Wikimedia Commons | Giuseppe Maria Crespi

As we moved into the era of huge, intricate dresses with petticoats and all that, Dougie says that more women found themselves wearing too many clothes to effectively access the pouch. At this point, pouches fell out of fashion entirely.

Fashions changed and pockets were still nowhere to be seen.

"Portrait of a Woman"
Wikimedia Commons | George A. Hearn

"As women's fashion evolved in the 1790s, clothing became much more form-fitting and figure-hugging," said Dougie. This meant that there really wasn't any space to either hide a pouch or sew in a pocket.

Here's where pockets became synonymous with suffrage.

Woman wearing a 'suffragette suit'
Wikimedia Commons | Aimé Dupont

"In 1848, the women's suffrage movement began with women organizing themselves across North America, demanding principally the right to vote along with a number of other basic human rights," Dougie explained. "Pockets became a symbol of the women's suffrage movement."

As for why this was the case, it was because pockets symbolized that a woman might actually have property or money to carry around.

There was a golden era of women's pockets.

Rosie the Riveter during WWII
Wikimedia Commons | Public domain, created by U.S. government

Dougie details the "suffragette suit" of the 1910s, a suit with six pockets. Dougie says that designer Coco Chanel followed this momentum with pockets on women's clothes in the 1920s.

Later on, with women taking on factory jobs during World War II, functional work clothes — with pockets — were commonly worn by women.

After the war, "feminized" clothes took over.

1950s clothing ad
reddit | Paul-Belgium

While women's pockets had their moment, it was done for either rebellious or practical reasons. After World War II, with the expectation that women leave their jobs to return to domestic life, slim-fitting, classically feminine fashions — with no pockets — took over.

Less pockets, more purse sales.

Drawing of a reticule, a proto-purse
Wikimedia Commons | David Ring

Before purses and handbags, there were reticules. Dougie explains that these tiny bags were only big enough for "a handkerchief or a few coins."

They weren't particularly practical and were used for form more than function. But they did eventually lead to the purses we see today.

Want someone to blame? Look to the handbag industry.

Woman pulling money out of pocket
Unsplash | Sasun Bughdaryan

"Christian Dior once said men have pockets to keep things in," Dougie said. "Women? For decoration." This sets the scene for fashion designers choosing to omit pockets from most garments that are designed for women.

Do you wish women's clothes had more pockets?

This seems like an easy question to answer, doesn't it? A few extra pockets never hurt anybody. Let us know what you think of this story in the comments — and don't forget to watch the fascinating video for a quick history lesson.