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kyle cassidy

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more on the pocketesses [May. 2nd, 2013|07:08 am]
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There's been a huge response to my post about womens pockets, a lot of really interesting comments here, on twitter, tumblr and facebook. I wanted to mention two things -- one is that Bri Date (aka @WittyToddy on twitter) reports from the United States Navy that while the mens dress uniforms have pockets, the womens dress uniforms have fake pockets, they're just flaps. This was something I discovered is common on womens clothing -- the appearance of a pocket with no actual functioning pocket. Mind boggling. I'm not really able to wrap my head around the why of it.

There was one great comment I found on Facebook though that shed a lot of light and insight into this discussion. It was made by Kirsten Brodbeck-Kenney on her FB page where she'd reposted my blog post. Prior to this I'd gotten an angry-unfriending email from someone who thought I was expecting him to take blame for something (as he pointed out) he had no knowledge of nor any control over. Which is one of the reasons that I hesitate to throw around words like "patriarchy" because it does seem to suggest that if you're a guy, you're, somehow at fault.

Kristen explains this really well and I wanted to share it.

When something is referred to as "patriarchal," it doesn't necessarily mean that it is only heterosexual men perpetrating it. Women contribute unthinkingly or even wholeheartedly to practices that are inherently patriarchal -- to take an example somewhat more serious than pockets, women definitely contribute to restricting other women's access to birth control, or to shoring up practices that result in lower wages for female workers.

One of the interesting things about fashion is that it tends to enshrine certain things far past the point that they are useful or even that their purpose is understood. A gender-based example might be the tradition of having women's and men's shirts button in opposite directions -- at this point, no one is even positive that the explanations for why this is so are even accurate. Another example might be the vestigial "watch pocket" still found in pants and even jeans, when very few people carry pocket watches.

I think Kyle Cassidy's modest proposal is that designers should ask themselves, "Have I put pockets in this clothing? Why not? What are my expectations for the person wearing it? Are they consistent with reality?" What Kyle has noted is that most men's clothing is designed with pockets as a matter of course, whereas most women's clothing is not, and the reasons given for this (when reasons are given at all) are pretty weak. Did someone set out to deprive women of agency by taking away their pockets? Probably not, no. But there are a set of assumptions that have led to women's clothing being designed the way it is (including but not limited to: "women always carry purses" and "the man carries the wallet anyway") that deserve to be interrogated.


Thanks for all the discussion, and the sharing of links for places that make womens clothes with pockets. I like to think that if enough people bang their cups on the bars, the people who make buying decisions for large retailers and who make design decisions will wrinkle their brows and ponder ... wait, why are we doing this?




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[User Picture]From: cainle_bean
2013-05-02 02:20 pm (UTC)

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One of the reasons I have to buy men's pants. I have to keep things in my pockets at work. Women's pants have such small pockets that I cannot keep even a small calculator in there.
[User Picture]From: wolfsilveroak
2013-05-02 02:39 pm (UTC)

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I wanted to mention two things -- one is that Bri Date (aka @WittyToddy on twitter) reports from the United States Navy that while the mens dress uniforms have pockets, the womens dress uniforms have fake pockets, they're just flaps.

It's been 20 years, but as far as I know, it's the same with the Marine Corps Dress uniforms as well.
[User Picture]From: blpurdom
2013-05-02 02:48 pm (UTC)

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I am perennially frustrated by the lack of pockets in my clothing. I did want to point out a few things, though:

1. Some people are unfamiliar with the tailoring practice of lightly stitching (basting) pockets shut on suit jackets. Men are probably accustomed to this now and know they need to carefully snip the threads to open the pockets on new jackets, but if a woman isn't accustomed to this she may think she's got a jacket with just decorative flaps and no pockets. It's also possible that they really aren't pockets. I had to tell my son the first time he got a jacket with pockets that were sewn shut that he had to open them himself. It's entirely possible that the pockets are there on the uniform jackets for women. Also possible that they're not, of course. Just thought I'd throw that in there.

2. One area of clothing that increasingly HAS pockets is women's sweaters. Cardigans especially. Ironically, the style of cardigan in question tends to be called a "boyfriend cardigan". So the pockets are evidently there because the conceit of this garment is that it was supposedly borrowed from the woman's boyfriend. I'm just glad that when I wear these cardigans I have pockets. However, the name alone implies that the garment is NOT for women. Argh.

3. A lot of men who are concerned with the way their clothing hangs are increasingly carrying messenger bags for their stuff so they don't HAVE to put their things in the pockets their clothes have that women's don't. In contrast to most women, however, these men have the choice: use their pockets or carry a bag. I know that the rationale for a lot of designers not to include pockets in women's clothes is the way that they hang, but perhaps they should also give women the choice: affect the way the thing hangs by putting stuff in the pockets or carry a bag. Just having the choice would be nice.
[User Picture]From: liquidmistletoe
2013-05-02 03:11 pm (UTC)

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Aha.... I think your #1 just explained to me why my work pants pockets are sewed shut, even though they exist. Apparently I am one of the women unfamiliar with this practice! (Though I have seen fake pockets on women's tops/jackets before... I guess it's just the same thing on my pants.)
[User Picture]From: liquidmistletoe
2013-05-02 03:08 pm (UTC)

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I don't have much to add as to the why aspect of the lack of pockets, but I will chime in that it is terribly annoying.

I have a pair of work pants that did have a small change pocket (or whatever it was for) but it was sewed shut. It was a real pocket, I could see it on the inside. What the heck, man? I mean, I cut it open, because why not, but why was it sewed shut in the first place??

Life's great mysteries.
[User Picture]From: morbid_curious
2013-05-05 01:52 am (UTC)

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I believe it comes down to making the garment present well when it's on display/on a rack. If they're not being worn, there's a tendency for pockets to flap open a bit, hence the practice of stitching them and opening them up when they need to be used.

Of course, I once attempted to take a stitch-ripper to a pocket on a new jacket only to find out that it was ornamental after all. Hate that!
[User Picture]From: livejournal
2013-05-02 03:16 pm (UTC)

Whenever the trees are crying aloud, and ships are tossed at sea

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User rolanni referenced to your post from Whenever the trees are crying aloud, and ships are tossed at sea saying: [...] . . .and there's a follow-up, here [...]
[User Picture]From: pickleboot
2013-05-02 03:35 pm (UTC)

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i loved reading that. i buy my clothes based on pockets. i made a few comments, and wanted to add that if you are looking for functional, well made, fun clothing(that's cotton! we all have sensory issues here) treehouse28 on etsy is great. alix can add pockets, has for me, and some have pockets as elements of design.

i am also going to say that i have found, and this is so annoying, once girls hit a certain size, designers must think that pockets no longer need be functional. wtf? just because a girl likes pink does not mean she no longer wants to stick rocks in her pocket(as my old washer will attest- it was a large rock that finally broke it). and now that we are buying the same size for her that i wear, pockets suck. women's sizing, kids wear it too.
[User Picture]From: coffeeem
2013-05-02 04:37 pm (UTC)

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Then there are the pants--often jeans--with the almost-pockets. Pockets are a design component of jeans; a pair described as "Five-pocket jeans" are pretty much required to have five pockets. But I've often stuck my hands in those pockets in the fitting room and found they were all of two finger-joints deep.

(I used my Wild, Wild West icon because I'm pretty sure none of James West's pants had pockets. His horse must have carried all his stuff.)
[User Picture]From: kylecassidy
2013-05-02 07:33 pm (UTC)

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It's kind of like selling someone plastic fruit. looks great! can't eat it!
[User Picture]From: galeni
2013-05-02 07:55 pm (UTC)

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His pants were much too tight to carry even a silver dollar without it showing...although I confess I'm not complaining.
[User Picture]From: coyotedave
2013-05-03 08:56 pm (UTC)

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That's why he had to keep things in his boot heels.
[User Picture]From: livejournal
2013-05-02 04:55 pm (UTC)

More on pockets from Kyle

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User von_krag referenced to your post from More on pockets from Kyle saying: [...] Originally posted by at more on the pocketesses [...]
[User Picture]From: Stacy Chambers
2013-05-02 09:36 pm (UTC)

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Kyle, thanks for posting about this. It's been a HUGE pet peeve of mine since I was a kid. I always wore boys clothes as a kid for that very reason, and I have a man's suit because of ALL THE POCKETS. (It was quite a novelty for me when I bought it.)

The other pet peeve I have is about women's khakis and how the back pocket (if there is one) is often sewn shut, and you have to rip it open if you want to use it.
[User Picture]From: eris
2013-05-02 10:30 pm (UTC)

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I've been following this discussion with great interest as it's very topical to my life. My mother taught me to sew when I was 12, and part of the reason that I've made so many of my own clothes is because I love pockets, I am not a purse sort of gal.

I don't have any pants, at the moment, without functional pockets, and they're all women's pants. However, some of the comments in here made me realise that there is still a problem with one pair. It has decorative embroidery on the front, which for some reason was done over the pockets so it closes off a good chunk of each of the front pockets. The method there seems to just make the assumption that even though pockets existed, they were decorative, so who cares about paying attention to keeping them functional when decorating the pants!
[User Picture]From: bovil
2013-05-02 10:30 pm (UTC)

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"Tradition" is always the perfect non-answer for "...wait, why are we doing this?" It sounds like an answer, but usually means "I don't know."

There are structural/engineering issues with pockets in light-weight knit materials and bias-cut garments.

A pocket with stuff in it weights down, stretches and distorts a garment. Light, flowy garments just aren't compatible with pockets. Few men wear light, flowy garments.

Pockets in tight-fitting stretchy garments create "warts" and screw up the line of the garment. Except for athletic wear, though, men don't wear many tight stretchy garments, and men's designers seem to not care about "warts" screwing up a smooth line.

There are cases where no pockets make sense, from a design impact standpoint. But we're talking clothes where practicality of storage takes a backseat to other practical needs.

Everything else? Tradition.
[User Picture]From: jess_faraday
2013-05-03 12:00 am (UTC)

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Eddie Murphy once said (in the course of a hilarious but scathingly un-PC bit) "if you give a woman a pocket, she's going to want something to put in it."

I don't think this is the reason behind the fashion difference, but I always think about that when I'm "fixing" the missing pockets in my garments.
[User Picture]From: bovil
2013-05-03 04:44 am (UTC)

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Oh, believe me, there are historical cases where that's exactly the reason for not having pockets in women's garments.

The only question is did she not have pockets because it's a man's job to keep things for her, or did she not have pockets because she couldn't be trusted with the responsibility of keeping the right things?
[User Picture]From: livejournal
2013-05-02 11:22 pm (UTC)

More on pockets from Kyle

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User game_byrd referenced to your post from More on pockets from Kyle saying: [...] nally posted by at more on the pocketesses [...]
[User Picture]From: sheilagh
2013-05-03 01:19 am (UTC)

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Thanks for the reminder! A sweet friend at a swap meet came up to me and said TRY THIS ON and handed me a lavender skirt with TWENTY POCKETS. Sadly, the pockets go from where my hand enters (mid-thigh) all the way to the floor, so all items fall to the hem, making the skirt clunky, but the POINT of the pockets mere existence always brings out positive comments .. and that maybe I could at least carry a sword in one... or a loaf of french bread.
[User Picture]From: platyg
2013-05-03 05:05 am (UTC)

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To me this is one of those things I've never given serious thought to it being a male/female clothing thing. It'd just one of those things where I go to put my hand in a pocket when trying something on and there's a fake pocket, or a pocket so tiny the only thing you could fit is chapstick (I will not carry lipstick since I don't wear it lol). Why don't they put pockets?!?! What is the possible reason behind it other than saying its for form or would make the lines off. I want my pockets lol
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[User Picture]From: ilovetakahana
2013-05-03 01:09 pm (UTC)

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Where then would I carry my change and my keys and my mobile phone AND my book when I don't want to carry a bag and I'm stepping out by myself? I live in a tropical country and can't use my coat pockets to carry all that. I want pockets in my trousers and in my skirts, thank you very much, especially when I'm wearing jeans.
[User Picture]From: trishalynn
2013-05-04 04:04 pm (UTC)

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I get what you're saying, but I take a bit of offense to the "generally speaking" bit at the end of your first statement. Maybe it's that the women I know enjoy looking good and having pockets.

One of the reasons I love winter so much is that I can carry my (small, mostly flat) wallet in the inside of my coat pocket, my keys in my outer pocket, my cellphone in my right hand pocket, and not have to carry a purse. In fact, I'm a little sad that the skirt to my wedding dress is made of tulle so that I can't have pockets added in.
[User Picture]From: ilovetakahana
2013-05-03 01:15 pm (UTC)

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Now I remember that when I was attending school, many of the places that required uniforms also required that the girls' skirts have pockets. The one that was sewn into my jumper-dress was pretty deep, and VERY handy for carrying around a pen, some small change, house keys, or indispensable small items in. [A small pressed-powder compact or a small tube of lip gloss could go in, too, no problem.] It makes me wish I could still wear my jumper-dress, though age and circumstance might now make that uniform inappropriate.