Why are the pockets on women’s clothing so lame?

trout sewing

Trout likes himself a sewing project. Especially one he can lay on. Or gnaw on.

What is with women’s clothing? Why are all of the pockets sized somewhere between tiny and non-existent?

There seems to be some misguided belief that women inherently carry lots of stuff, therefore must carry bags, therefore do not need pockets. This is false. Women carry bags because we have inadequate pockets, and we figure we may as well carry extra stuff–because why not? We have to carry the !&^%$  bag anyway. It’s a terrible cycle.

Another belief seems to be women don’t want pockets because they will bulk up the sleek lines of our fashions, making us look chunky through the hips. And it is true that form-fitting clothing does not leave room for bulky pockets. There are indeed occasions and outfits that call for a handbag. For instance, I am happy to carry a clutch when I shimmy into my black latex sheath for a special night in the dungeon, believe you me.

But what about jeans with fake back pockets and front pockets only as deep as your first knuckles?  Or what about business trousers with pockets too shallow to hold a phone? Or suit jackets sans any pockets at all. True confession: I have inner breast pocket envy. The inner breast pocket is the one of the most secure, useful pockets ever created, and yet they are scarce as hens teeth in women’s clothing. Whence this tyranny??

Or case in point: what about a casual jacket with motorcycle/military styling which promises a plenitude of pockets, only to disappoint?

jacket full

I found this jacket at a thrift store recently. I’d been wanting a light summer jacket, and was so excited to find one that fit that I bought it without checking the pockets for size and…genuineness. Is that a word? (FYI gentlemen readers: fake pockets run rife in women’s clothing.) I was lucky that all the pockets on this jacket are at least real.

But I was disappointed to discover that the lower pockets, with their promising, practical zipper closures, were only 3″ deep, rendering them impractical for carrying anything bigger than a tube of lip balm or maybe a little cash wrapped around a drivers license.

sad pockets

Ya call these pockets? Hang your head in shame, Ann Taylor LOFT.

I want to wear this jacket, so I decided to expand the pockets into usefulness.

Now, I’m no sewing maven. I hesitated even to post this because I am absolutely unqualified to teach anyone to sew. Rather than admitting I’m pretty much incompetent, I prefer to think of myself as a primitive or naive sewer. Sort of paleo. It’s all about the bone awls for me. Basically I can hem and mend things. I sew by hand because I can’t remember how to thread our old sewing machine.

I suspect the proper way to enlarge pockets is just to replace them entirely, but the stitchery and zipper closures on this particular pair of pockets intimidated me, so I decided to enbiggen them by simply adding fabric to the bottom of the existing pockets.

I should add here that any alterations shop (like the sort attached to dry cleaners) would replace pockets for you, and probably wouldn’t charge you all that much. But here it the Casa de Tightwad, any money is too much money.  This is what I decided to do. Imitate at your own peril.

First I traced the shape of the piece I wanted to create. The pockets were actually of different lengths–go figure–so I did one for each side.

pocketpattern

My idea here was to simply slice open the bottom of the existing pockets and add extensions to them. Like hair extensions. No, nothing could go wrong with this scheme!

These sketches I traced onto a piece of paper folded in half, then cut them out, preserving the fold, to make a pattern for my pockets, like this:

pattern open

As usual, the felines rushed to offer my all their help and support, to sit on my jacket, move my patterns and run off with my thread. Lil’ angels.

trout jacket

At this point the photo documentation vanishes, because darkness fell. While I watched Blackstar Warrior with Erik, I pinned the pattern pieces onto a sacrificial pink bandana and cut around them, leaving a rough seam margin of about 1/3″ all the way around. All this was freehand and loose, since, thankfully, this is all invisible.

In retrospect I probably should have used a sturdier fabric. I will not be able to carry rocks in my pockets, but I think they’ll stand up to a slim wallet. For a while.

Below, you can see the characteristic combination of horror and pity and resignation in Phoebe’s expression as she watches me attempt a sewing project.

phoebe

I folded the cut out pocket pieces in half, back into pocket form, and ironed them so they’d stay nice and aligned. (The dusty iron appreciated it’s annual deployment, I’m sure.) Then I sewed up the sides, the short sides, by hand, leaving the long side, the top side, open. Thus I created my pocket extensions.

Then it was only a matter of attaching the extensions to the bottom of the old pockets by sewing all the way around, which I did in my trademarked sloppy-yet- heavily-reinforced style of hand stitching.

stitching pocket

paw

Who needs pins when you have paws?

When I finished attaching the pocket extensions, I tacked the corners of the pockets down, to prevent slipping and sagging.

The final product. Et voilà! Function!

finished pockets

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29 Comments

  1. Very, very nice work!
    Keep up with projects like this and it won’t be too long before you become proficient. It’s all in the practice.

    To do anything really ambitious, though, you’re going to have to make peace with the machine, so why not apply tiny, numbered stickers to the spots on the machine that have to be threaded so that you remember the order. Actually, if you have a friend who’s an electrician, ask him/her for some Brady markers (electricians use them to identify wires) – they’re tiny, the number is clear and they stick well. Because I’m married to an electrician who is always bringing excess doodads home from work in his pockets, I’ve come up with lots of exciting new uses for the stuff.

    • Thanks for the tip. I didn’t even know Brady markers existed. Cool.

      And yes, clearly I need to make peace with the machine. It’s hard to describe how unpleasant I find it, with that terrible humming and thrumming power and all its complicated little pieces and the Bobbin of Terror.

  2. so true on the no pocket thing in womens clothing….also an issue i have with womens clothing is the short long sleeves….long sleeves that are always a couple inches too short for my arms….are women supposed to have tiny short arms??
    so in coats and jackets i always end up going with mens because they often get the WONDERFUL MAGIC inner breast pocket (one of the greatest inventions EVER!!!). they also generally have some sort of closure for the pockets (like the zippers)….and they have normal length arms. also, in many cases, womens just arent made as well – mens coats and jackets seem to have better/more durable construction and material.

    • Yes, yes and yes. I have long arms to begin with, so it’s all hopeless.

      And breast pockets!!! I said they were scarce as hen’s teeth in women’s clothing, but now that I’m thinking about it, I don’t know if I’ve ever seen one in women’s clothing. I must only know them from wearing mens’ jackets. I guess there must be some idea that one would interfere with the line of a woman’s breast. I don’t know if that’s really a concern, unless the jacket is tight, but even so, the pocket could be placed lower. A “rib pocket” would be just as useful!

  3. What a great project – recycling and learning.
    If you look up the make and model of your sewing machine youtube will likley have a threading tutorial for more learning.

  4. Great post! So true about pockets in women’s clothing. But I’m commenting mainly because the writing had me giggling like an idiot the entire time. Good job. : )

  5. While it’s true that sewing machines are really handy for more ambitious projects, they’re not *required* — the extra time just has to be worth it to you. I’ve been using sewing machines regularly since I was 8 (by choice, not child labor!) and also do a lot of hand sewing. There are definitely times (like your pockets) where hand sewing is the better tool for the job — easier to deal with small spaces and short seams. It does get better with practice.

  6. It’s so frustrating that women’s clothes never have adequate pockets. I think the only time recently that I’ve found decent pockets is at REI.
    I recently added a new pocket to my pair of paint pants (I’m a set designer so practical paint pants are a must!) This pair of pants started life as regular women’s jeans, then when they got worn out they were put in the drawer of paint clothes. There is a patchwork of patches all over them now, and as I was doing my most recent patch job I decided to stitch on a cargo-style pocket to the side of the left thigh. It’s certainly not beautiful, but we’re talking about pants covered in paint anyway!

  7. That is a great extension you made. By not having a bottom seam, you did help it to last longer. Plus, sewing the bottom down will help with sturdiness. If you do this again, or it starts to wear, add an iron on patch inside the pocket.

    I have been sewing since I was four-years-old, so that makes 63 years experience. If I could see well enough, I could fulfill one of the largest demands–pocket in pants.

    When I was in grad school, I kept myself in dangly earrings and silk plants by adding inserted pockets to pants that had no side seam. I also made pants and long sleeves longer on the same outfits. I traded the boutique for earrings.

    I bought a jacket and skirt suit, separates, that had an inner pocket in the jacket. That suit was worn only for job interviews. But, I love it. The amazing thing was it had a vest that buttoned into he side seam tabs of the jacket. So, I made a new vest front to button in the jacket.

    Full skirts I made were the only pockets I ever wore in skirts because of the bulk. Of course, when you make the pattern, you can make a deep pocket. Pants pockets are too bulky….until I wanted to carry a cell phone. Now, I wear pants with a pocket. Since my vision is not great, I buy the pants. I lose my cell phone in cushions of chairs and am so annoyed at the pants pockets lack of depth.

    No, dry cleaners would charge a small fortune, in my estimation, for adding pockets.

    About threading the machine. Have someone thread it and take pictures of what to do as you go, print it out and make a guide you understand. Pay special attention to the tension guide. Over the years, I have helped friends thread machines given to them.

    When I taught my daughter to sew, I pulled the thread out every ten minutes or so and had her rethread it. Every morning, she was met with no thread on the machine. She whined all the time, but laughed as she got more proficient. You can also just never pull the thread out as you change colors. Cut the old color, tie on the new color, unthread the needle and gently pull the old thread until the new thread is pulled through all the tension and other places.

    Most sleeves and pant legs are too short for me!

  8. Grrrr… women’s pants…

    Preach on with the modification! Take back your pants ladies! Return them to their denied status of USEFULNESS.

    Fight the man, one non-sliming pocket at a time!
    -Jennie

  9. VERY clever work modifying the pockets to your needs. Most especially since sewing is not one of your skills.

    If it ever comes up again, you can actually buy constructed pockets to sew into the interior of a garment in the notions section of a fabric store. You’d still have to do your own modifications but they’re made of a sturdier, closely woven fabric that will hold up under a lot of thrusting your hands in and loading them up with weighty things.

  10. In my city we have a Goodwill outlet store. It is where all the stuff that doesn’t sell in a normal store goes for its last chance. You can buy clothes for like $1.30/pound there.

    http://www.goodwillsocal.org/shopping/retail-shopping/outlet-stores/

    What I do is look for old men’s cargo pants, cut the pockets right off of them, and sew the onto other pants with a sturdy button thread. It doesn’t take that much skill, although depending on the weight of the fabric I sometimes have to use an upholstery needle and some pliers.

  11. I don’t really sew. I buy cargo pants at 511tactical.com and have a convertible jacket from scottevest.com and now, I don’t lack for pockets.

    Cool work on your jacket!

  12. And what about all the larger useless pockets? Like pockets on the chest area of blouses? Often the material isn’t sturdy enough to survive much real use, and typically, that’s the last place us women need more oddly-shaped lumps. I’ve just never understood the point.

  13. Women’s clothes suck because men don’t care about women being able to carry things in our pockets. I don’t think they’re exactly trying to oppress us, but the whole fashion industry is full of these little details that only serve to immobilize women and showcase our fertility, like some prize mare.

    While it’s fun to look sexy, I prefer to have my clothes be practical as well. So when I’m not dressing up I wear men’s cargo pants a lot. They bag at the waist a bit though because I am rather curvy. I haven’t bothered to try and fix that because I’m trying to lose weight and don’t feel like repeatedly altering the same pants. I just wear a shirt out instead of tucked in and nobody sees the waistband. BDU pants work too. (Military pants). Actually they work better. They have little string buckles at the sides, and you can sew the strings fast where you want them. The Coast Guard pants are dark blue, so you don’t even need to wear camo if you don’t want. Also, they tend to sell for less used than the camo ones. Some men (who were in the military) think women in BDU’s are sexy. I dunno if it’s a fetish or what. OK, I get to be practical and be sexy to someone who is more likely to be physically fit? Woot!

    Another thing I’m doing is making a sort of skirt-yoke without the skirt that can serve as a hip- belt with a lot of pockets on it. I’m going to make pouches and sew them onto it. It’s going to be about 5 or 6 inches wide, and narrower on the top than on the bottom so it fits over my hips. The pockets/pouches are not going to blouse out – this is designed to go on under clothes if desired, or over clothes, and not bump out too much. But it will have pockets all the way around.

    I also saw something like that that went down the sides of the legs for like 12 inches, and was made of leather. Sort of like a leather apron, only for your hips instead of your front, and fitted for a woman. It had pockets as well. I think it had a belt buckle closure in front. I have only ever seen one of these and I think someone made it for herself. Very steampunk.

    Once you get a good fitting garment, you can always make a pattern from it and make many of them in different colors, and with nice deep pockets.

    While I’m at it, screw the garment industry. They never put out anything truly classic. It all has to have some stupid twist that makes it “unique” and nothing is made of good fabric anymore. And all the garment jobs went to Bangladesh. All the more reason to develop your own sewing patterns, and make your own.

    • Actually, women’s clothes over the ages were designed to make women less mobile and dependent. Look at foot binding, dresses that are laced in the back, followed by women’s dresses that zip or button in the back. Tiny feet, tiny waists, big busts, bustles–all are meant to emphasize what men of the period or generally like to see that signaled a woman was fertile. Fertile is sexy.

      Women who dress for comfort and utility are less likely (not always) to be sought out since they are less “feminine” looking. No man forces it on a woman. but, societal forces like mothers and fathers want their girls to be acceptable and sought after as a wife. I know. Not all parents raise their daughters to be wives and mothers. I did not. But, I could not help putting ruffles and pink and ribbons on my girls.

      Thankfully, my girls rejected the frou frou often…lol. With my blessing. I socialized them to reject societal expectations, and then some days was appalled.

      It is complicated but true. What will men do if women do not depend on them? While it is true that many men are not purposefully dress women to be helpless, society mostly portrays women in high heels, strappy sexy sandals. How difficult is it to run in either shoe? How can you protect yourself if you are protecting a purse full of things you need. And, you don’t have pockets capable of carrying these items?

      Okay, I will quit.

  14. I am so pleased I found your website and blog. It is serendipitous that I stumbled upon your youtube video on Kirsten Dirksens channel. Watching you and your partner explaining the setup of your house, yard and lifestyle choices were echoes of conversations that my husband and I have been having for the last year.
    Our desire to simplify our lives and make what we do more meaningful has been beckoning us towards change.
    We have decided to move from the busy city life we are currently living and move back to rural living by the sea. Our plan is to have chickens, bees, grow some of our food, fish and work as consultants and for ourselves.
    I am the baker in our house I love making my own bread and bake twice a week.
    To find your website and blog is a godsend such wonderful advice a useful resource I look forward to visiting.
    A big gidday from Melbourne, Australia :)

  15. I wish I had seen this a little earlier! But in any case, I have actually just finished an e-book designed to take the terror out of using your sewing machine! It has basic steps that work for just about any machine, and explains how the machine works (including threading and the bobbin), building up to a simple first project.
    And, good job making your pockets functional! I totally agree, the lack of pockets in our clothing is holding women back. Sometimes I think I’m kidding when I say that, other times not so much. In any case, a little sewing will go a long way towards independence from what the garment industry thinks we should have.

  16. I think this was not only a totally hilarious post, but quite timely as well. I hate womens pants! Why cant our clothes be functional as well as pleasing to the eye? I have decided this will be the year that i learn to sew. period. Im a large woman, and the lack of really functional, well put together clothes for me has made me want to do it myself. That being said, i also have a 5 yr old daughter. The clothes available for her are a shoddy mess.She wants to play and get dirty just like any kid, boy or girl. I say, viva sewing!

  17. Oh, the lack of pockets in women’s clothing is the worst. I personally think the lack of pockets is a industry strategy to try to make women buy more bags. They have to match your outfit! They have to fit the occasion! Besides, don’t you want to be in style? As if style is the be-all and end-all for all women everywhere. Nope. DIY pockets are a great solution, though!

  18. Arg! I loath this problem! I don’t want to HAVE to carry a bag. Silly, silly women’s clothes. Why do we put up with it?! I used to always buy men’s pants specifically because of the pockets. Good work on your clever fix! Small pockets be darned!!!

  19. I so agree about the lack of pockets! Where can I put my pocket hanky? How can I carry my house key? And tiny pockets are worse than no pockets. The clunk of my pocket watch hitting the floor when I sit down in a pair of tiny-pocketed pants infuriates me! And don’t even get me started on blazers that have pocket flaps with no pockets underneath them…

    • Yes! Fake blazer pockets are unspeakably vile. And a tip of the hat to both your hanky and your pocket watch! Such fine technologies.

  20. this was very creative! totally agree on the bullshit that is out there…women’s pockets in our clothing suck and don’t work (if present at all). One pocket failed me badly and my spare tampon skittered across the gym floor (where it sat for 10 min before I noticed …and I was the only female there at the time… gah!)…SOO…I gave up about finding FUNCTION in my fashion, and decided to design and patent a solution myself. and Voila! PortaPocket was born. Now you can lose the worry….not your stuff. yay!! see more if you like at http://www.portapocket.com
    my mission is simply to help people help THEMSELVES.
    xoxo
    @PortaPocketGal

  21. You (women) have no one to blame but yourselves.

    There is NO REASON you have to carry that much crap with you.

    Men don’t drag around purses.

    We don’t carry vials of paints and sprays and glitters and glosses that we use to paint ourselves up with in attempts to manipulate you.

    There is no reason for it.

    STOP TRYING TO MANIPULATE.
    You won’t need so many tools.
    And you wont need bags to carry those tools.

  22. Hello everyone! I’ve created a Facebook page for women to share and discuss women’s clothing with pockets. The more people that like our page the better! The only way designers will start manufacturing better pockets is if we demonstrate the demand. Like our page at http://www.facebook.com/womenspockets
    Follow us at @womenspockets Thank You – “Carrying pockets into fashion”

  23. Where are my pockets?!?!

    So true. I’ve been complaining about the lack of pockets for years. I was thrilled when the TV show Lost briefly made cargo pants fashionable.

    But as a woman who searches tirelessly for POCKETS, DAMMIT and is unable to sew… Duluth Trading Company has a lot of women’s clothing with at least an attempt at pockets. And I recently discovered ScottVest, who have a line of women’s jackets with enough pockets to make even me happy.

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