In Steal Like An Artist, I pointed out that David Hockney had a special pocket sewn into his suit coats for sketchbook, and the musician Arthur Russell had pockets sewn onto his shirts so he could carry around a pen and a pocket notebook for musical ideas. (You can see his penchant on display in the photos above.)
I thought about Russell yesterday, when I saw designer Kelli Anderson (author of This Book Is A Planetarium) tweet that women’s clothes with no pockets are “a vestigal decision to disempower.” Women’s clothes without pockets, she says, imply that the wearer:
• isn’t expected to build anything
• is invited to contribute her appearance, first and foremost
• should be controlled/surveilled
Like the oblivious man that I am, I’d never given the issue a thought.
My feminist superhero uniform is a dress with pockets
— Lauren Duca (@laurenduca) December 22, 2017
In the “Politics of Pockets,” writer Chelsea G. Summers explores the history of pockets, linking to a bunch of cool sources, and summing it up:
Men’s dress is designed for utility; women’s dress is designed for beauty. It’s not a giant leap to see how pockets, or the lack thereof, reinforce sexist ideas of gender. Men are busy doing things; women are busy being looked at. Who needs pockets?
In “Jane Jacobs, Georgia O’Keeffe, and the Power of the Marimekko Dress,” critic Alexandra Lange (I can’t wait to read her book, The Design of Childhood) writes about how she noticed that Jane Jacobs and Georgia O’Keefe wore the same dress… with pockets, of course:
Maybe this is a footnote, but it is a fascinating one. In 1963, the same year that O’Keeffe probably bought her dress, Eugenia Sheppard, the fashion critic for the New York Herald Tribune, called such dresses “a uniform for intellectuals . . . Marimekko is for women whose way of wearing clothes is to forget what they have on.” Who could be more desirous of forgetting what they had on than women such as Jacobs and O’Keeffe, who had so much to do? And who would better understand their needs—skirts for riding, pockets for paper and pen—than powerhouses such as Annika Rimala, who designed their dress…
When I was poking around the Twitter responses, I came across this dad, who said he sews giant pockets into his daughter’s school uniforms.
(I will restrain myself from complaining about the contemporary scorn of cargo shorts…)