MUNDANE MYSTERIES: Why Women’s Clothes Have Fake Pockets

Our attire can sometimes create optical illusions. For example, there are clip-on ties, faux button holes, and the idea that black is more slimming. But, none is as odd as…the fake pocket. You know how it is: you try on a dress or pair of jeans & try to dig your hand into the pocket before realizing there’s nothing really there where pocket looks like it’s supposed to be. Men’s suits have this issue, as well, but it’s most prevalent in women’s clothing. Why is this a thing?

The reason for fake pockets is simple, at least in the eyes of the fashion industry: when certain clothes are intended to create a specific kind of cut or form, pockets can alter their shape, whether on the rack, on your body, or both. By nixing pockets, the garment is more likely to retain the look that the designer intended.

If you go back to the 17th century, dress pockets were actually just removable bags that women would shift from one ensemble to the next (which were great for pickpockets, since they could easily just run off with an entire pocket). Then, as garment-making became more streamlined, slim pockets started to be sewn into the garments, which made things more aesthetically pleasing to designers (and more difficult for pickpockets). Following the French Revolution in the 1790s, however, slim skirts were all the rage, so pockets went by the wayside. And, without their pocket bags, women upgraded to handbags instead.

Designers have felt that certain clothing cuts are disrupted by pockets, and they’ve long hated the idea of people shoving their hands into pockets & bunching up the fabric. So, to discourage pocket-related abnormalities, they just created pockets that looked practical but really aren’t. You also have to remember: a dress on a runway doesn’t need pockets. But then, they still don’t end up getting added in the time between the catwalk & the clothing rack.

So why have pockets at all? Well, for a lot of types of clothing, especially jeans, people have gotten used to seeing pockets as part of the design. Think about it: wouldn’t it be odd to see a pair of Levi’s without hand-sized pockets on the hips?

Got a Mundane Mystery you’d like solved? Send me a message via social media (@AndyWebbRadioVoice), or shoot me an email at [email protected].

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