Why don’t women’s clothes have proper pockets?



We had a brief English heatwave here in Essex this week with temperatures soaring over 30C. The sunshine has brought out summer skirts and dresses and with it, the problem of where to put things because women’s clothes and especially summer clothes don’t have pockets. Am I the only one who has to stuff her handkerchief in the leg of her knickers?

When I walk the dog I usually take my phone with me. I don’t want to hold it in my hand; I don’t want to be hindered by a bag; I just want to slip the phone in my pocket. And if I see something interesting on the walk, I want to pick it up. And slip it in my pocket. A proper pocket. Not a tiny pocket barely three fingers wide or so shallow that everything falls out.

Will somebody please tell me – why don’t women’s clothes have proper pockets?

Is it because our pretty clothes won’t fit? Well, it’s true that if I put too much in there may be an unsightly bulge or two but I just want to put in a couple of things, not use my pockets instead of on-board hand luggage. There just needs to be some logical thinking in the design. I know it may take a little more time to make and a bit of extra fabric, but surely it can be done.

Maybe it’s because women keep so many things with them that they need a handbag. No, we don’t. I have to take a handbag sometimes because I don’t have pockets or if I have pockets they are pathetically small. Handbags are a little like cupboards; the more space there is, the more they fill up with unnecessary clutter. No handbag, no clutter.

But darling, I’ll buy your dinner and you don’t need your car keys because my car’s much faster than yours and I’m a far better driver. Your phone? Don’t worry your silly little head about that. I’ll just slip it into one of my many man-sized pockets and look after it for you. Yeah, right.

I partially solved the problem in winter by knitting the  Warriston sweater from Kate Davies Designs that has two pockets in the front and of course there’s always a coat with capacious pockets to wear outside. Last summer, I made a little shoulder bag to wear across my body but it cut across, below or above my bosom (depending on what was in my bag and what I was doing) and was as unflattering as it was uncomfortable.

Perhaps the solution is to skip back in time and make a tie-on pocket. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, women didn’t have pockets sewn into their clothing though it may come as little surprise to know that men did have them. Instead, women had pockets that were sewn onto a tape and tied around the waist, usually worn underneath their skirt or apron. I suppose they were the forerunners of the money belt or the bum bags of the 1980s.

tie on pocket purse


Small enough not to get in the way but large enough for a few essentials. Another reason for my family to roll their eyes and snigger. It works, but it needs some modification.

I could go retro and wear one of those wraparound aprons so I can do an impression of Mrs Overall. But obviously I’m not going to do that.

So, the seemingly age old question remains – why don’t women’s clothes have proper pockets?

Do you need pockets? Have you found a solution?

And while I’m in this mood, why are men’s handkerchiefs and tissues so much larger than women’s?


You may also like to read:

Pockets of History

The History of Tie-on Pockets

48 thoughts on “Why don’t women’s clothes have proper pockets?

  1. My immediate thought is “Anne, oh Anne” but then I thought “She’s just buying the wrong sort of clothes”. I’m sitting here in a lightweight shirt with two pockets and a pair of shorts with not one, not two but four pockets. Room enough for everything I need to carry. I think you need to buy proper shorts that’s the advice from so-much-wiser-clothes-wise youngest sister.

  2. I like pockets too… in fact I specifically look for clothes with pockets. I can highly recommend Gudrum Sjoden in this respect – almost all her lightweight garments have good big pockets. And as for handkerchiefs, all mine are ‘men’s’.

  3. Hey Anne .. Funny you should mention this. I just bought a lovely vest but no pockets. I am forever trying to poke things in and then remember no pockets! Nuts .. 😃

  4. Women’s trousers sometimes have very shallow pockets, so I stick to craghoppers walking trousers with pockets on or in pockets. They work for me.

    1. My walking trousers have pockets galore and good, safe buttoned down ones at that. Obviously I need to stop using them just for walking.

  5. You need to sew yourself a version of the Anna Maria Horner ‘Painted Portrait’ dress… it has pockets you could hide a small child in! Excellent point about hankies though. I’d never considered it! I’ve been producing man-sized amounts of snot this past week, heheh. Had to actually do a specific load of washing last night to include hankies!

    1. Did you know that you appear in lots of the google images for that pattern? My finger is hovering over the buy button.
      I remember your “snot” post from years ago. Always makes me smile.

  6. Agree agree agree. I have resorted to tying keys to the fabric belt on a dress or skirt. We need to being back chatelaines’. No pockets in my skirt and t shirt today. Handbag the only solution..

  7. I said EXACTLY the same thing to a man the other day as he dove his WHOLE hand into his front pocket. I showed him how my hand went up to the second knuckle into my jeans pocket. bloody girlie pockets I complained. And I always wear skirts to work on the farm. One year my son sent me a treat bag for dogs, a little canvas bag on a belt and when i remember I put this on to work, it fits my pad, pencil and phone, lip balm, knife, hanky and a bottle of that blue stuff to squirt on an animals wound as you go past.. I knew a lady who tucked her hanky into her bosom. I was always fascinated by this. but i don’t have a heaving bosom so that won’t work. I have another little knitted bag a reader sent me one year which is good. So glad to hear someone else has this problem, we definitely need to design our own line of work clothing! c

  8. I wear jeans for as long as I can – enough pockets for phone, tissues, door keys and dog poo bags – then skirts/shorts when it’s too hot. I try to buy skirts with pockets. But you’re right, too many lovely summery clothes do not have pockets and it is annoying. When this happens I sling a drawstring nike bag on my back but it’s a faff.

    1. I resort to the drawstring bag too but after a while it cuts into my shoulders. Somehow, a proper day pack seems rather over the top.

  9. Same problem for me, but I solve that by not wearing sweet summer dresses and skirts. Just my jeans or denim shorts. Have to have my farm knife and Chapstick!

  10. Even worse are those clothes with pretend pockets. Seriously, what are these for?? I do love deep pockets but I also like a lovely floaty dress in summer. I just finished sewing one with NO pockets. What was I thinking?? My hankies go under the bra strap…

  11. I have some lovely sundresses with deep pockets and some nice skirts with pockets as well. They are mightily convenient. However, I also have clothes with no pockets and they always require a bit of planning to wear. I think there’s a combination of things at work: the smooth line, the fact that it’s unladylike to have your hands in your pockets, and…other cultural baggage. A good pocket is much better than a fanny pack, that’s for sure!

  12. Totally sympathise with your quandary Anne. I’m not really a handbag person – I find them vaguely oppressive at least in their conventional format. I do however love lightweight fabric bags and have an assortment which I use a lot when I need to carry more stuff than a pocket would take but like you, there are times when I don’t want to carry anything. I wear deep-pocketed aprons a lot of the time which make good where clothes fall short on the pocket front at least at home. I haven’t yet taken to walking across the hills in one yet although I would never say never! I really like your retro tie-on pocket idea and read the article you linked to with much interest. Fascinating. I was especially intrigued by the reference to the vertical slit opening they used to have so that presumably the contents were more secure than in a modern pocket that is open horizontally across the top. I like the look of your prototype reworking of one of these and think I might have a go myself. They seem to have offered a wonderful creative canvas in the past – some were patchwork pieced and others embroidered even if they were hidden from view which I really like. A baton to pick up for crafty sewers in the 21 st C perhaps from our Victorian and earlier country sisters? How inspirational! Are you going to refine your prototype and if so, how? Do post a pic if you do! have a lovely summery weekend, Anne, with or without pockets! E x

    1. The problem with the vertical slit is that if you wear it under a skirt, then you have to put a slit in your skirt so you can reach into the pocket. At least I can reach into my pocket with a top opening.

  13. No pockets, no buy for me. Bit like, need to iron, no buy! May be it’s because I tend to go for generously sized and loose things but I’d be lost without them. A couple times I’ve been caught out and I have to use my ‘bum bag’ for the essentials such as phone, wallet, tissues. I can remember when ‘man sized’ tissues came onto the market and thinking about time, I think its because most men I know aren’t too good with getting their aim right! :).

  14. I’ve been f-ing and blinding about this very issue recently! In the winter (here in NZ) I wear jeans or leggings in the garden. Jeans – perfect! Lots of pockets! Leggings……none. SO ANNOYING! Where do I put my phone? Where do I put my string? Where do I tuck my secateurs? Where indeed do I put my elevenses? I wonder if there is an All Season Hat that would be able to handle all of life’s Pocket Needs? Then, when ones jeans are in the wash and one has to wear leggings one can just don a Pocket Hat and every thing is there!

    1. Brilliant idea! I hadn’t thought about a hat with pockets. Mind you, it sounds as though yours might end up a towering affair with all your bits and pieces 🙂

  15. I solved the problem several years ago when I started wearing men’s cargo shorts . They have plenty of pockets for everything. When I ‘m at home I wear the bulky ones but I have some less bulky for when I travel and with a nice blouse they are fine .

    1. The problem with cargo shorts is that the contents of the pockets end up banging on my legs when I walk. Also there’s so many pockets I fill them with too much stuff! Fussy aren’t I?

  16. Such a great post Anne…and look at all of those interesting comments! I completely agree. I have a couple of vests with pockets that zip up. They are probably the most useful piece of clothing I own. I can safely zip my phone, handkerchief and Chap stick into the pockets and go about my business, hands free!

    In a slightly unrelated matter I have had incredible trouble buying my children decent quality, thick, warm winter socks. The girls underwear section at our local clothing store does not have a single pair of thick socks. The boys section has them and after all socks are just socks so that is no big deal. But, do they think little girls don’t need thick socks? Don’t little girls go adventuring and exploring in the cold weather just like boys do? It just makes me wonder. Apologies for the rant x

    1. Jane, in the world of retail design, girls should just wear white, lacy socks. Or pink. Or Barbie themed. Walking down the aisles of girls clothing makes me wince.

  17. I never buy clothing without functional pockets. Never. It must hold the house key, my phone, the dog’s pooper bags, and a hankie. Plain and simple.

    1. The problem is that I get seduced by a pretty pattern on a summer skirt. Also I’m a bit of a desperation shopper – I don’t buy clothes til my old ones have fallen apart and then just end up getting whatever is easiest.

        1. For the same reason (laziness) that for months I fold up my trouser legs instead of hemming them properly 🙂 At least an independent pocket only needs doing once.

  18. good question – though I guess the answer to why men’s handkerchieves are bigger than women’s is that men have decent sized pockets to store theirs in. Having suffered a lot of hayfever I always need a pocket for a hanky – my mum taught me to tuck it into a bra but I try not to do that too much. Phones are a more recent problem for me. I have a sunhat with a pocket through I rarely use the pocket but it seems quite sensible (got it from the UK too)

  19. It really is the phone that causes all the problems, isn’t it. Everything else is fairly easy to stash here or there, in a bra, or up your sleeve, or even in a minuscule pocket. Around the house I wear an apron with big pockets, and I often add patch pockets to a skirt. I have seen patterns for bras with phone pockets as this seems to be a common place to stuff a phone (!) but have also read that this is significantly increasing breast cancers, so would hesitate to suggest this, or to use a hat pocket for a phone. It makes me concerned about all the men who keep their phones in their trouser pocket too! But your basic question goes unanswered…WHY don’t they make women’s clothes with decent pockets?

  20. All the while I was reading the first part of this post I was thinking ‘Anne needs a tie on pocket’.

    I don’t have a pocket problem because I live in jeans and Gudrun Sjoden stuff … I have an iPhone 6 plus and I can usually fit it in one or another pocket easily.

  21. I’m not sure of the brand name but I did recently read an article about jeans manufacturers making larger pockets to fit the newer, bigger smart phones. Of course they won’t hold all the little extra that you tend to pick up but it’s a start.
    It’s funny but over here I never see anyone using actual hankies any more. Little packets or wads of kale ex that end up all shredded in the bottom of your purse. I always remember my grandmother stuffing her hankie in her bra along with a million other things.

    1. I know lots of people think hankies are unhygenic but I hate hate the waste generated by paper ones. Also it makes me mad that people use them and then toss them on the ground. Your grandmother must have had a very large bosom to fit so much in her bra 🙂

  22. I love wearing a skirt in summer and feel your pain over the lack of pockets. The only skirt in my possession with proper pockets I made myself! And it doesn’t make it unsightly or unwearable, its just a skirt – with pockets!

  23. a ha, as I was reading your post my mind was turning to the handkerchief issue, and then you raised it! I use mostly men’s hankies, as they are not just larger, but much sturdier too.
    men’s pyjamas, according to my mother, are also much better quality – the winter ones are much thicker flannelette.

  24. do you not remember the rise and fall of the bumbag? Even that went its way because apparently women do not like anything that makes their hips look bigger and want to look smooth and sleek, so no pockets or teeny weeny symbolic pockets. The healthy backbags are pretty good and flexible and come in different sizes for dog walks etc. But yes, better pockets and better fabrics for basic women’s clothing, winter and summer, it would get my vote too 🙂

Comments are closed.