Pockets: Such A Simple Concept, Such An Elusive Garment Addition

JEANS MAKER LEVI STRAUSS WAS HAPPY TO START MAKING women’s jeans in the post-war era, and even designer jeans that soon followed had pockets. PHOTO COURTESY OF WHEAT RIDGE HISTORICAL SOCIETY

Pockets. They seem like such a simple concept, so practical, so necessary!  Yet, they have been the focus of debate for centuries, particularly for women. 

The word  pocket comes from the French “poke” or “pouque,” which meant pouch. I suppose Ötzi, aka “the Iceman,” is the earliest link to pouch pockets. He lived around 3000 BC, and with his mummified remains archeologists found a belt with a sewn-in pouch containing his necessities: a flint flake, bone awl, scraper, drill and some dried tinder fungus.

Skip forward a millennium and there is evidence of 13th century Europeans’ clothing that featured “fitchets,” vertical openings in dresses and surcoats which allowed people to put their hand through to a pouch. It was common to share sleeping quarters then, and a pocket was a safe place for small personal possessions. Variations along that theme continued through the 16th century, but in an increasingly refined society dressmakers began to influence what fashions were available to women.

Back then, women rarely ventured out unaccompanied by a man or her servants, and the prevailing thought became, “why would she need to carry anything on her person?” The dictates of fashion played an even bigger role when petticoats and hoop skirts fell out of style, replaced by empire waists and sleek lines that would be ruined by bulges around the hips. Pouches became purses, which in the minds of fashion designers, solved the problem. The allegiance to those sleek lines in women’s fashions became cemented in the industry, even when working class women and girls wore work clothes with pockets. It wasn’t until World War II when women wore dungarees (men’s, at first) to work in the factories that pocket awareness soared again.

Jeans maker Levi Strauss was happy to start making women’s jeans in the post-war era, and even designer jeans that soon followed had pockets. Today women are appreciative of pockets, even though roominess is still a goal (see photo of men’s vs. women’s jeans).

Keep fighting the good fight, ladies. We’ll get there!

For those who haven’t heard, the Historical Society will celebrate its 50th Anniversary during 2024. One welcome addition will be new partnerships with local businesses. Every month at the themed Second Saturday socials, various local businesses will sponsor the event and in return receive, not only our gratitude, but free publicity in the Society’s publications.

We’re happy to announce January’s sponsor is the Swiss Flower and Gift Shop, which coordinates well with this month’s theme of enjoying teas and treats while watching a fashion show of historical costumes. The popular gift shop, located at 44th Ave. and Jellison just east of Kipling, has a long history in the area. Upon entering, shoppers cross a threshold into “an enchanting world” where owner Heidi Haas Sheard’s team will assist with gifts ranging from flower arrangements to jewelry, home décor and other thoughtfully curated pieces. They also accept reservations for elegant High Tea-style parties for those needing a relaxing break.

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