The weird, complicated, sexist history of pockets

March 31, 2018

Danny Moloshok/AP

Pockets have been fashion’s favorite secret since the 17th century. This deep fascination with them has been ingrained into our society for the last 400 years.

Joel Ryan/AP

17th century

Women’s clothes didn’t have internal pockets for most of history, even while men’s started appearing in the late 1600s.

Victoria and Albert Museum

Women had to get crafty and wrap a sack with a string around their waists and tuck it way under their petticoats.

Victoria and Albert Museum

18th century

The pouches women used as makeshift pockets became increasingly elaborate, with women hand-sewing embellishments and embroidery.

Victoria and Albert Museum

19th century

The shape of popular dresses slimmed down into a more Grecian-inspired silhouette, leaving no room for internal “pocket” pouches at all.

Victoria and Albert Museum

Early 20th century

Dress patterns started to include instructions for sewing pockets into skirts.

AFP/Getty Images

Late 20th century

Over the course of the century, some pants for women had pockets, while some didn’t at all.

Heinrich Sanden Jr./AP

21st century

Big pockets are popping up, of all places, on red carpets, where women are rocking pocketed dresses with their hands tucked into them.

Joel Ryan/AP

When we look back at the history of pockets, what women are really asking for is equality in clothing.

Charles Sykes/AP