Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Pockets are political

Having been away, we had missed much of the marvellous activity around the Kyoto Hanga printmaking exhibition at Caloundra Regional Gallery.

Luckily, we were able to visit it on Saturday before we headed further south and I am so thrilled that we did.  It is a truly exceptional printmaking exhibition and we are so honoured to have it showing locally.

My print "Pockets are Political" is part of the show and I have blogged about it previously here.

As part of the activity around the exhibition there were several artists' talks.  Of course, being away meant I couldn't attend and talk about my piece, but my good friend and printmaker extraordinaire Tory Richards undertook to speak on my behalf.

She let me know that my words had been well received and had indeed made many more people think about pockets - which can only be a good thing in my books.

So in honour of having visited the show finally and seen my wee piece hanging in amongst such stunning work, here are the words Tory spoke on my behalf, and of course, my print.


I reignited my enjoyment of dressmaking and sewing in 2016. I had learned as a child but began afresh with ideas for drafting patterns and modifying clothes and basically enjoying creating my own clothes.

Early on it became clear to me that the clothes I wanted to make or modify all had to have pockets.  The absolute glee with which I showed people my pockets and the thrill I felt when I had created a useful garment were beyond my understanding.  Why on earth should I be so delighted by the application of a pocket to a frock?

It made me giddy and dizzy and every time I wore a dress I had made I would show people “it has pockets!!”

It dawned on me slowly that too many of my clothes lacked functional pockets. Pockets were entirely absent, ridiculously sewn closed, or too small to carry essentials like my mobile phone.

“Ridiculous!!” I thought and so I tried to understand why we don’t have pockets. And I discovered that pockets are political and pockets are a feminist issue.

For too long, women’s clothing has been seen as decorative, not participative.  It is made to be looked at, not to be used. It is for women to be admired, not for women to be able or active.

It’s about Form not Function.

Men have functional pockets. Women have handbags. But a bag is not a pocket. 

Pockets are internal and secret; a territory of your own. Bags can be stolen or lost; you have to remember to take a bag with you, and you also spend time rummaging to find things – like your keys.

Men carry the tools they need for public life in their pockets, on their person. Women’s tools are external to themselves.

And anyhow, a lot of women’s clothes are designed by companies who have a vested interest in us buying a handbag (which they also design and sell) to carry our things in rather than simply providing us with pockets. 

We often have no pockets in our clothing. Try explaining the joy of buying something that has pockets in it to a man. 

They look at you oddly and soothingly say “ahhhhhhh yeah, that’s great”. Never ever have they experienced navigating the world without pockets in their clothing. Even styled and sexy male dinner suits have pockets. 

Pockets are the perfect metaphor for privilege – they are taken for granted by those who have them; and the disparity between male and female clothing and pockets is simply another construct, like gender.

We sometimes get non pockets – sewn up pockets. Is there anything more frustrating than realising too late that your pockets are sewn closed, bound shut and their potential for functionality made frivolous and simply decorative yet again?

If we get pockets they are smaller and less functional than men’s pockets – we can barely fit a phone in them. Men’s and women’s phones are the same size. But only one gender can fit their phone in their clothing and on their person.

Front pockets in women’s jeans are on average 48 percent shorter and 6.5 percent narrower than front pockets in men’s jeans.
Men’s pockets: 100% fit iPhone X; 95% Samsung Galaxy
Women’s pockets: 40% fit iPhone X; 20% Samsung Galaxy

By restricting the space in which women can keep things safe and retain mobility of both hands, we restrict their ability to navigate public spaces safely. A security or swipe card having to be withdrawn from a closed wallet within a handbag delays access to home and safety.

Possibly most importantly, mobility and independence are hallmarks of pockets – pick up your phone, your wallet and your keys and you can go anywhere. You can move quickly and have freedom of movement as well – your hands are available for doing things! 

Pockets speak to the issue of preparedness and our ability to move through the world comfortably and securely; to be able to move around in public and be confident that you have what you need with you and can reach it easily.

Pockets are political.


  1. EXACTLY. This is why I wear men’s jeans and trousers. Not only do they have DEEP pockets, but their waistbands are cunningly constructed to hide lumps & bumps.

    1. I hadn't thought about how deep those pockets are and how much I would love having them! And interesting about the waistbands too! I saw the queen with her hands in her pockets today - loved it!

  2. I have been dismayed of late at the return of dresses to women's wear, but couldn't put my finger on why it so bothered me. Your words opened my eyes to what I sensed was "wrong" about the trend.

    1. I have been happy to see some pockets appearing in wedding dresses and even on the red carpet frocks - makes me happy, it can clearly be done! Not a fan of frocks without pockets at all!

  3. Very good points raised Fiona, pockets in our clothes are decorative. Is that a metaphor for women? I have borne witness to your pockets and they are a very impressive additions to your clothes. I like pockets as a place holder for my hands. Women's pockets are not big enough for hands, even to keep them warm. I will never view pockets the same way again.

    1. Thank you! I use pockets for my hands a lot too - its nice to have somewhere to tuck them away at times. I think the metaphors could be expanded a lot - decorative pockets decorative women could be just the beginning! go well.


I appreciate your thoughts and comments; thanks for taking the time.