“Why in God’s name is it so hard to put useful pockets on women’s clothes?”

My friend posed this question on Facebook yesterday along with a link to a blog post about the physical freedoms men enjoy because of their apparel:

Earlier this week I was walking from the bus loop to work, aware of the weight of my purse on my shoulder and my tote bag in my hand. And I noticed something interesting. All the women walking around and in front of me were weighted down with at least one bag, while all the men save for a couple with messenger bags were totally unencumbered. I could see the difference in how they walked. Their hands free to swing naturally or rest in their pockets, their posture upright and relaxed, their gait bouncy and full of energy.

Can the humble pocket hold the key to gender equality? As the conversation unfolded on Facebook, I began to think the answer may be yes.

Friend 2*: “Yes! I walk around the office with at least one hand full at all times, with my ID, phone, pen, etc.”

Friend 3: “In my teens I got so dependent on having a purse on me everywhere. I’d even go to Six Flags with a purse! Not, like, a bag. A purse-purse. Dragging my fake Dooney onto the Flashback; so embarrassing. But in my early 20s, I met a woman, maybe late 20s, who I thought was SO rad. She was confident, natural, outdoorsy, a solo traveler, at peace. Everything I wanted to be at the time. I also noticed that she never carried a purse. Just wallet, keys and a pen. I thought that was SO revolutionary, haha. It was the first time I thought about being physically unencumbered — like a man.”

Friend 4: “I am going to guess, because I grew up with a body-obsessed mother who has never weighed more than 125 lbs., that pockets add cloth that could add more heft and the manufacturers assume women want to look thin. And also it’s cheaper.”

Friend 2: “^ Yes, that’s right. My mom taught me how to sew clothes, and she always said just skip the pockets for exactly those reasons. But if they would design clothes with pockets that aren’t based on men’s wear, then maybe this wouldn’t be an issue.”

Friend 1: “And ladies don’t NEED pockets, because Handbags. Also, I’m sure it ruins the line of the whatever.
I will go on record as saying that my matrons of honor TOTALLY had pockets on their dresses.”

(To her point, we do have handbags, but you can count me among the women who think they’re overpriced and overhyped — and in my case, often overstuffed.)

Friend 2: “When I reached the point in life when I became encumbered by a diaper bag, I had to ditch the purse. All of my personal items now fit into a (slightly) oversized wallet, that includes phone, earbuds, lip balm, keys, etc. So I can easily switch my stuff between the diaper bag and my computer bag, never needing a purse. Yet, still, I am encumbered within the office, with stuff that men can carry easily in their pockets. There is a clothing design solution to this problem that goes beyond lady sizes of khakis.”

Our aforementioned blog post author makes another excellent point: If you carry a purse, you risk being a pack mule for your companions:

How often have you shoved someone else’s jacket, book, wallet, bottle of water into your bag so that they could walk unencumbered while you are ever more weighed down?

How often have you been expected to have all of the things that they don’t bother bringing with them because their female companion will have taken care of it? Bandaids, Advil, water, a snack, a deck of cards, gum, chapstick, gloves, any of the other myriad things you may carry.


Back to the matter at hand: the dearth of pockets on women’s clothing. I decided to check out my own closet. My clothes are actually quite pocketful, a fact I attribute to working mostly in newsrooms and other extremely casual workplaces where people don’t much GAF about what they wear on the job. I own a LOT of deep-pocketed, loose-fitting linen pants these days. However, all of my “nicer” clothes — the ones I wear when I have to give a presentation or when the CEO is in town — are pocket deficient.

So what’s with this? I think it’s because women’s clothing isn’t supposed to be functional (in the eyes of designers). It’s supposed to be sexy, to conform to our bodies, to make us alluring to those who wish to undress us. It’s like gift-wrapping.

I poked around a little on the Internet for stuff about women’s pockets, and most of what I found were magazine articles with titles like:

  • “Choosing The Best Jeans Pockets For Your Figure”
  • “Finding Jeans With Pockets That Don’t Make You Look Fat”
  • “The Best Jean Pockets For Flat Butts”

And images like this:

The problem extends to children’t clothing, too. Per Friend 2:

I see this in girl’s clothes, as well. My sons get loose-fitting t-shirts and cargo shorts down to their knees, and sneakers or thick sandals. I cannot find long shorts for my daughter, who is three. I buy her leggings and practical shirts/dresses so she can run and climb like the boys. I avoid those crappy ballet flats they keep pushing on little girls at every store. But I see a lot of little girls dressed in pretty things, who cannot play like the boys, and it’s sad.

So, yes. I think we have a long road ahead of us. Until more designers address this problem, Friend 2 offers the following solution:


Make that out of black fabric, and I’m totally down.

*Names omitted to protect these awesome ladies’ privacy.

3 Responses

  1. Jo England

    Sing it, sisters. This is so true. I am saddened that no one mentioned the fanny pack, which is seeing a resurgence. There are actually a lot of cute ones out there.

  2. Gutsy Broads Staff

    Perhaps a Gutsy Broads-branded fanny pack is in order?

  3. David Joshua Whitehead

    I know we are arriving late to this party BUT you are completely right. There is a major inequality issue in female vs male clothing.

    We are The Humble Pocket and we are trying to solve exactly this problem – we were thrilled to find you had mentioned the exact same thing!

    We have also learned of the environmental impacts and the un acceptable health threats that our fashion industries are allowing to transpire globally.

    As a fellow campaigner for #ProperPocketry we’d love to hear from you if you want to share any more stories of yours or photos or have a look at what we are finding visit us on our FB page thehumblepocket and join the community!