Sunday, October 2, 2016

Pockets--Or Purse?


I began to think about pockets recently when I left my purse in a restaurant and the restaurant was closed for
three days before I could retrieve it.  What a blow!  Cancelled my credit cards right off the bat--
then I'm thinking, oh dear, new driver's license--the dread of standing in line for that...............
So, why don't I just use my pockets instead of a purse?

Can't leave a pocket, that's for sure!

Aside (I did retrieve my purse!  the server placed it in the safety vault--am I relieved--except for the credit cards I cancelled!--)

Hence, my brain went to thinking about the history of pockets, especially for women.

Once upon a time, everyone carried bags. In the Medieval era, both men and women tied their bags to the waist or wore them suspended from belts; these bags looked very much like Renfaire fanny packs. As the rural world grew more urban and criminals more sophisticated, people cunningly hid their external pockets under layers of clothing to hinder cutpurses; men’s jackets and women’s petticoats were outfitted with little slits that allowed to you access your tied-on pockets through your clothing.

The French Revolution changed everything. While the mid-eighteenth century lavished in rococo, wide skirts that screamed decadence and wealth in their yards and yards of fabric, the end of the eighteenth century whispered restraint. Skirts pulled in close to the body, the natural waist crept ever upward, and the silhouette thinned to a slender column. This neoclassical look had no room for pouchy pockets, yet women still needed to carry their stuff. The reticule, a small, highly decorated purse, was born — and like a pernicious poltergeist, it has never really gone away. On the heels of the reticule,
 chatelaines— waist chains that resemble big, tinkling charm bracelets for the very busy — came into the consumer consciousness in 1828. Unlike purses, which hid everything away, these fashionable belts put women’s necessities on display.Only in the late seventeenth century did pockets make their move to become part of men’s clothing, permanently sewn into coats, waistcoats, and trousers; women’s pockets, however, failed to make the same migration. Lacking built-in pockets, women continued to hide their tied-on pockets, which were large, often pendulous bags. Secreted under their petticoats, panniers, and bustles, these highly decorated pockets swung heavy with their contents. You could fit a lot in those pockets — sewing kits, food, keys, spectacles, watches, scent bottles, combs, snuffboxes, writing materials, and money all found their place.
Pockets in women’s dress hit a watershed moment in the fin-de-siècle Rational Dress campaign. Founded in 1891, the Rational Dress Society called for women to dress for health, ditching corsets in favor of boneless stays and bloomers, wearing loose trousers, and adopting clothing that allowed for movement, especially bicycling. It hit its pinnacle just around the turn of the century, a time when men’s suits sported somewhere around 15 pockets — so it’s no coincidence that pockets abound in Rational Dress. An 1899 New York Times piece makes the somewhat tongue-in-cheek claim that civilization itself is founded on pockets. "As we become more civilized, we need more pockets," the piece says, "No pocketless people has ever been great since pockets were invented, and the female sex cannot rival us while it is pocketless."

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