Pockets of Sense

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Here's an article I read with interest because it vindicates something I love: Pockets.

You might think pockets need no vindication--after all, they exist, they're useful, and some articles of clothing seem to have a surplus of them. But you'd be wrong, because there are people who HATE pockets.

I encountered one such person at that absolute bastion of absolute evil, the Missionary Training Center. One evening a week all sister missionaries had to attend some lecture on clothes, hair, makeup or some other aspect of personal grooming. With one exception--a really useful demonstration on the best way to pack a suitcase (something you really need to know before you try to cram enough clothes to last you 18 months into two bags with a 44 lb weight limit and still have room for all the books the church makes you take along on a mission)--the lectures were not only useless, but insulting.

The worst one was courtesy of some superannuated former beauty pageant winner, who showed us slides of "acceptable" outfits--lots of blouses with shoulder pads and big bows at the neck, this being 1985. She gave us all these rules for buying clothes--including the fact that we should never purchase clothes with pockets.

"Why?" I asked, mystified.

Despite the fact that she had claimed she welcomed questions, she clearly wasn't used to having to defend any of her assertions. "It's more slimming to carry a purse," she said. "Besides, you need the purse so you can carry an extra pair of pantyhose and a little spritzer bottle of mineral water, so you can lightly refresh your makeup on hot days."

"I like pockets. They're really convenient. I've got my room key, a tube of chapstick and my meal card in my pocket right now," I said, producing the items I mentioned and holding them up as proof. "I don't need a bag just for these things."

The woman paused to take a good long look at me and my outfit before shaking her head and shrugging a little. Clearly I did not pass muster, but the important thing was to resolve the issue and move on. "Well," she said grudgingly, "if you must wear pockets, make sure that you never put your entire hand all the way into the pocket; always leave your thumb out of the pocket." And she put her hand on her hip, thumb splayed away from the fingers, elbow thrust out at an angle, to demonstrate.

"But why?" I persisted.

"Because!" she exploded. "It just looks better that way!"

The problem, of course, was that the woman had no real conception of clothing as practical items; to her, it was entirely about the way they looked. But I thought she was an isolated pocket-hating extremist until a few years later when I saw some tv show about fashion and style in which the man responsible for dispensing advice to women lamented the fact that any clothing maker ever put pockets in women's clothes. "Every woman I know just cuts them out of their clothes and sews them up," he said. "They just add bulk and make you look fat."

And indeed I lamented how hard it was to buy clothes with pockets in them, though I suspected that the main reason so many clothes lacked them is because they require extra time and fabric to insert, thus raising the cost of the garment. I know this well because I put pockets in almost every garment I make--in fact, one reason I sew is so that I can make sure most of my clothes have pockets. I prefer to hide them in the side seams but I have also used decorative pockets from time to time. Before my mission I had a skirt I loved with HUGE patch pockets--like, 16 inches square--on the sides of the skirt; they ballooned away from the skirt and I thought they looked really cool.

And for the past 20+ years I have been content to be a pocket-loving freak who risks looking fat because I actually USE my pockets--there is usually a set of keys and maybe some change jingling in my pocket. But I am glad that others are recognizing the practicality if not the downright necessity of pockets. And I agree with the person who argues that one reason for the proliferation of pockets is that "we need to find an increasing number of places for all the technology we have to carry." Seriously: where do you stick an ipod if you don't have a pocket?

10 Comments

I put my iPod nano in my bra when I'm exercising because my workout pants have no pockets. IMO, bras make a great pockets (I stuff all kinds of things in mine as needed) unless you bend over a lot..

Clothes are only useful to women if they look good? But I guess it's probably ok if men look fat or whatever - we women are supposed to fall all over them anyway, just because they happen to have penises...I mean priesthood. What sexist crap.

I think that woman would REALLY hate me, because I don't even have the excuse that I like pockets because they're useful (I ALWAYS carry a bag - usually a huge bulky one with room for books and a water bottle. Probably not terribly slimming) - I like them because I hate wearing gloves, so I use pockets to keep my hands warm(er). I also like them because they give me somewhere to put my hands when I'm standing around feeling awkward.

I heard rumors that sister missionaries assigned to temple square were chosen because they were particularly good-looking, and they had to take lessons in makeup and hair. I always thought that couldn't possibly be true, but...

Hi Jana--

Thanks for providing a sensible answer to my question about where to stow an ipod if you don't have pockets. I've never been one to use a bra as a place to carry things, though, because I prefer not to wear one. If I do wear one, it's usually the first thing I take off when I get home. In high school I used to carry things in my socks--a pair of knee socks are a great place for a driver's license and a folded-up dollar or two, but they aren't much good for an ipod unless you have a REALLY long set of earphones.

Hi Rebecca--

Having recently been to temple square, I don't think looks played a significant part in how the sisters there were chosen. Besides, photos are often deceiving and people change. But the folks at the MTC definitely try to make sure sisters have the basic skills to look pretty--and there were certainly women who needed the help. There was this one sister in the MTC with me who was so horribly frumpy and Molly-Mormonish--AND she had this DISGUSTING habit of picking her pimples and eating the results--IN PUBLIC. It got so bad that the elders in her district begged her companion to say something to her about it. So the poor comp did--only to have the sister missionary confess that her boyfriend got really annoyed when she did it too. It was so ghastly.... Personally, if my boyfriend told me that he was grossed out by my habit of eating what I scratched off the pimples on my face, I wouldn't go on a mission--I'd enter a cloistered convent and never leave. But that's just me.

And this gross, tacky, fearless person was going to northern Italy--you know, where Milan is, one of the fashion capitols of the world.

It was so unfair.

Whereas I got stuck going to Taiwan, as did a bunch of hot chicks. My mission president loved to tell us how at a tri-zone conference, the visiting GA looked out over the audience, did a double-take, then said to the MP, "You've got a lot of really good-looking sisters in your mission."

I agree with all your reasons for liking pockets, by the way. I think it's pathetic that we have to defend liking them, but your reasons seem totally legit to me.

Re: pimple-picking sister - EWEWEWEWEWEWEWEWEW

Properly placed pockets are a plus for me in choosing something to wear. On suit jackets, I especially like the slit kind, that have the pouch part on the inside. Those were really handy when I had to carry keys all the time at work.

Not long ago, though, I saw some really unfortunately-placed pockets on a dress. It was a nice column dress, but it had big patch pockets sewn to the outside of the front right across the widest part of the hip, and the edges of the pockets were outlined in a contrasting color. Gaack! Now, nicely hidden side pockets would have made that dress not only more attractive, but very useful.

I've got a wonderful corduroy jacket that I'm thinking about putting a pocket in. It needs one inside, on the lining about chest-high, just big enough for an ID, or maybe an iPod.

Say, you knew that young men's high-end business suits are being made now with hidden pockets for iPods? They even have a nifty little port to pass the earbud cord through to connect it. I didn't notice an equivalent for young women.

Say, you knew that young men's high-end business suits are being made now with hidden pockets for iPods? They even have a nifty little port to pass the earbud cord through to connect it. I didn't notice an equivalent for young women.

I hadn't heard of such a thing for men, Juti, but I'll be shocked if there's an equivalent for women. I have seen patterns to knit or crochet for cute little bags to stash an ipod in, but that's a very different thing.

When you wrote:

"I like pockets. They're really convenient. I've got my room key, a tube of chapstick and my meal card in my pocket right now," I said, producing the items I mentioned and holding them up as proof. "I don't need a bag just for these things."

I said "yes yes yes!" Pockets are ideal for the things you must have with you: usefulness and beauty combined. I do have a bicycle messenger's bag but I use it for books and papers because it is convenient. My books and papers are far too big to carry in pockets.

But I don't want to be disingenuous here: I'm not entirely committed to convenience over attractiveness. My bag is black and it does look pretty cool, to me at least, but it's not ideal for carrying my ipod if I intend to listen to it.

I'm very fond of three other kinds of pockets but only one is really good for the ipod. Levi's men's jeans have a watch pocket just inside the right front pocket (I don't know whether women's jeans do but it seems to me they could). It's great for pocket watches -- and it just looks cool, a kind of design throwback to a different time -- but even my ipod nano is too big to fit in the pocket comfortably, especially if I sit down.

I also love my shirt pockets. My pens "go commando" in my shirts, so I'm only a wannabe nerd. And shirt pockets won't hold the ipod: it falls out if I lean over: downright dangerous for the ipod if I've had to use the toilet.

The only pocket on my clothes that is truly ipod-friendly is on my black motorcycle jacket. Motorcycle jackets typically have this great zippered pocket for keys over the left breast and it's both ideally placed and the perfect size for my ipod. My keys go in as well, as a bonus.

But in each case, the pockets in my clothes are both cool and useful. I don't know why the designers of women's clothes you mention who are hostile to pockets feel these traits need to be in conflict. Someone needs to remind the guy on the tv show you saw that he's a designer, he should design a pocket that works with the clothes he makes.

Hi Spike--

I'm glad you appreciate pockets and have a good home for your ipod. It really does make a lot of difference to be able to carry all the stuff you need, comfortably.

I WISH more clothes would have pockets. I actually run an online clothing store for sister missionaries, Sorella Bella, and I have the worst time finding manufacturers who make, A. Long skirts B. with pockets. If any of you know of an attractive skirt design with pockets, let me know so I can sell them!
http://www.sistermissionaryclothes.com/presta/prestashop

Candace--thanks for stopping by. If I come across a sister-missionary-appropriate skirt, I'll let you know. Good luck with Sorella Bella!

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This page contains a single entry by Holly published on January 14, 2009 12:10 PM.

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