Sunday, June 12, 2011

History of Pockets

Because pockets are sometimes hidden from view, it is difficult to know, from images alone, when pockets first became a standard part of an ensemble. I found a fascinating article about pockets on the Victoria and Albert Museum website, a valuable resource for seeing the shape and purpose of ladies' and men's pockets in the 19th century, the setting for my current work-in-progress. In addition, the website has illustrations as far back as the 17th century.
In the 18th century, pockets were underneath ladies' petticoats, as seen in photo at the right. Men's pockets were sewn into coat and breeches' linings, much as they are today.

Because there was less privacy in previous centuries, when families frequently shared rooms, people sometimes kept their personal possessions in their pockets.

Before handbags came into general use, pockets were used as a carryall, where ladies could carry common articles like thimbles or scissors, as well as money, snuff boxes, smelling salts, or even food and a bottle of gin.

For detailed photos and further information, go to the Victoria and Albert Museum website.


Cherie Le Clare said...

Great to discover this amazing site. Thanks for sharing all these interesting tidbits of history.

Paisley Kirkpatrick said...

I am glad to hear this, Joyce. My heroine is in the 1849 gold rush era in California and she needs to have a pocket in her skirt to carry rocks and a sling for protection. A judge told me once that 'they' didn't have pockets in those days. :) Thank you!

Joyce Elson Moore said...

Cherie: Your novel, French Kiss, sounds like a good read. I love anything set in France. When I was there, especially in northern France, there are many sites that record the courage of those brave Resistance fighters, and to have a female character as one--very imaginative.
Thanks for stopping by, and I like your website.

Joyce Elson Moore said...

Paisley: I guess she was thinking of pockets as we know them. Of course, all clothing wouldn't have them, just like today, but yes, they did have pockets, and I'd think that those brave ladies who went West would have certainly had places to stow things besides their satchels. Thank goodness for museumsm because no one can argue with honest evidence.

Caroline Clemmons said...

Joyce, lovely post and very helpful to historical authors. Thanks for sharing.

Jean Henry Mead said...

Fascinating and just in time for my own historical WIP about single homesteading women of the late 1800s. Thanks for the information. :)