What Do You Think of Pockets?

Do you love pockets and add them to your sewn creations wherever you can?  Would you be happy never to have to sew another pocket?  Do you tolerate them in a garment, preferring to do without if possible?  Many people have very strong opinions about pockets or the lack thereof. I think those of us who sew are among those with the strong opinions, primarily because we have it in our power to add them or delete them.  My personal mantra on pockets is “Let’s see if we can do without them, unless we can’t.”   

I generally divide my thoughts about pockets into three categories: those in dress pants (slacks), those in dresses and skirts, and those in dressier coats and jackets. (A little caveat is probably useful here  before I get any further.  Yes, jeans should have pockets, as should hiking and/or activewear pants and shorts.  And absolutely, pockets are part of the functionality of active outdoor coats and jackets and vests. Those categories are not part of this discussion.)  

It was over two decades ago when I first started thinking about the dilemma pockets in slacks present.  I had just purchased a navy blue wool flannel, dressy pair of slim pants, which fit well and were flattering.  There were two welt pockets on either side of the front which were basted closed, as is the custom in better clothes (leaving it up to the purchasing customer to remove the basting.)  I left the basting in and preserved the slim silhouette of the slacks.  Had I removed the basting, the front, I am sure, would have “pooched” out at those two spots and, well, not done my tummy any favors.  Once I started buying vintage patterns a decade ago, I began to notice the slacks in the patterns from the 1950s generally were pocketless.  (I have long thought fashion and style in the decade of the 1950s was at its zenith, both in elegance and in silhouette, which is a topic for another discussion.)  Here a few examples of patterns from the 1950s:

Note the defining tuck in the front of the pant legs.
These slim pants are enhanced with 4 shaping darts each, front and back, with no waistband.
These slim pants do have a waistband.

In my mind, pockets in dress slacks are superfluous at best, detrimental at worst, and just unnecessary.  Although I rarely make pants and slacks, I have yet to put a pocket in any of them.

Dresses and skirts are a bit more complicated.  Fuller skirts often provide the perfect camouflage for in-seam pockets.  I have sewn at least three such styles, the patterns for which included pockets in the side seams.  Interestingly, two of them were vintage Diane von Furstenberg patterns from the 1970s; the other is a more recent Vogue shirt dress.

This DvF dress pattern from the 1970s has pockets in the side seams.
And so does this one!
Again, pockets in the side seams in this Vogue pattern. The fuller skirts in all three of these dresses conceal the pockets well, but only if they are empty! If I make any of these patterns again, I will not bother with adding pockets.

There was a charming article appearing this summer in a Weekend Edition of The Wall Street Journal by author Jasmine Guillory and her “perfect dress” which, alas, has pockets. (Check her website here to read the article under “About”.)  Here is what she wrote, “The only element that mars this dress’s perfection is its pockets.  This might be a controversial statement, but I don’t like dresses with pockets.  They pooch at my hips, even when empty, and if you put something in them, it’s worse….  What’s this great need for dresses with pockets?”  She goes on to say she regularly takes her dresses with pockets to the dry cleaner to have the pockets removed.  (Alas, again!  Her dry cleaner closed during the pandemic, meaning that her “perfect dress” still has its pockets, making it “almost perfect.”)  

But what about slimmer silhouettes?  In-seam pockets could cause the same “gapping” situation, which begs the question “Would you put anything in those pockets which would cause that pocket to gap even more?  Probably not.  I would place my hankie or my cell phone or lip stick in my handbag, not in my pocket – and that goes for fuller skirts as well.  (Besides, like Jasmine Guillory, I am quite smitten with handbags.) 

However, what about in-seam pockets which are part of the design?  Here is a notable example:

This Vogue Designer pattern has shallow pockets in its side front seams. Somehow, I can’t imagine this dress without them!

And then, of course, applied pockets are often part of the design, but not really intended for practical use.  Take a look at this evening gown: 

Notice that these pockets open from the side.

You might be able to tell I have decided I am not so keen on pockets in skirts and dresses either – UNLESS they are integral to the design.  

Which brings us to coats and jackets.  I think one’s first reaction to this category would be “Well, of course, jackets and coats need to have pockets.”  And for the most part, I would agree with that.  Often pockets in coats and jackets are part of the design and add stylistic interest as well as functionality.  Here are a few examples of coats I have made, with such pockets: 

The pockets in this coat are inserted into the shortened princess seam.
I am very fond of the slanted pockets in this Christian Dior design.
A pocket detail from a Givenchy Vogue coat pattern, with hand sewn topstitching.

Here is a jacket pattern which is in my sewing queue for 2022.  I absolutely love the pockets.

And where would a Classic French jacket be without its pockets?  They are not really functional, but undeniably integral to the design. 

One of the Classic French jackets I have made.

Not all coats have pockets, however.  Take a look at this Madame Gres design which I made in a lavender linen.  It has no pockets, nor would I want them in this Spring coat.

And here is a “summer” coat which I think is just so chic.  No pockets.

I have made this coat pattern twice – once with pockets and once without. 

The wool version has in-seam pockets which I find useful:

A peek inside one of those in-seam pockets.

But here is the same pattern, made as a “cocktail” coat.  I made it pocketless and love it.

No pockets needed when one has a lovely little clutch to carry.

Clearly there is much to consider when it comes to pockets.  When we add them to a garment, or delete them, or change their placement, or baste them shut to eliminate that dreadful “pooch” problem, we are admitting that not all pockets are equal.  Some are perfect in every way, some not so much, and some – are never missed.  

29 Comments

Filed under Coats, Day dresses, Fashion commentary, Mid-Century style, pockets, Uncategorized, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1950s, Vogue patterns

29 responses to “What Do You Think of Pockets?

  1. I omit pockets as a rule. They are superfluous in my opinion. When it comes to coats I agree with you. Jackets can have them or not.

  2. Lisa Jones

    I love your vintage style. What is the number of the Vogue “summer coat”. I love this pattern…..

    • Hi Lisa! Isn’t that a wonderful look? Please be patient for that pattern number. We are leaving tomorrow to travel across (2/3) of the country and I won’t have access to my patterns until Friday at the earliest. I WILL get back to you, however. ‘Til then!

    • Hi Lisa, Here is that pattern number for the summer coat…. Vogue 5234. You might be able to find it on eBay or Etsy. Wishing you the best!

  3. I haven’t put pockets in a dress since high school, but have found them handy in skirts and pants. The gaping is an issue, but when I use seam tape or fusible interfacing to eliminate any chance of stretching the seam, I no longer have gaping issues. However, I recognize that that works for my body, and may not solve the problem for anyone else!

  4. Gayle

    Your sewing is just superb! Everything looks so professional!!

  5. Angela

    Beautiful work! I’d love to watch you sew 😉

  6. Linda Dubuque

    Recently discovered your blog and I just LOVE it, along with everything you make! Thanks for taking the time to write, I’m relatively new to sewing and am learning so much from you. You are truly appreciated!!
    Best,
    Linda

  7. Karey

    I’m the opposite. I love pockets and hate handbags. I go to great lengths to add pockets where none were included. 🤪🤣
    I take account of structural support in the design to carry any weight (eg my hidden pocket added to Aveiro cardigan deep waistband. The more stable seam from a rotated FBA supported the pocket in the longer cardigan https://themonthlystitch.wordpress.com/2018/10/31/aveiro-cardigan-two-ways/ ).
    I add waist stays to trousers so the pockets don’t bag out. At minimum, especially when I was at work, or now when I am cycling, a couple of slit pockets for one key and credit card avoid the need for any bags. I add hidden tiny waistband pockets to the straightest skirts for this, the waistband carries the weight and they are not noticeable from the outside.

    • Bravo. I don’t carry a handbag, I don’t drive a car, and I need pockets. At least one for my keys and my phone, which sadly I have to have on my person now (society and my job dictate it so, and that darn phone keeps getting bigger). Pockets can be added to all sorts of things so that they don’t drag or pooch, stabilized and supported as you have suggested (nice link, thanks).
      They can also be removed. Hooray for us!

    • I so appreciate hearing varying opinions – and your pocket preferences certainly substantiate how fortunate we, who sew, are
      inner ability to add or delete them!

  8. All your dresses and coats and lovely! Truly, a smashing wardrobe!

  9. Susan konkin

    Yes yes yes!!! I had a smile on my face reading this one!! I almost never put the pockets in pants that I make..great article!!!

  10. peggy leah

    Yes to pockets most of the time and especially in shirt dresses, which I add
    if the pattern does not call for them. My biggest problem is with BUTTONS.
    I’ve never seen a button I liked. I think button choice can make or break
    a finished product and most shout “homemade”. I want very much to “cure”
    myself of this opinion. They look all right on the card but then applied, I’ll
    go straight to small basics again. My closet is packed with shirt dresses,
    incidentally, with plain basic buttons. I DO want to use buttons, but HOW
    to overcome playing it SAFE.

    • I so agree that buttons can make or break a garment. I must admit I tend to use vintage buttons almost exclusively, although wonderful buttons can be found at Britex Fabrics, Farmhouse Fabrics, Mendel Goldberg to mention just a few online sources. Ebay and Etsy are wonderful sources for vintage buttons, although it can be time-consuming to sort through entry after entry of buttons!

  11. Mery

    I am thoroughly enjoying this trip down pretty pocket lane.
    Yours cordially,
    Pocket Lover

  12. I have had this discussion with my sewing friends. For the most part, I don’t like pockets. They create bulk. I agree that most coats need them; and, Chanel-inspired jackets. I have a blouse pattern where the pockets are a part of the design, but they are not meant to be used. I don’t like front pockets in jeans, even though they are part of the design. The lining always makes it way out and I am constantly messing with them. I never use them, so I sew them closed and cut off the lining with pinking shears. Still have the design element but not the constant fiddling and I have eliminated bulk at my hips. Younger generations love pockets, they want a place to put their cell phone, even in wedding and special occasion dresses. Most of my sewing friends are the same way, they will add pockets if the pattern doesn’t call for them. With an hourglass figure, I don’t need more bulk at my hips.

  13. LindaC

    I really regret not putting pockets in my pajamas. I must have pockets.

  14. I’m late to this discussion but really enjoyed the entire post + comments! I’m on the fence about pockets. Don’t want them in slim pants, do want them in coats. I like them, not so much for holding things but for warming my hands! BTW, I LOVED your observation that ‘fashion and style in the 1950s was at its zenith, both in elegance and in silhouette’ and can hardly wait for the day we get to see your post on that topic! All best xo

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