· blog, Craft of Use, Events, Sustainable Fashion · , ,

by Tara Baoth Mooney; she talks us through pockets and Kate Fletcher’s event on Wednesday “Craft of Use”

I’m off to London on Monday to attend the “Craft of Use” event organized by Kate Fletcher and hosted by The Centre for Sustainable fashion at the London College of Fashion.

Some of the my ongoing work on pockets will be on show at the event which was commissioned by Local Wisdom, a project of the Centre for Sustainable Fashion. http://localwisdom.info/ . The project’s aim is to investigate ideas and practices which enhance the quality and satisfaction of fashion provision and expression in an age alert to resource scarcity and climate crisis. (Fletcher, K. 2013)

As the Craft of Use looks at use practices associated with clothing, I gathered up a small group of people and we found ‘pick your pocket’ a home for a day in London at the georgous Here Today Here tomorrow shop in Dalston.

Here we unpicked poked, prised open and transformed people’s pockets into the  pockets they’ve always desired.

We recorded and listened to stories about people’s pockets, the many mixed emotions attached to pocket use, and the role they play in our lives, both today and in the past.  The true transformation of any garment it seems often starts with a pocket overhaul… A sense of  euphoria descended on the room as pockets were overhauled from small use-less pockets to perfectly shaped use –full pockets. Pockets were added, extended, mended and garments were re-appreciated. In fact satisfaction levels were pretty high all thanks to the humble pocket.


If we look back at how pockets were used in the past we see that a look inside any pocket from the mid 1700’s to the present day, would hold the stuff needed for everyday living, and also betray our innermost secrets! Tie-on pockets came into use to replace the use of girdles worn outside the skirt and hung with small tools sometime in the 17th century. Pockets have always played a quietly significant part in the lives of women who did not have the same social standing as men, and therefore had very little privacy. Women’s pockets held the paraphernalia of their daily round of household and family life giving us insights into their work, leisure and status. Items related to sewing, thread, thimbles, pins and needles, as well as items such as buttons and buckles, were sometimes carried in a rolled-up holder known as a ‘huswif’, a corruption of ‘housewife’. Also carried were nutmeg graters, little boxes for snuff, sweets and medicines, watches, pocket combs and mirrors, tweezers and ear-picks, perfume, simple cosmetics and balms, as well as prayer books, glasses and handkerchiefs.

A tie on pocket usually lived under large petticoats and skirts safely out of reach from prying eyes or pocket pickers. However, this made for great thievery- as a woman, you could hide objects very easily under voluminous skirts. Court reports from the 17 and 1800’s show a range of sizeable stolen goods found in women’s pockets including chickens, lengths of cloth, shawls and even five glass tumblers taken from a warehouse. The tie- on pocket started to fall out of daily use in the 19th Century as fashions changed and women started to work outside the home. Purses were often carried. Pocket books were also common. These were designed to fit the pocket and were produced commercially in large numbers, the 18th and 19th century equivalent of Filofaxes and Palm Pilots. Over the shoulder bags and hand-bags started to replace them as skirts got less voluminous and shorter and women started to cycle. In the early 20th century tie on pockets were being used particularly in the fishing communities of Wales and Scotland. Now they are a rare occurrence. Older traveler women in Ireland still carry small trinkets and memorabilia in ‘beady pockets’ which are highly decorated pouches worn around the waist.

A Traveller woman’s ‘beady pocket’ – part purse, part handbag, part sewing kit. Courtesy Linen Hall Library.


Pocket use as we know it has not really changed that much in 200 years. The pocket started out as an attachable appendage, usually worn inside garments and close to the body. Our pockets have shape-changed, from a simple receptacle into pockets which are attached to clothing, bum bags, utilitarian cargo pockets, pocket bags or hand bags and purses… What is contained within a pocket, remains firmly in the realm of daily human living. What has changed however, is the actual pocket itself- the container. WE LOVE POCKETS!

Video my pockets my space….

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