Fairly Functional: On Sexist Sizing and Pocket Politics

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SEXISM: now pocket-sized! Except if you’re a woman, in which case, your pockets probably aren’t big enough, so you’ll have to stuff it in your purse. If you’ve ever had the displeasure of trying to jam something into the pocket of your jeans, only to realize that the pocket is just a dumb piece of fabric sewn on to look like a pocket when it is, in fact, fake, you may have wondered if there’s some kind of evil conspiracy afoot to keep women stuck carrying purses everywhere. No, you thought to yourself, That would be ridiculous. And then you saw a guy grab his keys and stuff them in his pocket and you switched your bag from one shoulder to the other.

Thanks to the new iPhone 6 Plus, the conspiracy has been exposed, and it is very, very real. It turns out that at about 5.5 inches, the new iPhone isn’t easily jammed into anyone’s pocket, but it’s especially too big to fit in womens’ pockets. Brands like J. Crew and American Eagle are reportedly looking into changing the design of their clothing to accommodate the new, larger iPhone, but as Jezebel’s Tracy Moore writes, it’s not so much about getting pockets on women’s clothing big enough to hold the iPhone: “Women going pocketless is an under-addressed, silent epidemic that has infantilized us all and given us a big giant baby’s purse to deal with in its stead.” The issue is getting pockets in women’s clothing to hold anything at all. Like a chapstick, I.D. and maybe car keys, or a balled-up $5 bill. So, not that much to ask for. The only reason I even carry a purse is because none of my clothes have functional pockets and because I don’t enjoy the look of the rectangular ass-cheek that comes with sticking my phone in the butt pocket of my jeans. I have looked for pockets, but there are none to be found.

As Moore points out, the sad truth is that women’s clothing isn’t made to be functional, thanks to the fashion-industry’s (mostly male) assumption that women don’t require functional clothing, or the idea that pockets aren’t feminine. “I honestly believe the fashion industry is not helping women advance,” said Camilla Olson, a creative director at a fashion firm interviewed by Tanya Basu of The Atlantic. Olson continues, “We [women] know clearly we need pockets to carry technology and I think it’s expected we are going to carry a purse” and Basu adds, “A man can simply swipe up his keys and iPhone on the way to a rendezvous with co-workers and slip them into his pocket. A woman on the way to that same meeting has to either carry those items in her hand, or bring a whole purse with her — a definitive, silent sign that she is a woman.” Cross-body bags are just as obnoxious, and they’ve been known to cause back pain, which leaves women with no real alternatives than to drag around a too-heavy bag full of unwrapped tampons and loose raisins and gum wrappers. What are purses if not mobile garbage cans? Pockets would help to avoid this.

It might seem like an unimportant issue in the grand scheme of things, but as Moore writes, pockets would be life-changing. Not a cross-body bag. Not a fanny pack. Actual, real pockets. Women deserve to have clothes that do what clothes are supposed to do, which is to keep us warm and hold our sh*t without having to suffer the indignity of accidentally pulling out an unwrapped tampon at the ATM.

And while it’s great that the iPhone 6 is forging this potential shift, Basu says not to expect any swift change (or at least not before Fall 2015, given the typical design-to-street timetable).

And even then, there is the issue of the aesthetics of adding pockets, or rather, balancing them with functionality. Pockets are not always “the ideal solution:”

Women’s pockets are often located near the hip area, where many women would prefer not to attract attention. For that problem, Olson thinks a holster-type of product would work best — a compromise between having a purse and placing an unsightly bulge around what is culturally perceived in the West as a “problem area.”

But this is not a pocket, it’s an accessory, and I don’t want to carry a purse for the same reason I don’t want to wear a holster or a fanny pack. Do not mention the cross-body purse to me — it’s a terrific boob separator, but it’s still a purse! Kozlowski tells Basu that active brands have come up with clever ways to incorporate storage into women’s clothing that manages to remain elegant — always with the elegance — and perhaps they can offer insight. I submit that in this area, we can have both form and function more often. But the real reason is that pockets are just not considered super-feminine.

Camilla Olson tells Basu:

“Things are just more aesthetically-driven to silhouette and embellishment and approach to design in general,” she said. “I have to remind my students [if they’re designing a] $5000 coat that they might want a pocket.”

But as long as we go without pockets, we are stuck holding the literal bag.

Women’s clothing items barely ever have functional pockets, which could be a sexist marketing ploy to keep us attached to our need to carry a purse. It’s time we demand pocket equality.

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