A pocket-sized history of the pocket, in honor of the iPhone 6 and 6s.
A pocket-sized history of the pocket, in honor of the iPhone 6 and 6s. - 
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The iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus descend upon us today, and tech reviewers are throwing it a pretty elaborate welcome party. Amid the loving descriptions of its crisp camera, the odes to its intuitive operating system and the near-reverence for its sleek lines and its mystical Apple-ness, one question (quite literally) looms large: Is the bigger iPhone 6 Plus a "pocketable" size?

Case in point:

The Verge's Nilay Patel started his video review like this...

...and ended it like this:

Lance Ulanoff at Mashable wasn't sold on the 5.5-inch "phablet" (OK, maybe there is more than one controversy over this phone):

 Yahoo’s David Pogue agrees:

“The small of hand won’t be thrilled about the added width. The iPhone 6 Plus, in particular, is a pocket-filler.” 

The list goes onThe conversation hinges on the company's decision to release a gigantic phone. However  and we're not the first to point out  the "pocket problem" would be more accurately described as a "men's pocket problem."

Most "pockets" in women's clothing, are, pretty much without question, useless. Some won't open at all. A demonstration:

The great gendered pocket divide is real, and it did not happen by accident. As Christian Dior is reported to have said in 1954: "Men have pockets to keep things in, women for decoration." 

This is how it happened:


Pockets used to do a lot more than decorate, writes fashion historian Barbara Burman in of "Pockets of History: The Secret Life of an Everyday Object." Most 17th and 18th century women tied separate pocket bags underneath their dresses, which they would access through a slit in their skirts and petticoats. 

Owners thought of them as meaningful pieces of clothing in their own right. They would often spend years embroidering and embellishing them - after all, for many people who shared close quarters, a pocket was one of few truly private places to keep personal possessions.  

Early 1800s

As the 18th century turned into the 19th, however, women's pockets shrunk and sometimes disappeared  especially for those with means.

"The design of the times was 'Greek Goddesses,'" says fashion historian Elizabeth Morano, a professor at Parsons School of Design. "Women...would study the ancient texts and couldn't find pockets, so they didn't use them in the dress. Some of those stories are just stories, but the line was a lot more sleek. Think of the neoclassical dress. It's straight up and down. The line of the clothing changes completely." 

Take, for instance, this portrait of Empress Josephine, hanging out in a forest circa 1805:


She wasn't wearing a pocket under her empire gown, and neither were her wealthy contemporaries. Inner-clothing storage space gave way to the external "reticule," considered a precursor to the modern handbag. They were carried on arms or in hands, and they held just about nothing. Curators at the Victoria and Albert Museum say reticules had "barely enough room for a hankie and a coin, never mind the mirror, watch, keys, needlecase and oranges that a pocket usually contained."

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