18th century clothes, 18th century clothing, common dress, fashion, pockets, style, women's history
The V&A’s extensive article includes many hints about what might be in woman’s pockets.
Sharon Burnston, on the Historic New England site, points out that “Pockets thus represent the kind of dilemma that objects of material culture can present to scholars. Much is known about how and when these items were made, but evidence of how they were used remains fragmentary and tantalizing.”
Fragmentary and tantalizing indeed!
Another scholar posits that “Pockets empowered women in many ways: they allowed them to carry possessions around with them for practical and personal uses, and gave them rights of ownership and privacy. I argue that decorative pockets also heightened women’s self-esteem by making them to feel more attractive – and that they esteemed their pockets in return.”
As we can see from this diagram from the Workwoman’s Guide, pockets could take many shapes, and the extant evidence bears this out. There are oblong pockets, and more rectangular pockets, rounder pockets, longer and shorter and wider pockets. One suited one’s self, and cut one’s pattern to one’s cloth.
The identification of pockets with self, with intimacy and privacy, is explored in Women’s Pockets and the Construction of Privacy in the Long Eighteenth Century, by Ariane Fennetaux.
Fennetaux’ article and the V&A page on pockets were particularly useful in enumerating more specific kinds of items that might be carried in an 18th century woman’s pocket.
Using cases from the Old Bailey, we can begin to draft possible contents lists.
A pair of silver buttons
A pair of buckles
A pen knife
A silver spoon
A pair of scissors
Nutmeg and grater
An orange or an apple
Pen or pencil
When Pamela runs away, she takes with her, in her pocket, two handkerchiefs, two caps and five or six shillings.
Of all the listed things, what might Bridget have carried? Some of the things she carried would be needed, but others would be wanted.
Tracy L. said:
Reblogged this on "Persons of a Mean and Vile Condition" and commented:
Kitty Calash, a blogger & historian I greatly admire, has brought attention to an article at the V&A (The Victoria & Albert Museum) about pockets. In turn, I’d like to bring it to attention to anyone reading.
Pockets were an extremely useful item. I wear one in my own reenactment play. I made it of left over chintz from a short gown, and it contains both modern items (such as a mobile phone) and modern versions of everyday items that would have been carried by our historical sisters (coin purse, hairpins, etc). I carry my scissors, pincushion and small watch on a plain chatelaine.
I’ve even used my 18th century pocket in modern life. If I’m working on a sewing project and wearing comfy knit pants, I’ll tie on my pocket to hold my measuring tape, scissors, pin box and any other tools I need close to hand. I don’t loose them under a pile of fabric or knock them off the table that way!
I’ve been absent from the blog for a couple of weeks, but I assure you that I haven’t abandoned the place already. My series looking at clothing in both “Costume in Detail” and “Patterns of Fashion” is still in the lineup.
Tracy L. said:
Erk. Please delete. I didn’t realize that adding to my reblog would comment directly on your article. My reblog doesn’t really further the conversation. I did still post about it, though – http://personsofameanandvilecondition.wordpress.com/2014/04/06/im-still-here-and-a-link-to-an-excellent-article/
Sorry for any mess!
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