Clothing,  History,  Isobel Carr,  Regency,  Research

Pockets in the Regency and Beyond

That’s right. You heard me: POCKETS.

There have been so many bad takes out there on the history of pockets in the past couple of years. What they have in common is that they’re written by people who aren’t costume historians. Because I am here to tell you, pockets were a thing for women in our era of focus. They didn’t magically disappear and turn into to “reticules” as many people maintain (this was gospel once upon a time, but has been thoroughly disbunked).

When you look at period gowns (especially morning gowns and day dresses), you see “pocket holes” on a lot of them. These are invisible in most of the pictures you see on museum sites though, and their existence is often not noted in the description. But if you look at books like COSTUME IN DETAIL by Nancy Bradfield, you’ll quickly see that there are pocket holes all over the place.

Gown, 1806-1808. Note the “pocket hole” under the right arm.
Gown, 1815-1822. Note the “one slit” (aka a pocket hole) on the right side.
Gown, 1825-1828. Note the slit on the right that is specifically refrenced as an opening to reach the pocket.
Fuller undergarments c. 1825-1835. Pockets are still absolutely worn.
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Gail Eastwood
3 years ago

Brava, Isobel!! Thank you for this post, establishing beyond arguing that our female characters can indeed have pockets. A reticule large enough for a “pocket pistol” would have been ridiculously unfashionable, to say the least!! 🙂 When I think about the tied-on variety of pockets women used to wear, I think of the old nursery rhyme and how much more sense it makes when you understand the sort of “pocket” Lucy lost: “Lucy Locket lost her pocket /Kitty Fisher found it./Not a penny was there in it/Only ribbon round it.”
There’s so much misinformation and so many illustrations that make the mistake of equating her “pocket” with a modern purse. Some even change the words!!

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