Thursday, 5 June 2014

Georgian pockets

A pair of Georgian pockets  Replicas made by Embellished
A pair of Georgian pockets
Replicas made by Embellished
A pair of pockets

In an age before handbags, ladies used pockets to carry around their personal possessions underneath their skirts. These were not the small pockets we have sewn into our garments today, but deep cloth bags which were completely separate from a lady’s dress.

Pockets usually came in pairs on a cord and were fastened around the waist over a lady’s shift and under-petticoat but below her petticoats. There were slits in the side seams of the petticoats so that these pockets could be accessed. They were often handmade and might be given as gifts, although they could also be bought ready-made from a haberdasher’s shop.

I tried on a pair of pockets made by Joanna Tyrrell of Embellished at the International Living History Fair in October last year. I am afraid that they do not look right over trousers, but it does give you an idea of how big these pockets were!

A pair of pockets modelled by Rachel Knowles at the International Living History Fair
A pair of pockets as modelled by me
at the International Living History Fair
What would you find in a pocket?

All manner of objects might be found in a pocket including money, letters, a journal, a handkerchief, a pair of scissors, a comb, writing implements, keys, a watch, glasses, a snuffbox, smelling salts, food and sewing accessories.

London souvenir box showing the Queen's Palace  From the Museum of London's collection
London souvenir box showing the Queen's Palace
from the Museum of London's collection
As pockets often held items of value, they were liable to theft by ‘pickpockets’, who would cut the pocket strings and steal the pockets as they fell or slash the pockets and retrieve the contents. Sometimes people slept with their pockets underneath their pillows to protect them from being stolen.

Georgian pockets go out of fashion

When dresses became more fitted in the 1790s, pockets went out of fashion and ladies started carrying their possessions around in reticules, which were, in effect, outside pockets.

Reticule
from La Belle Assemblée (1812)
Sources used include:
Bell, John, La Belle Assemblée (John Bell, 1806-1837, London)
V&A Museum website

All photographs © Andrew Knowles - www.flickr.com/photos/dragontomato

4 comments:

  1. What an interesting post. These are the kind of pockets from the rhyme Lucy Locket lost her pocket, Kitty Fisher found it ... It's great to see what they look like.

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    1. Thank you :) I had difficulty visualising what they looked like before and found it really helpful to try them on.

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  2. I had heard of these pockets in the past, but was never able to get a good impression of what they actually looked like. Now I know :) Thanks for the post and the pictures.

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    1. I found it hugely helpful to try a pair on. I'm so glad that sharing my experience was useful. :)

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