When we found Hazel Beeler’s extraordinary letter to the New Yorker about pockets, we hadn’t read Hua Hsu’s piece about Hanna Carlson’s book “Pockets: An Intimate History of How We Keep Things Close”. The letter was enough: rich with ideas and revelations (We’ve bold-faced the extraordinary improvisations she makes to her clothing — including undershirts):

As an unabashed fan of pockets, I enjoyed Hua Hsu’s piece about Hannah Carlson’s history of them (Books, September 25th). I am a woman, and when I joined the Marine Corps, in 1972, my dress uniform had a tiny, useless shirt pocket. I was also issued a big black handbag that started to fall apart before my four years were up. I was not allowed to carry that monster in formation, and I once came back to it to find my wallet missing. (It turned up in the men’s-room trash, fifty dollars lighter.) Since then, I’ve kept my belongings in pants or shirt pockets—as I say, never, in all the escapades of my youth, did I manage to lose my pants. But Hsu was right to point out the shockingly small proportions of the pockets on women’s jeans.

When I received a bunch of hand-me-downs recently, I took off the back pockets and replaced them with ones from old Levi’s. I also grafted pockets onto the front, so that those extend halfway down to my knees. I add an extra pocket to shirts that have only one. Right now, the pockets on my pants hold a wallet (right back); checkbook, pen, and handkerchief (left back); keys (right front); and change, lip balm, and a little case for my hearing aids (left front). In my shirt: some thumb drives (right), and to-do and grocery lists (left). I make my own undershirts, and those have pockets, too. I don’t have a cell phone, but if I ever get one I will make a pocket for it.

Hazel Beeler
Newport, Va.

Beeler is a woman after our own hearts, with the kind of sensibility the early Improvised Life worked to bring to life: people who fearlessly tailor and amend and hack particular aspects of their lives to make it work better and more comfortably. We hadn’t considered pockets, but Beeler made us see them in a new light: Pockets as support system, facilitator of personal freedom.

(We’d give anything to see her undershirt with pockets. Out of curiosity, we search “undershirt with pockets” and found an Instructable about how to make one; the author hudasx calls it “a secret travel hiding accessory“).

Custom blue jean pockets by sewandrew.com

Judging from the many how-tos for adding pockets to clothes there are on the web (witness the image from craftsy’s How to Add a Pocket to a Dress, at top), we’re thinking there is a lot of yearning for pockets going on.

We’ve discovered there are those like Andrew of SEWANDREW.com who have a passion for pocket aesthetics, even those hidden, unseeable, inside the clothes…

Custom blue jean pockets by sewandrew.com

Hua Hse asks the bigger question:

…is this pocket preoccupation purely a matter of pragmatism or does it reflect some deeper psychological need?

Custom blue jean pockets by sewandrew.com

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2 replies on “Pockets as Facilitator of Personal Freedom

  1. Loved your pocket focus! I too have lived in the land of pockets for some time. As a sewer, my garments become well-worn favorites when they include pockets.
    I created a pattern, ‘Just Pockets’ with 60 pocket patterns and all the various ways to install them. A labor of love for us like-minded carriers of small things.
    Enjoy, Diane Ericson Design

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