Why are women’s pants pockets so small?

Lauren Miller

Women have commented that women’s pockets in clothing tend to be a lot smaller than men’s. Chelsea G. Summer from The Guardian explained that in womens’ ”boyfriend jeans” the pockets are 14 centimeters deep, while in actual mens’ pants pockets are 23 centimeters deep. Why is there such a difference in men’s and women’s pocket size?

According to Rena Patel from The Odyssey, womens’ pockets have fluctuated throughout the centuries. In the 18th century, when women wore large ball gowns, pouches were hidden underneath their petticoat to carry things around. However, whenever more greek-inspired dresses (which are slim and form-fitting) came into style, pockets became nonexistent.

During World War II, when many women joined the workforce, women began to wear pants. The pants had bigger pockets than today’s average pair of jeans because they wore the pants that men wore to work. Whenever the war ended, women still wore pants. Patel explained that when designers realized that women were going to continue wearing pants, they made pants slimmer and “more appealing to the female figure.”

In the early 2000’s, skinny jeans came into style. Since this look required slimmer, more form-fitting clothing, adding bigger pockets would add more fabric to the front of the pants and it would lose its slim fit. Hence, women’s pockets became rare in the fashion industry.

So why do designers not add bigger pockets to womens’ pants again? It comes from the assumption that women will hold a purse to carry their belongings instead of putting them in their pockets. Since women don’t use their pockets because of handbags, they don’t add the extra space, hence having little to no pocket room. Summers said that  “because of this, handbags function as a kind of pink tax,’ the price added to everyday objects and services that are sold specifically to a female audience.” Since women have smaller pockets, they will buy handbags, therefore adding revenue to the fashion industry.  

However, there have been signs that women want pockets in their clothing. According to Catherine Snowdon from BBC, bags with “cross-body” straps have strong sales, “showing a demand for items that allow the hands to be free.” Brands like Cos and Fat Face implement sizeable pockets into women’s pants, allowing women to have the option of utilizing this feature that is rarely found in women’s clothing. For many, pockets are a desirable attribute in all types of clothing and women are choosing to buy clothing with functional pockets. Women’s pockets are small right now, but this could change in the future as. 

Was this article helpful?