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The Pocket Problem: Why women demand more, better pockets in clothing for equality and safety

WTAE Pittsburgh logo WTAE Pittsburgh 5/4/2021
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Clothes come in all sorts of colors and shapes and sizes and styles to appeal to a multitude of people, but there's a group of women who say, right now, there's a big problem that's persisted for years: a lack of pockets.

This story started during one of WTAE's weekend morning news shows. We were talking about a local fashion designer's new deal with Macy's, and from that point, curiosity was woven on a clothing conundrum.

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We went around downtown Pittsburgh asking women if a lack of pockets was an actual problem, and not just a running joke.

This is a men's jacket, said Amber Lasure as she flourished her jacket's inside pockets.

"You guys have pockets everywhere!" said Christina Boroa. You've have pockets on your sides, pockets in the back, and then pockets inside of that pocket on the side and then a pocket in the side of the pocket on top of the pocket. That's too many pockets for you guys!"

"I go out all the time and I have to put things in my boyfriend's pockets!" said Kelcie Bartek.

"I don't think it makes a difference to me," said Julia Alvarado, who noted she travels on public transportation constantly, and so she keeps multiple bags with her.

To learn why designers don't always put pockets on women's clothing, we went to local fashion designer Kiya Tomlin, the designer mentioned earlier.

We met with Tomlin in her workshop/store combo in Etna, Pennsylvania. It's filled with fabrics, design patterns, hardworking women and dresses with no shortage of pockets.

When we first started talking, we notice Tomlin's physical stance while chatting and wearing one her her dresses: She had her hands in her pockets.

"If we can put a pocket in it, we do our best to put a pocket in it," said Tomlin. "Women want freedom of hands, and I think this goes something to the more. The less you have to carry, the less freedom you have."

Tomlin said she believes with the number of men designing clothes, that could be a possible reason behind the pocket problem.

"They are thinking more aesthetically instead of functionally, and when you have women designers we can do both," said Tomlin.

But not everyone agrees wholeheartedly with Tomlin's point, including fashion historian Dr. Kimberly Chrisman-Campbell.

"There's definitely some truth to that," said Chrisman-Campbell, "but there are some other reasons as well. We can't blame it all on male designers."

Chrisman-cambpbell argues women designers tend to be more body conscious and that could mean there's no room for pockets on some clothes.

"Women have historically been more ornamental, they haven't had jobs," said Chrisman-Campbell. "They haven't needed a lot of pockets. If they were rich, they maybe had servants to carry what they needed, or their husbands would have 12 pockets and they would have none."

She says when some women did work, they had pockets. Eventually handbags and purses would become fashionable, but women such as Audrey Glickman question: Why have a purse when your clothes have space for pockets?

"We've been the oppressed majority having no pockets!" said Glickman.

Glickman is a guardian of the garment; a "pocket protector" so to speak.

She reached out to Pittsburgh's Action News 4 after the pocket comment on our show and encouraged Chris Lovingood to read the book she wrote on pocket equality, so he did.

Equal pay, equal rights and other social issues, Glickman argues pockets play a role.

"It's not only that men pay for things and they have their wallets in their pockets and women shouldn't have that because the men are going to pay for them and that's already subjugating women," said Glickman.

Plus, she says women put stuff, their keys and money in their pockets, too; however, if those pockets aren't deep enough, they can't keep cell phones in them.

On Oct. 27, 2018, inside the Tree of Life Synagogue, Glickman needed her phone, but it wouldn't fit in her pocket.

"The phone was in the purse on the bench," said Glickman. "The shooter was over there, the purse was over there, the door was over there, and I went that way. The men had their phones on their bodies. I wasn't the only woman who didn't have her phone because the purse got stuck in the crime scene."

She said when friends couldn't get ahold of her they thought she died.

Glickman says if her pockets had been deep enough, she knows her phone would have been in it.

"If everyone is carrying a phone, there's no reason we can't have a place for our phones in our clothing. I know this isn't the biggest problem confronting humanity right now, but it is a contributing factor to many of those problems."

The women interviewed for this story and even those who didn't appear mostly said the same thing: Fashion designers don't have to reinvent the wheel. Women just want more and deeper pockets.

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