"Pockets for no purpose are fashion's newest decoration", announced a feature published in January 1940 on Life magazine. The feature focused on a new trend launched by French couturiers and maybe inspired by the attire of soldiers, hunters, mailmen and mechanics.
The magazine stated that pockets had indeed become the sensation of the moment, some were "as big as pouches" and they were plastered on coats, dresses, slacks and evening gowns.
In Paris, while other designers included military pockets, knapsack pockets and pockets inspired by kangaroos' pouches in their creations, Schiaparelli applied maxi pockets to jumpsuits and dresses and called them "cash and carry pockets", they were indeed supposed to be large bags in which you could store all your needs during air raids.
In Europe women went around carrying gas masks, identification papers and ration cards, so pockets had a purpose; in the United States women would have them used instead only for decorative purposes as proved by American designer Clare Potter who adopted the trend coming up with a dinner dress that featured sandwich pockets hanging from the waist but not attached to the skirt.
The trend continued during the years that followed as proved by a Christian Dior 1949 black wool dress coat characterised by four large utility pockets, by a 1950 purple wool coat by Jacques Fath in which the pocket flaps were almost used to imitate the shape of a peplump jacket and by another Schiaparelli coat from 1952 with incredibly deep pockets.
At the same time the trend started becoming more controlled and, in the same year, Hermès created several trompe l'oeil pieces - from dresses to raincoats - on which the pockets turned from functional and useful into a cartoonish decorative fun feature.
Yet, as seen in a previous post, huge pockets reappeared on the scene with a Yohji Yamamoto black wool gabardine coat from the designer A/W 2004-05 collection.
Besides, Christian Lacroix paid homage to Schiap with his one-off collection for the maison, with a wool crepe jumpsuit and a coat that featured large pockets evoking the functionality of the "Cash and Carry" collection.
Big pockets will make a comeback in the Spring/Summer 2017 season as Consuelo Castiglioni at Marni reintroduced them on the scene.
Her collection, showcased last Sunday during Milan Fashion Week, revolves around basic and functional separates that could be filed in the utility wear category.
Most jackets, shirts, round-shouldered jumpsuits and dresses featured saddle-like bags attached at the waist that gave the impression models wore padded garments around the hip area.
Variation was introduced via dresses in micro florals and modernist abstract prints ruched or gathered at the neck - a trick that seemed inspired by traditional costumes from Eastern European countries - and tied with threaded-through nautical rope, a basic and simple element turned into a key decorative (and functional) motif and also used in the bags .
Further contrasts were created with the accessories such as giant earrings, thick bejeweled bangles, rigid briefcases, and drawstring sacks, while a historical reference hid in the footwear, with pointy flats calling to mind the poulaines from the 14th century (yes, mixing, meshing and combining details from different historical times is definitely a trend for the next Spring/Summer season).
Though critics called it architectural, the collection was a game of dichotomies, with fluid and gathered lines juxtaposed to structured outfits, so it could be interpreted as an exercise in volume exploration and in layering modular pieces like multiple pockets, aprons and tunics.
The palette followed a natural progression of colours that went from white and beige to black, but included bleached lemon, mint, tomato, mauve, navy and chocolate.
In many ways this collection is directly linked to the above mentioned late '30s / early '40s designs, the only difference being that, in this case, the detached and semi-detached pairs of pockets are to be considered as modular elements that can be strapped on any sort of garment (but they are not designed to be overloaded, so watch out...).
The return of this trend is perfectly understandable considering we all carry around several items and objects including technological devices such as smartphones, chargers and headphones that have turned for many of us into vital extensions of their bodies.
You like the utility pocket trend, but think the look of these huge pockets won't suit you? For different pocket inspirations, go back in time to the images showing a fun "pocket competition" from the '40s at the Madison Square Boys Club in New York. The main prize went to the boy with the most miscellaneous collection of things in his pockets.
Timmy won in a jacket by Abe Rosenberg, a volunteer teacher at the club who designed hunting and fishing clothes and who created a suit with 23 pockets and 27 slide fasterners. Little Timmy in the picture hid in them several objects including a photograph, a feather, a corkscrew, a padlock, a ticket, a fishing line, a roll of wire, a bulb, a washer, and even a turtle. Ingenius isn't it?