Thursday, 24 May 2018

Fixing fast fashion: adding pockets to your clothes

“I like your dress”

If you’ve spent any time on the internet in the last few years, you’ll probably be familiar with this meme. If you’re a person who wears dresses, chances are you will have said exactly the same thing when someone compliments your outfit.

Everyone seems to love pockets, but fast fashion cost-cutting means that they are often left out of dresses, skirts and even some trousers designed for women. Visiting the Balenciaga exhibition at the V&A last year, I was struck by how many of the couture evening coats and capes had pockets; private clients must have been requesting pockets for occasionwear as well as more practical everyday clothes. It is frustrating that at a time when we have devices that help us to live our lives on the go, we have nowhere to store these devices about our persons. My smartphone is at the small end of the scale, and I wouldn’t trust it to stay put in some trouser pockets. Rachel Charlton-Dailey points out the disparity between the sensible-sized pockets in clothing designed for men, and the frequently useless or fake pockets in womenswear in her article for the Nopebook,  Pockets Are A Tool Of The Patriarchy.

One solution is to add pockets to our own clothes, the easiest of course being a patch pocket, a square or rectangle stitched onto the garment around three sides. If you prefer a pocket that is less of a design feature, it’s easier than you might think to add a pocket into the side seam of any garment that isn’t skin tight. I’ve chosen this skirt to demonstrate on as I was going to shorten it to mid-calf anyway, so I’ll have enough fabric to make my pocket bags from the piece I cut off the hem. If you want to add pockets to a garment that you aren’t planning to alter, buying a piece of fabric about 30-50cm wide in a similar material to your garment should give you enough to make two pockets. 

To work out the size of my pocket bag I used my hand as a guideline; allowing at least 3-4cms all the way round means I have a decent sized pocket and enough seam allowance. 

I cut out two pairs of pockets (4 separate fabric pieces) and overlocked them together around the bottom and ‘inside’ edge. It’s easy to do this with a regular sewing machine too: sew a line 1cm away from the edge of the fabric, then use a zig-zag stitch on the edge to stop the fabric from fraying.

I am extending my pocket bag up into the waistband to anchor it more securely, but you can cut your pockets without this if you are short on fabric. If you’re doing this, your fabric pieces will look more like a pair of mittens without thumbs, so you can sew all the way around your pocket pieces at this stage, just leaving the opening for your hand.

You will need to unpick a section of the side seam of your garment to insert the pocket; it’s easiest to start at least 3-4cm below the waistband. I unpicked a section that was 15cm long, then backstitched the ends of the original seam so that they wouldn’t unravel any more. I then marked a 15 cm gap on the open edge of my pocket bag and finished off the edge above and below these marks, leaving a 1cm seam allowance around the open edge of my pocket bag.

To attach the pocket, pin the seam line on your garment to the seam line on your pocket bag with the right sides facing each other. Machine stitch all around the opening of the pocket, then finish off the raw edge with a zig-zag stitch.

You can then press the edges of the pocket so they lie flat and don’t show against the edge of the garment. If you are attaching the top of the pocket bag to the waistband, you can do this by hand if you don’t want to open the waistband up. Otherwise, you can pin the top edge of the pocket bag into place and sew from the right side of the garment so your stitch line will be as unobtrusive as possible.

And... you’re done! Sling your phone, keys or bus pass into your new pockets for a low maintenance life on the go. Now, when someone compliments you on your outfit, you’ll be able to say “Thanks! It has pockets!”

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