Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Inky Update :: Looking in Old Pockets



Who would have thought that Ms Martini would be opening such a bag of worms when she suggested that Inky might have been unknowingly carried off in someone’s pocket? Personally, I thought it would be a simple matter of getting everyone in the world to (circumspectly and warily) look in their pockets, and photograph or list the contents and post to either my Diary or the comments thread @ 'Desperately Seeking Spider’ (the latter has become the central hub of our search for Inky).

Of course, nothing in life is that easy. It seems that pockets are more numerous now than they’ve ever been, and that they have been central to many societies for time immemorial. There are more pockets out there than you could possibly shake a stick at, so we’ll have to start searching them systematically.

Being as logical as I could be about the challenge, I thought that I would start with somewhere that collects pockets – that way I could get a whack of them searched all at once. The Victoria and Albert have a special section devoted to historical pockets – and, as one could expect, back it up with a wealth of expertise and information.

Women’s clothes did not feature pockets until the mid 19th century – which explains why our pockets are always too small and shallow and why our jackets don’t have inside pockets. We haven’t had enough pocket practice. It takes centuries for clothes-makers to learn how to make pockets adapted to specifically female anatomy.

In the olden days when I was a child, women wore their pockets on the outside, slung around their waists*. And they were inevitably stuffed with the most wonderful things – pills and potions in enamelled boxes, sticks of chewing-baccy and boxes of snuff and bags of biscuits, knives and scissors, pincushions and thimbles, pies and fruit, keys, money, pencils and paints, books, small animals and infant children, sticks, bones, organs… the list goes on and on. Although I must say I never saw a spider in one… although slaters, beetles, centipedes and various other insects were not uncommon.

Personally I used to hide inside my own pockets when I wanted to get out of doing my homework or helping with maintaining the sponge-cat containment field.

Along with pictures of ornate embroidered pockets, the V&A covers pockets in popular parlance, devotes a section to what people used to carry in their pockets, has instructions for making your own – and even has a ‘Spot the Pocket’ game (this has proved to be a handy reference for those occasions when I haven’t been sure).

Pockets at the V&A >>
More historical info from The Costumer's Manifesto >>

* Ergo, that little twit Lucy Locket and her lost pocket…

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