LIZ JONES: What women really want in their dresses are pockets

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When the Duchess of Cambridge’s 40th birthday portraits were released, we knew we’d love her hair, her makeup, her overall Kate-ness.

But what we didn’t anticipate, and the unexpected joy that delighted the women, was the fact that her portrait featured . . . pockets.

Yes, pockets! Big, deep, substantial, concealing hands, buried in a spectacular one-shouldered scarlet robe. It was quite the moment.

“To my generation,” one millennial fashionista solemnly wrote on Twitter, “the pocket is the equivalent of the birth control pill.” Another added: ‘First we get the pockets, then we get the power, then we get the freedom!’

Amen, my sister.

The men were somewhat bewildered by the strength of feeling that mere pockets in a dress could evoke.

When the Duchess of Cambridge’s 40th birthday portraits were released, we knew we’d love her hair, her makeup, her overall Kate-ness

But they never had to struggle with a lack of pockets, or – even more insultingly – fake pockets. Women know what I mean; those promising suit jacket flaps that actually have nothing underneath. Or trouser pockets that couldn’t fit a 2p, let alone an iPhone.

For decades we have awkwardly juggled our possessions between our hands and our purses. No man understands the pain of holding a champagne flute, canape and clutch at a party, while someone leans in for a handshake or a kiss.

But now, dare I dream, the handbag is dead. Long live the pocket! Because they are discreet, cheap, democratic and leveling.

Look at Kate, looking regal yet relaxed in her red Alexander McQueen dress. What to do with his hands? Sorted. Can’t get enough of his phone? No problem.

A woman with her hand in her pocket, as seen in all these photos, is instantly made relaxed. With pockets in your dress or skirt, you stand taller; you are no longer crooked, your shoulders hurt. You feel free.

I imagine when Kate’s photo landed, blood ran from the faces of CEOs of luxury handbag brands around the world. Kind of like the moment Clark Gable took his shirt off onscreen to reveal he wasn’t wearing a vest.

The pocket trend has grown in recent years, both on the red carpet and in budget versions.

As these images show, the High Street is full of dresses with hidden depths – from sexy shirt dresses by high-end Ted Baker to floral midis by Boden.

But then, even wedding dresses come with pockets now. Designer Stella McCartney has long included pockets in her evening dresses. As a woman, she knows what their presence means. Because the pocket isn’t just a fashion statement, it’s also a political statement.

Historically, women were considered not to “need” pockets since men controlled the purse strings.

The pocket fell out of favor in the late 18th century, considered old-fashioned and low-rent, favored by aproned servants and rural types prone to theft.

The first modern handbag, introduced in the 1790s, was called a reticule, from the Latin reticulum, meaning a net bag. It quickly became known as ridiculous – an apt moniker considering what we modern women now spend on them.

As a result, the pockets were forced into hiding (or should it be a petticoat?), with upper-class women hiding them in petticoats. They have become an aid to feminist empowerment. Initially, the most commonly secreted item was a love letter; later, suffragette tracts.

A high point for pockets in women’s clothing was during the World Wars, when women got more utilitarian jobs and, arguably, more independence.

In Hollywood, a woman with a pocket denoted that she represented no nonsense. Take Bette Davis, putting them to stupendous effect in 1950s All About Eve.

There is even a wonderful book devoted to the subject: The Pocket: A Hidden History Of Women’s Lives, 1660-1900.

They don’t go with everything: pencil skirts and tight dresses are too tight. And don’t make it too much of a statement – a pocket should be inconspicuous. Too big, and you risk looking like a kangaroo.

But, oh, I’m glad to see them. If for nothing more than the presence of pockets finally frees women from the tyranny of this traditional photo pose, designed to make her look taller and thinner: one elbow on the hip, one lying down – like a teapot.

Instead, with pockets, we can just bury wandering hands, instantly making us look more confident.

It’s a small gesture from Kate. A giant leap for women.

They are now marching on the red carpet…

In bloom: Actress Sharon Stone at Cannes Film Festival 2021 resplendent in Dolce & Gabbana, costing over £12,000

In bloom: Actress Sharon Stone at Cannes Film Festival 2021 resplendent in Dolce & Gabbana, costing over £12,000

Knives out, hands in: Ana de Armas at the 2020 Golden Globes, wearing Ralph & Russo, £8,000

Knives out, hands in: Ana de Armas at the 2020 Golden Globes, wearing Ralph & Russo, £8,000

The Gingham Girl: Jenna Coleman at Wimbledon last year in Ralph Lauren, £249

The Gingham Girl: Jenna Coleman at Wimbledon last year in Ralph Lauren, £249

…and where to find them on High St

Short and sweet: Lily-Rose Depp at the Toronto International Film Festival last year, wearing Chanel, around £4,000

Short and sweet: Lily-Rose Depp at the Toronto International Film Festival last year, wearing Chanel, around £4,000

Versatile: Multicolor floral short-sleeved dress, £110, Boden

Versatile: Multicolor floral short-sleeved dress, £110, Boden

Effortless: floral print maxi, £295, Me+Em

Effortless: floral print maxi, £295, Me+Em

Trending top: Dark pink check with ruffled neckline, £145, Kitri

Trending top: Dark pink check with ruffled neckline, £145, Kitri

Statement print: pink and black t-shirt dress, £60, Boden

Statement print: pink and black t-shirt dress, £60, Boden

Tiered: Organic Cotton Design, £116, Baukjen

Tiered: Organic Cotton Design, £116, Baukjen

Subtle: Green shirt dress, £97, Ted Baker

Subtle: Green shirt dress, £97, Ted Baker

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