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Pockets and Purses


I was chatting with a coworker about this the other day. I don’t have a formal ‘desk’ at work, and I wasn’t sure if I could have my purse with me at my ‘desk’ because it’s sort of in the lab. I was assured that it was fine to have it, and then the conversation veered off to guys, and how men can live with just what’s in their pockets all day. We female-types tend to prefer to carry a purse for our gear.

Why not pockets? Well, for the last several months at work I’ve lived out of my pockets because I didn’t think I could set my purse under my table (and, by the way, for those of you who are picturing something girly or floral, my ‘purse’ is a battered canvas satchel). This was possible only because work doesn’t require me to wear ridiculous girl-garb while at work. In fact, although I could technically wear skirts at work, I probably never will because acid, and strong bases, and just no, thank you very much. Jeans, tees, lab coat, and boots. Comfortable and a nice barrier between me and splashes. So I have pockets in pants and lab coat (and I favor a pocket protector in my lab coat for the various pens and markers I use daily), and I can stuff what little I require in there.

When the First Reader sees this post, he’s going to smile and shake his head. I might work lean, but the purses I carry when roaming the wilds of Ohio (it’s a joke, people. There may be wilds in Ohio, but not where we live) are usually vast and roomy. I need vast and roomy, though! I mean, I’ve got sketchbooks, and pens, and usually an art kit (I have several small ones I rotate depending on what I’m in the mood for) and my camera, and probably a lens or three in there, and that’s not even getting into the random collection of what-nots any woman has in her purse at any given moment. I’m a mother. It’s a habit from the days of diaper bags and spare outfits for all of us because puke. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

I can streamline, and sometimes do. Although winding up yesterday evening out with my daughter shopping, I was a little too streamlined, having forgotten my phone on my desk. Funny how having a phone on you at all times has become a thing so quickly after that wasn’t even a science-fictional possibility when I was a kid. Now, my teen (pick one, any one. I have three!) is grafted onto hers and removing it will lead to blood, lots of blood. Not all of it hers.

I could forget my phone because I was switching from ‘work’ mode to ‘home’ mode. The First Reader, on the other hand, would feel naked if he ventured out without the contents of his pockets, which rarely vary. He switches the pocket stuff from dirty pants to clean in a morning ritual, and if on a weekend I want to do ALL the laundry, he reluctantly produces a hat and lets me put the wallet-keys-pen-knife-change-random nuts and bolts and screws into it for safe keeping until he’s got pockets to tuck them back away in. It occurs to me that the reason he gets the heebie-jeebies about getting something out of my purse (and if I ask him to bring me something from my purse, is just as likely to return with the whole darn thing so I can extract the item) is that reaching into my bag is akin to my shoving a hand into his pockets, while he was wearing them. It’s not that I couldn’t do that – I am his wife, after all, and random physical affection is not unknown nor unwelcome between us – it’s that in public that’s a bit too intimate and would feel weird.

The thing is, a lot of women’s clothing – like my interview suit I wore a couple of weeks ago – has no pockets at all. It’s cut to show the feminine silhouette, and heaven forbid you interrupt a curve with a bulging pocket. Frankly, I’d kill for a great suit with some discreet pockets, since I loathe having to tuck my ID into my executive folder, my car key in the top of my boot, and abandon everything else in the car when I go for an interview. Feeling half-undressed does not improve the interview experience, I assure you. I don’t carry a purse into an interview because I never know if there will be a place to put it, I don’t possess one that is sophisticated enough not to look weird (and have no inclination to buy such), and on occasion I interview in places where I couldn’t carry it with me. So… I don’t. Which means I need pockets.

A couple hundred years ago, in, say, the French and Indian War era (1740s, for those who aren’t up on their wars), women got to wear these handy pockets you tied around your waist and usually under a layer of skirts. They weren’t obvious, but you could reach through the slits on the skirt (designed for this purpose) and get what you needed. Plus, there was this amazing gadget called a Chatelaine. I still have one of those, and wore it regularly until I stopped performing. It was like jewelry for the waist, and it was intended to hold things like keys, sewing scissors, whatever you could clip onto it. I miss that. It was a whole lot more practical than sleek slacks or skirts with no pockets or even belt loops so you can put something on a belt. Sigh. I’d get funny looks if I went out dressed like that! Because I also love my jeans…

The Handbag of Holding: Camera, textbook or two, sketchpad, pens and pencils, mysterious girl-gear. This was while I was in college.

30 thoughts on “Pockets and Purses

  1. I read part of this to Hubs. His reaction: “Oh no. I’m not going in your purse.” LOL. And I don’t ask him to anymore. If I need something, I ask him to bring me the purse because that’s what he’s going to do anyway.

    I’ve carried a purse since middle school. The ‘handbag of holding’ is right. I have darn near everything in there. But… I also carry things in my pockets for easier access – keys, cell phone, pepper spray, smokes & lighter. When I’m fishing, I have my ‘go bag’ because I don’t want my purse at the lake. Gal’s gotta have her stuffs, doncha know,

    1. Yep! And I’m the same way – I have a bag that goes with me on hikes, but that’s not my purse. And at this point I have the ‘art purse’ and the small purse, and the other bag… LOL.

  2. Women have been shorted on the pocket front for decades. Even when we have pockets in our pants, they’re usually very shallow. I have been known to replace the 2 inch deep pockets in a comfortable pair of jeans with roomy, deep pockets of brightly patterned cotton (and placing patches of said cotton in the inside where thighs rub together).

    For dressing up however, I have discovered a company called eShakti. They have lost of designs, and lots of fabrics, and you can customize – change neckline, sleeves, shirt length, even add your particular measurements so the items made fit you better. And all of their dresses and skirts have POCKETS! Nice, deep, well-hidden pockets.They aren’t really pricey, though they’re more expensive than WalMart or Penneys, and the clothes are made in India and shipped here. And as someone who sews for pleasure and sanity, I can tell you that the items are well put together.

    Alternately? I have a small purse, just big enough for phone, ID, debit card and a couple dollars, that I can take with me when the big bag doesn’t cut it. And it fits just right in the big bag, where it serves as a wallet the rest of the time.

    1. The Smol Purse (because my daughters communicate in LOLcat so often I’ve picked it up) is a great idea and one I might incorporate. I have a pocketbook, where the checkbook lives, but that tends to stay on the desk because it’s really only a bill-paying thing.

    2. You aren’t the first person to tell me about eShakti and I will definitely look at it when it gets warmer and I want dresses for casual outside of work wear again. I tend to want my legs covered when there is snow on the ground.

  3. You pack like a Samwise. ^.^

    That is a good thing– my family has been known to cancel trips if something minor goes wrong and I don’t have the stuff to deal with it– it’s the green M&Ms in the dressing room. There’s snacks, and first aid kits, and a sewing kit, toys, and a clean set of clothes. Thank goodness my kids are still small enough that it fits in a pencil box, and one set will work for all of them.

    Guess my husband is a rare fellow, though– he’ll look, although how often he FINDS stuff is not assured. Usually we end up arguing about color or what is a pocket. 😀

    My “purse” is usually either a backpack or a messenger bag, although sometimes I find diaper bags that are actually well-designed enough for use.

      1. Yep. I have a small trauma kit in my glove box that Dad packed for me. 30 years in Emergency Medicine changes a man. I usually have a micro-kit in my purse, a larger one under the seat in the car, a small-but-extensive one in my hiking pack…

    1. My diaper bags were pretty much anything other than ‘diaper bags’ since, as you know, with four kids between toddler to infant, a diaper bag is a ridiculously small object for the amount of gear they need. It rapidly begins to resemble army field movements when you’re taking them for an outing.

      And thanks! I’m flattered 🙂 I pack like that because I’ve done enough traveling where there wasn’t going to be a convenient shop around to run in and pick up some forgotten item. You have it, or you don’t, and there’s no going back.

  4. *chuckle* My “purse” is actually a 5.11 backpack which has pockets and pockets. Pockets are a must, even in my bags – they help keep my stuff sorted. (Camera goes deep inside next to the notebook, sunglasses in the easy reach pocket, pharmacy is contained by a mesh inner pocket, clippers, file, mirror, even a flash drive neatly tucked in pouches.) My sister refuses to go into the bag, she says she can’t remember which pocket I keep what in – I think it is a hold over from the days of believing that Moms kept mouse traps in there.

    My current project is a set of caftans for my sister and me. I’ve discovered that the pockets are not quite large enough, so I am going to have to modify the pattern to make them larger. Must have pockets – deep pockets – even in knock around the house wear.

  5. I couldn’t make it through the day without pockets.

    my onboard pants pocket inventory currently includes knives, phone, wallet, coins, comb, guitar picks, a notebook, and lip balm. in my coat is a paperwhite kindle, keys (3 key rings), gloves, and the residue of a leaky contact drops bottle.

    I’m carrying a light load today since it’s my wife’s day off and we’re bumming around.

    In my bag of holding are phone/tablet chargers, tablets, pens, pencils, leatherman tool, adjustable wrench, snips, screwdrivers, USB cables, memory cards, USB drives, and the other stuff just I might need.

    Just refiled with the Sheriff’s Office for renewal on the other items I usually have along… waiting for them to go through the process since I let my license lapse…

  6. My pet peeve is dresses and tops that have one pocket, located where a man’s shirt would have a pocket for pens and pencils. Because in front of my left tit is exactly where I want to stow my keys and phone, right?

      1. Weeelll, they do make a nice place to clip an id badge, for those that a) work in offices that require id badges b) can’t wear them on a lanyard ((choking risk anyone)). I’ve hooked mine there when my belt clip broke.

        1. I keep my access card on my belt, but yes, that might work. Mine is on a retractable leash so I can scan door access points and not have to press my body against them in odd ways.

      2. Mom’s solution was to get the ones with the decorative peppermint-sized pockets on the side– cut off the bottom of the pocket, re-sew the point, and then she could keep two pens on each side.

  7. My husband calls my purse a bag of holding. And it’s not all that big, compared to the backpack I carry when I want to have notebooks with me. But it’s big enough that things can disappear under other things, so that I have to search and dig for them.

  8. Purse-ception is the game that I play. I can get by with a thread wallet (elastic money and card clip) and a phone as long as I have two pockets. I have a small wallet-like purse that lets me have a phone, my cards, cash, coins, flash drive, chapstick or travel painkiller, keys, and a couple tissues. That can go in the big nursing bag of holding, or the travel bag of holding (fits tablet, snacks for four people for 24 hours, umbrella, water bottles, sunglasses, etc.). Or I can use the bike panniers of holding, including the expandable insulated rack-top bag, capable of carrying frozen goods 20 miles home at my pedal rate on a 95 F day. Or I can say “screw it,” and wear the (purchased on strong sale) travel skirt I got from Scottevest that’s reasonably flattering and businesslike, but fits glasses, sunglasses, phone, keys, thread wallet, handkerchief, chapstick, travel painkiller, and me. On the other hand, our daughter has been known to declare, “I can get equal pay by getting the right job – I want equal pockets!”

  9. I have taught myself to not carry a purse. On a normal day, if it doesn’t go into a pocket it doesn’t come. If I need to dress up I have a small purse, big enough for cards, phone, chapstick, and a few odds and ends. It was originally designed to be a “take with you wallet” to match a larger purse. I just bought the smaller bag. If I need to carry more than that (either for dress up for for normal) I pack a backpack. I have a couple in a few different sizes. And of course my car is stocked with a huge selection of “stuff”, and I have never been a parent, or in charge of a child for long term, and that shows too.

    I’m quite picky about my clothes, I buy jeans that have POCKETS. I tend to wear mens coats, because POCKETS.

    1. I’m more likely to buy for pockets than fashion – with the sole exception of my interview suits (I have two) which were bought for that purpose alone and because they fit well.

  10. German women’s suits (vintage) all have at least two pockets in the skirt, and often at least one in the jacket. Those are what I wear for interviews now, especially since 1) the skirts are longer A-line so I can walk and 2) a little eccentricity is tolerated in my field.

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