Three dresses with pockets, January 1917. Butterick patterns from Delineator.
I intended to write a nice, short blog post showing color images of clothing from January 1917, but I started to notice the many variations on pockets in women’s clothing from that year.
Pockets were a center of interest in 1917, and quite varied.
Women’s pockets, January 1917. Unusual shapes, in a range of sizes. Delineator. Pockets were often quite low on the hip. The one at bottom right is trimmed with several rows of topstitching, very popular in 1917. The construction of the plaid double flap pocket at top right is unusual.
At the end of a few hours browsing through Delineator magazines from 1917, I had a picture file much too large to put in one post.
There were gigantic pockets…
Gigantic pockets, Feb. 1917. Delineator. (Plus tiny, triangular pockets on the blouse.)
A deep pocket that is also a belt carrier. August, 1917. Delineator.
Several interesting pockets from 1917. Delineator.
I saw large, flapless pockets that gaped open and were secured with buttons,…
A pocket so big that it has to be buttoned to prevent gaping. Delineator, March 1917. Behind it, a pocket gathered into ruffles at the top.
There were pockets hanging from belts and waistbands,…
Self-fabric belts with attached pockets, 1917. Delineator.
Small pockets suspended from the waist, Feb. 1917, Delineator.
Hanging pockets trimmed with white soutache braid. Delineator, June 1917.
Left, a peculiar, gathered, hanging pocket on a girl’s dress; right, wide pockets trimmed with buttons. January 1917, Delineator.
Were these belts with pockets attached to the skirts? It’s not always easy to tell; they were apparently so common that the editors didn’t feel obliged to mention them in pattern descriptions. Delineator, Oct. 1917.
There were oddly shaped “bellows” pockets, which expanded,…
“Bellows pockets” on clothes for teens, March 1917. The editors said you could get your daughter to compromise on other fashion details, but she would insist on bellows pockets. Delineator.
Hanging bellows pockets on an adult woman’s suit, Delineator, March 1917, p. 63.
Pointy pockets often stuck out at the hips…
Pockets that end in points, and stand away from the body. 1917. Delineator.
More pointy pockets, 1917. Pockets were often enhanced with embroidery. I suspect that almost anything you put in this kind of pocket would fall out when you sat down.
There were hanging pockets that looked like drawstring handbags,
These hanging pockets look like the drawstring purses of the period, but they are attached to the waist or belt of the skirt. 1917, Delineator.
There were shallow, semi-circular pockets that wrapped around to the back of the dress:
A shallow, rounded pocket on Butterick 9931, for women or for teens. 1917.
And there were pockets that gathered into a ruffle at the top:
Right, Butterick 8989, a coat or jacket with gathered pockets. 1917.
Delineator showed sketches of the pockets on French designer dresses and suits:
Pockets in Paris, Fall 1917. A suit designed by Chanel, and a dress with unusual pockets by Martial et Armand. Sketched in Delineator, they inspired Butterick patterns.
Pockets on Paris fashions from Fall of 1917, by Poiret and Doucet. Sketched in Delineator. Embroidery on pockets was often seen, and that odd “turned up across the jacket hem” pocket was influential.
A girl’s walking top, Butterick 9047, April 1917. These pockets literally couldn’t get any lower on the jacket.
When I was still a child, eating in a highchair, I had a plastic bib with a sort of trough at the bottom to catch spilled food — it was rather like these blouses:
These blouses end in a sort of gutter; buttoned or stitched into place they would have acted as a pocket. Butterick patterns from Delineator magazine.
To me, they look unflattering and nonsensical, but not as nutty as the skirt on the left, below…
A skirt with a buttoned turn-up cuff… 1917.
… or this skirt — illustrated twice –guaranteed to (visually) add pounds:
Are those pockets for ammo? The skirt is described as having “French gathers.” Butterick skirt pattern 9140, Delineator, May 1917.
Skirts with 1917 pocket variations. The skirts at far left and upper right are typical, but the skirt in the center, with button tab (pockets?) is weird. Butterick patterns.
To modern eyes, the essential oddity of many 1917 fashions is that they were intended to make a woman’s hips look wider.
Pockets were used to exaggerate the width of women’s hips, in French designer fashions (left) and in home sewing patterns (right.) Both illustrations from Delineator, 1917.
Back views of three Butterick patterns, Sept. 1917. Delineator, p. 50. The two on the left really exaggerate hip width..
1917 pockets often curved around the hip to the back of the body.
Many 1917 pockets wrap around the body, and stand away from it, increasing the apparent size of the hips. Delineator.
Modern pockets tend to stop at or before the side seam, but in 1917, many pockets wrapped around the hip — from side front to somewhere on the back.
In these back views of Butterick patterns, you can see that the gaping pocket continues around the side, extending the width of the body at the hip. Delineator, Oct. 1917.
In the 1850’s and the 1950’s, full skirts and exaggerated hips made corseted female waists look smaller by comparison. But in 1917, there was no emphasis on a small waist.
Dresses for misses 14 to 19. Butterick patterns, July 1917. Delineator. These pockets start toward the side in front and wrap around to the back of the dresses.
There were pockets so strange that only the model’s pose confirmed that they were pockets.
Two Butterick patterns from 1917. Left, No. 9376. Right, No. 9274. There are side openings on the “tonneau” (barrel) dress at right, but can we call them “pockets”?
And, especially prevalent were pockets that drew attention to women’s hips.
An embroidered pocket wraps around the sides of this gold coat. Delineator cover, October 1917.
There’s no doubt that pockets add bulk, especially if you put things in them. But sometimes you just need a place to stash a hankie, a key, or a few coins.
Today, when many women keep a cellphone within reach at all times, it’s perversely not easy to find a dress or knit top that has pockets. However, in 1917, women were “spoiled for choice.”