Monday, October 13, 2014

A Pocket By Any Other Name

A Pocket by Any Other Name

Photograph of the village women (Wauking Women) in Outlander as designed by Terry Drespach

Watching historically relevant drama on tv might spawn interest in minor details, as well as in the heroic brawny actor on the screen.   Take pockets, for example.  Watching Starz' sky-rocketing original series Outlander, you might notice the dangly things hanging on the front of the Highlanders' kilts.  Those thingies are called "sporrans" and served as pockets for the dashing men in Scottish 18th Century life.  Please note that women's clothing isn't always showing little dangly things.  Where was she hiding that spare key? or her whatnots? Normally, pockets were something made as  an addition to the wardrobe.  In the men's case, with kilts not having built-in compartments for carrying much of anything, a sporran acted as the catchall.  For ladies, there were pockets.  Made as a separate reality, much like the sporran, but usually worn under her skirts.  No shoulder bags, no tote bags.  Perhaps a basket for marketing, and gathering of herbs and such.  Saddlebags, to be sure, because one needed as many places to stash stuff as we do today.  But there wasn't as much stuff.  So women in the 18th Century developed their own style, as women have a tendancy to do.

See :

for an overview, academically speaking.  Watch  in Outlander as Claire puts her hands in what seem to be pockets while she's wearing 18th Century garb.  This isn't as odd as it might be, because in this case, the character is coming from another time where pockets, and pocketbooks  already exist.  So the practical Claire may well have had her garments made with the additon of a pocket or two for convenience' sake. Most women hid their pockets  under their petticoats to protect their valuables,
but we can imagine some of them might work as men wore their sporrans: on the outside of their skirts.  In the evolution of fashion, not everything is cut and dried.  Since we can only go by what we see in paintings, drawings, and literary references, and cannot time travel to see for ourselves, imagination may take flight and create alternative pockets.  This was the 18th Century, and as the 19th Century looms nearer, reticules become the norm.  They were just the same idea as the pocket, but carried as a separate item, and therefore tended to be embellished more often than not.   Accessories have always been women's fancy, and what would become a major economic status symbol began to become more important visually. Women were still not allowed to actually own anything outright, so the necessity of carrying the massive amounts of paperwork, wallets, etc.  that we haul around today simply wasn't there. As sporrans go ( , the evolution of style warrants taking note of the refined, yet traditional forms they have taken in contemporary usage.  Women's pocketbooks, on the other hand, have become quite another subject indeed.

 ref: Barbara Burman in of "Pockets of History: The Secret Life of an Everyday Object." 

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