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Not currently on display at the V&A

Pair of Pockets

1740s (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

In the 18th century, women’s pockets were not sewn into their gowns. Instead they were attached to a tape and tied around the waist as separate garments. Worn under the hoops and petticoats, they were accessed through openings in the gown and petticoat seams.
They were sometimes made to match other garments, for example a bodice or petticoat. This pair of quilted yellow silk pockets is part of an ensemble with a matching waistcoat (T.87-1978). Such a bright shade of yellow was popular for women’s dress from the 1740s to the 1770s. Many bodices, waistcoats and aprons of the mid-1700s used the technique of quilting for both decoration and warmth. An elaborate quilted scroll adorns the pocket edges, with a plain diaper pattern in the centre.
The top edge of each pocket is angled slightly, possibly to make the pockets sit correctly over the hips. Whether these were fastened in front or behind the waist is not clear from documentation and images of women wearing pockets.
read Women's tie-on pockets The development of 'tie-on' pockets during the 17th century was a defining moment for women, providing an extremely popular detachable accessory for carrying their possessions, similar to the function of handbags today.
object details
Categories
Object Type
Parts
This object consists of 2 parts.

  • Pocket
  • Pocket
Materials and Techniques
Silk hand-sewn with silk thread, bound with silk ribbon, stitched to linen tape
Brief Description
Pair of women's pockets of yellow quilted silk, British, 1740s
Physical Description
Pair of yellow silk pockets quilted with a diaper ground in the centre and scrolls around the edge, bound with yellow silk grosgrain ribbon with yellow silk taffeta ribbon. They are stitched to a linen waist tape. This pair of quilted yellow silk pockets is part of an ensemble with a matching waistcoat (T.87-1978).
Gallery Label
Pear-shaped pockets worn in the 18th century, like those shown here, can be considered one of the precursors of today’s handbags. Hidden from view, they allowed small belonging such as money, jewellery, mirrors and combs to be discreetly carried on the body. The pockets were sewn to a tape or ribbon and tied around a woman’s waist, worn beneath the gown, petticoat and hoops but above the shift. They could be accessed through inconspicuous openings in the side of the gown and petticoat. V&A, Room 40, Bags: Inside Out. (12/2020)
Summary
In the 18th century, women’s pockets were not sewn into their gowns. Instead they were attached to a tape and tied around the waist as separate garments. Worn under the hoops and petticoats, they were accessed through openings in the gown and petticoat seams.

They were sometimes made to match other garments, for example a bodice or petticoat. This pair of quilted yellow silk pockets is part of an ensemble with a matching waistcoat (T.87-1978). Such a bright shade of yellow was popular for women’s dress from the 1740s to the 1770s. Many bodices, waistcoats and aprons of the mid-1700s used the technique of quilting for both decoration and warmth. An elaborate quilted scroll adorns the pocket edges, with a plain diaper pattern in the centre.

The top edge of each pocket is angled slightly, possibly to make the pockets sit correctly over the hips. Whether these were fastened in front or behind the waist is not clear from documentation and images of women wearing pockets.
Associated Object
Bibliographic Reference
Bags V&A Exhibition (Project)Bags: Inside Out (2020) Lucia Savi, V&A Publishing, pg 18
Collection
Accession Number
T.87A&B-1978

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record createdDecember 20, 2004
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