Sunday, May 16, 2010

Lucy Locket Lost her Pocket...

...Kitty Fisher found it.

Not a penny was there in it,

Only the ribbon 'round it.

This is one of my favorite nursery rhymes, because it's like an inside joke for those in-the-know about eighteenth century clothing. Unlike modern clothing and men's clothing from the era, women's clothing in the eighteenth century did not include built-in pockets. Rather, women wore separate pockets tied around their waists, under their skirts. And these pockets were often elaborately embroidered, like this one from the Met's Costume Institute:

You could access your pockets through slits in your petticoats and, if your gown did not have an open front, slits in it as well, as this girl is doing:

To be honest, there are benefits to this method. You never have to swap out your vital personal items from one pocket to another, and you don't have to carry a purse. Which is nice, because you needn't worry about matching your purse to your outfit, and you can worry a bit less about pickpockets (though not entirely...wily bastards...). With the slim silhouette of the early nineteenth century, women could no longer wear their pockets under their clothing without creating a goofy bulge, and instead carried small bags. Farewell, pockets.

There are, of course, disadvantages, as well. For instance, a reenactress forgets that she has stashed items in her pockets and lets them sit all winter. Exhibit A: My embroidered pocket, with a wild rose design that my father and I created:

Exhibit B: The contents of aforementioned pocket, including a lighter which may or may not work, a quasi-melted Tootsie Roll, some cash (score!), an admission button to an event from 2004, my folding fork/spoon and pocket knife, hairpins, a frienship bracelet woven for me by an industrious young friend, and some solid perfume. I also found an antacid wrapper of which I, to my knowledge, did not at any time use the contents.


Katy said...

Ha! Though I must say, I find similar things in my jacket at the beginning of every winter. ;-)

missbluestocking said...

Haha! What random things you had stashed in your pocket

Whenever I see pictures of your dress or you in it, I always wonder how well you'd survive if you actually DID go back in time to the 18th century.

Rowenna said...

Katy--I know! It's like a surprise every time...

June--I think I would stick out like a sore thumb! It would be like when you see someone with a giant fanny pack and huge camera and awkward shorts and think "tourist" only probably much worse! And I'd get crabby about not having running water...I can deal without electricity, but no running water would be un-fun.

Arabella said...

But the gorgeous pockets surely would make up for a lack of running water. I just love removable pockets. They are so beautiful.