Pocket detail shot of the Iman long sleeve ballgown wedding dress by Edith Elan
Behind the Seams

3 Favorite Wedding Dress Styles with Pockets

February 8, 2019
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A wedding dress with pockets is not a new idea, but we’re glad it’s back!

Pocket detail shot of the Iman long sleeve ballgown wedding dress by Edith Elan
Photo by Lish Marie Photography
This post was updated on April 28, 2022

In bridal fashion, finding a wedding dress with pockets has become more common since the late aughts. And it’s easy to see why. First of all, convenience! But also, when a brides try on a dress only to discover it has hidden pockets, the excitement cannot be contained. They are bound to exclaim, “OMG… IT HAS POCKETS!” Even in ready-to-wear, there is nothing more wonderful than to find a dress with pockets. Seriously! If you compliment a woman in a dress, you have a high probability of hearing, “Thanks, it has pockets!” But where did this modern fascination with pockets in wedding dresses come from? Well, pockets in women’s skirts and dresses have been around for much longer than you think. Let’s go behind the seams.

History of wedding dresses with pockets blog post by Charleston bridal designer Edith Elan

The Evolution of Pockets in Women’s Dress Fashions

The earliest women’s “pocket” wasn’t a pocket. In actuality, the earliest form of a “pocket” for women came in the form of a handbag. As early as the Middle Ages, women carried their small essentials in a satchel tied around their waist or to their belts. These were mostly utilitarian pieces and were not for show. “But those are purses,” you say. Yes, they are! As more women realized how easily they could be stolen or ransacked, they fell from favor.

Starting in the 17th century, the concept of pockets as we know them today became more prominent. Sewing them into clothing helped protect your things from thieves. Pockets were now sewn into linings of coats, breeches, waistcoats… oh wait, that’s for the men.

Women’s pockets of this period actually stayed in a purse-like form. (Even though the full skirts of the time had way more room to have pockets sewn in than the men’s breeches if you ask us.) These purse-like pockets were hiding under layers of skirts. Since they tied at the waist, they were accessible through the slits in the side seams of the skirt layers. Of course, this is assuming that the slits lined up. Because if they didn’t, good luck getting to your pockets, ladies! Sound complicated? We couldn’t agree more.

For as complicated as that was, women were able to hold many things in pockets of that era. This included things like money, jewelry, keys, a pair of spectacles, a watch, sewing notions, a pencil, pair of scissors, a mirror, snuff-boxes, combs, food, and sometimes even booze! Almost sounds a little like our purses… except for the snuff-box part.

Fun fact: these pockets were often decorated even if they were never seen. It was a way for ladies to practice needlework.

Goodbye, Large Pockets. Hello, Tiny Purses!

​In the early 1800s, the slim, empire silhouette hit full force. Dresses were minimal in shape and size, and pockets disappear altogether because of it. Women now had to accessorize with small purses called “reticules,” which draped over the arm. From here on out, the purse is a part of the woman’s wardrobe, and pockets are out! That is, until the 1900s.

We Want Pockets! When Do We Want Them? Now!!!

With the turn of the 20th century, ladies were over it. They wanted to vote… They wanted equal rights… They wanted POCKETS! A 1910 Suffragette suit with at least six pockets became all the rage. In fact, there were instruction manuals on how to put pockets into your own clothing.

According to the gazette published by the Rational Dress Society (est. in 1881 in London), these were the attributes of a “perfect” dress:

  1. Freedom of Movement.
  2. Absence of pressure over any part of the body.
  3. Not more weight than is necessary for warmth, and both weight and warmth evenly distributed.
  4. Grace and beauty combined with comfort and convenience.
  5. Not departing too conspicuously from the ordinary dress of the time.

Pockets Through the 20th Century

While women’s fashions ebbed and flowed throughout the 20th century, pockets never went away. 1920s flapper dresses had pockets slipped into the side seams of dresses. The ’30s and ’40s included embellishments of pockets sewn on top of dresses. Pockets became a staple in the full skirts of the 50s. Then, the ’60s celebrated pockets by putting them on top of the modern mini with florals and buttons as decoration. And so on.

Needless to say, we are so happy that pockets are still around! We’ve all had clothing with pockets in one form or another. Sure, they are usually in pants or outerwear, but you can’t deny that they are convenient! So, then why wouldn’t you want that convenience for your wedding as well?

A wedding dress with pockets?

We understand how fashion works. It was only a matter of time before pockets found their way over from ready-to-wear to bridal! Even though women’s jeans pockets continue to be annoyingly small, we can still put nice-sized pockets in our wedding dresses. Here, at Edith Élan, we love pockets! And if we can find a way to add pockets we will! (No matter how voluminous or fitted a skirt is.) Here are our current top 3 favorite wedding dresses with pockets:

Iman

Iman is a long-sleeve, modern ballgown wedding dress with pockets that will surely keep your hands toasty warm when the temps drop.

The Iman modern ballgown wedding dress style with pockets and long sleeves by Edith Elan
Photo by Ed & Aileen Photography

Kei

A modern belle of the ball(gown), Kei’s voluminous pleated skirt hides a secret or two. Two pockets, that is!

Kei is a textured wedding dress with pockets and an illusion neckline
Photo by Genevieve Lauren Photography

Rei

The magic of Rei’s a-line silhouette is in her crystals, pearls, and pockets!

Crystal and pearl beaded a-line wedding dress with pockets by indie bridal designer Edith Elan
Photo by Genevieve Lauren Photography

Is that a phone in your pocket, or are you just glad to see me?

Fun Fact: We asked our Instagram followers what they would put in a wedding dress’s pockets. Besides a cell phone and snacks, the next most popular answer was chapstick/lipstick. Followed up by a handkerchief.

So, what will you put into your pockets? Perhaps your phone? Some snacks? Whatever it is, you do you! But make sure to tell us in the comments below!

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