The most obvious answer is that women's clothing is generally designed without a single pocket, to stash daily essentials.like a pen, mobile phone, let alone money, possibly spectacles, sunglasses, or even the modest concealment of sanitary products!
Men's clothes, on the other hand, have a wealth of pockets, thus freeing their hands and movement considerably. Short of men carrying around large camera equipment, or a computer, men's pockets happily accomodate all the bits and bobs, women fill their handbags with. Men's trousers generally have front and back pockets, to start with, but, top pockets are common in business and sports shirts and the first time I purchased a men's, rather than women's jacket to take on my travels, simply because I loved the vivid lime green colour, the pockets were a revelation. External zippered pockets at hand and breast levels, were highly practical, but internal pockets, concealed in the jacket's lining were designed to additionally accomodate a wallet, mobile phone, glasses and even a passport. Cruising through customs was a breeze in comparison, to having to delve into the depths of my handbag for all those essential items!
I challenge anyone desiging women's clothing to begin to tailor our clothes to give us such equally liberating and practical storage areas within our clothing. We do not want to look like frumps, but, I'm pretty sure nor do most men. I beg fashion designers to begin designing women's clothes from the pockets out, rather than presuming pockets will ruin the line of a fitted garment, or cost more in production. I also challenge any male designer of women's clothes to sew up any pockets in his current wardrobe and live "pocket free for a month", just to experience how the lack of practical design for some storage in women's clothes actually restricts our daily lives, compared to their own pocketfilled experience!
Yes many of us women and some men, do love brandishing a designer bag, especially when our bodies are not the ideal shape to easily purchase clothes that instantly make us look our best. When it comes to handbags, one size can truly fit all and a fabulous handbag can be a real confidence booster. However, most of us love the option of being able to sometimes get about handbag free. Short of donning cargo pants, or a jacket before I walk my dog, I have to grab a bag of some kind, to hold my keys, money and doggie hygene bags. I'm sick of it. I also want pockets if I head out on my bike and most particularly, I want pockets when I travel!
The negatives when it comes to handbags are numerous. Firstly, handbags make us more vulnerable, the world over to "purse snatchers", waiting for that opportunistic moment to grab and run and reap the rewards of the contents. Pockets, by their very nature are usually pretty well concealed, thus making wallet theft more difficult as well as items being spread around the body, the pocket wearer is less likely to lose everything, including money, cards, phone and keys, in the one theft. Handbags, if laden with too much stuff, can throw our weight off balance, effecting our posture, whereas pockets distribute the load over our entire bodies, more evenly. Pockets ideally are cleared out before an item of clothing gets laundered, whereas handbags can be filled with old dockets, an array of lipsticks, umbrellas, yesterday's uneaten fruit, mouldering away. Unless there is a hook in public and work toilets, handbags have to be placed on the floor, offering questionable hygene. If toilets are not well maintained, the remnants of urine and feaces can be lurking. A bit later you plonk that handbag on the table where you are about to eat and the question of "did you wash your hands first", might just as well be applied to "did you wash your handbag first", before eating?
Perhaps that gorgeous designer bag is beginning to lose some of its appeal?
But don't get me wrong. I don't want to dress like a man. Men's wardrobes are generally, pretty boring and conservative. As a women who loves clothes, particularly those with rich colour, bold and arty designs and a "good line", all I want is a few decent pockets to hold my bits and bobs, to be a much less encumbered, happier and more liberated woman.
That more women aren't on to the liberation of wearing cothes with great pockets is probably because few of us ever even get to experience the difference decent pockets can make to our freedom of movement and ready access to the stuff we generally tote around deep within in our handbags. We take carrying a handbag for granted, as something that belongs to women and the weight of conforming to gender stereotypes of femininity. Is carrying a handbag an unitended symbolic link to all the women who daily continue to carry copious containers of water many kilometres, to keep their families alive? Traditionally women have carried heavy loads, topped off with a tiny baby and small children in tow; perhaps our handbags in Western societies are a remnant of this legacy. Personally, I want to be able to truly drop my handbag bundle, but not one pocket was to be had in my attire for the last few days. This is true for the most part of my own experience of western women's clothes on a daily basis. What we have never had we don't think about? Nor do we pay much heed to the real loads other women continue to bear around the world. At very least, from now on, every time I pick up my handbag, I will feel that connection with the loads women continue to bear, worldwide!
"Hands free", unencumbered men, on the other hand, seem to symbolise their freedom from much of the load of all domestic duties and even reponsibility for violence against women, in many societies to this day. Maybe pockets as opposed to handbags, reveals much about continued expectations, conditioning and gender stereotyping when we "unpack" what is behind our continued adherence to such gender biased apparel and adornments?
I'd rather be free than "encumbered" any day!
We have managed to struggle to get the vote, though men wanted to keep it to themselves in many countries, we continue our struggle for equal pay and opportunities, sharing the load when it comes to domestic duties and childcare and personally, I think that achieveing practical pockets in women's basic clothing is an achievable goal. Change is possible, especially if women demand and campaign for it.
I suggest women who still need convincing ask the men in their lives if they can even imagine what a day without pockets would mean in terms of inconvenience and annoyance. Compare notes on the contents of handbags, as opposed to pockets. Consider just why you carry a handbag from a practical, as well as fashion perspective. Such discussions are an education for both men and women.
Meanwhile, I will continue to take advantage of the lower prices and utter convenience of some mens wear within my own wardrobe, particularly for travel, until the designers of women's clothes realise women can utilise pockets equally as well as men. I want to be free to choose to go out without a handbag and still be able to carry a few essentials with me anywhere. Until this happens, women remain essentially "fashion victims" of poor and ill concieved design that limits our choices and freedom of movement!