There was plenty to look at Chanel’s Spring 2018 Haute Couture show in Paris this week — even once you got past Kaia Gerber’s buzzed-about appearance and the stunning garden party setting, complete with rose trellises and an oversized fountain.
The looks that came down the runway were resplendent with dramatic feathers, luxe sheer tulle, and glamorous heavy beading that are sure to turn up on red carpets sometime soon.
But all of those things are par for the course at a designer couture presentation in the City of Lights, where nothing is understated and everything makes a fashionable statement. That’s why the biggest statement of all wasn’t glittering embellishments or fancy fabrics, but the pockets that adorned nearly every ensemble.
Pocket full of fashion! Chanel’s Spring 2018 Haute Couture collection was shown in Paris on Tuesday
Setting the trends: More than half of the models walked down the runway with hands inside pockets
Glitz and glam! But they were also on glitzier, more formal numbers, which don’t usually have pockets
Frockin’ those pockets! Plenty of eveningwear shown at the show had pockets stitched in
Showing them off: The models made sure the pockets were noticeable by walking with their hands partially tucked inside
Everywhere: Even this satin and feathered number had places to put keys and cash
Suits, jumpsuits, coats, and — most notably — dresses and gowns all featured a pair of pockets on the front.
Designed by Karl Lagerfeld, the collection included 68 separate looks, and models walked with hands resting inside pockets in at least half of them.
Even several of the ensembles end of the show, which is typically reserved for the more glamorous eveningwear looks, had pockets.
Model Julia Pelc kept her hands in place in the pockets of a floral lace number, Femke Huijzer tucked hers into the pockets of a sequined tea-length dress, and Kiki Willems’s gloved hands hid away in pockets of her uber-beaded floor-length number.
Meanwhile, dresses at haute couture shows for Elie Saab, Givenchy, and Giambattista Valli didn’t have pockets, and it’s unusual to see them in women’s ready-to-wear collections too.
Something special: The pocked-packed collection was quite unique for a fashion show, particular a haute couture one
Ladylike: Often, pockets in high fashion are only found in pants
Genius: However, designer Karl Lagerfeld put them into nearly every design
Bummer: Historically, pockets haven’t been a big part of women’s fashion for centuries
So not cool! Women had pockets in their petticoats for a short time in the 1700s but they soon went out of fashion
Give us pockets! A lack of pockets is a major sticking point for many women, as it is inconvenient
But while part of the reason Chanel’s newest haute couture collection is so pocket-heavy could be simply because Lagerfeld likes them, there is certainly more to the story.
Once upon a time, external pockets were not a common feature of womenswear. Menswear had plenty of them, but pockets on garments designed for women had hidden internal pockets or none at all.
According to the Victoria and Albert Museum, men have had pockets sewn into the linings of their clothing for centuries, but women have not been quite as lucky.
At one time, women could have them hidden under their petticoats — but in the 1790s wide hoops and full petticoats went out of style, and ladies needed to carry bags to hold their things.
When pockets came back in the 19th century, it was mostly for children and working-class women — not fashionable ladies of high society.
Trailblazer: Coco Chanel (pictured in 1929) was a big fan of pockets and quickly introduced them to her designs
Old school: She put them in the pockets of her suits starting in the ’20s and ’30s (pictured)
Iconic: She continued to add them to later designs, which were hailed as ‘modern’ and ‘functional’
Perfection: The iconic Chanel suit (as seen in the ’60s) was known for its pockets
Keeping it going: Karl Lagerfeld has taken up Coco’s legacy (pictured at the Dior Homme show on January 20)
By the 1900s, pockets still weren’t the norm in women’s clothing, and New York Times writer Charlotte P. Gilman complained of the sexist custom.
‘One supremacy there is in men’s clothing… its adaptation to pockets,’ she wrote, according to Racked. ‘Women have from time to time carried bags, sometimes sewn in, sometimes tied on, sometimes brandished in the hand, but a bag is not a pocket.’
That’s when things slowly started to change. In the 1910 and ’20s, a few trailblazing designers started sewing pockets into women’s suits and dresses — including Coco Chanel herself.
In 1925, Coco introduced her first Chanel suit to the fashion world. According to Vogue, the two-piece tweed ensemble included a mid-length straight-cut skirt and a matching jacket — which had four pockets, a nod to men’s clothing.
‘The jacket, inspired by menswear, is straight and fluid, without interfacing. The ensemble provides absolute freedom of movement,’ a narrator explains in an episode of Inside Chanel.
Needs to change: Pockets are still uncommon in women’s fashion today
Sexist? Some have complained that it is a sexist problem that makes life harder for women
Technical difficulties: With smartphones so ubiquitous, a lack of pockets has become an even bigger problem
Thumbs up! Lagerfeld’s new collection seems designed to be both stylish and convenient for women
Gorgeous! He proves clothing can be chic, glamorous, and also functional
The look was ‘modern’ and had a ‘functional logic’ that made it an instant hit.
Decades later, pockets still are not as common in womenswear as in menswear — which some still see as a sexism issue as much as one of comfort and convenience.
‘I honestly believe the fashion industry is not helping women advance,’ designer Camilla Olson told The Atlantic in 2014. ‘We [women] know clearly we need pockets to carry technology and I think it’s expected we are going to carry a purse. When we’re working, we don’t carry purses around. A pocket is a reasonable thing.’
Tracy Moore quipped on Jezebel that same year: ‘This is a longstanding problem all women have endured for our entire lives. Women going pocketless is an under-addressed, silent epidemic that has infantilized us all and given us a big giant baby’s purse to deal with in its stead.’
That makes Lagerfeld’s recent collection of pocket-adorned dresses so unique, both a nod to Coco Chanel’s legacy and to the design house’s commitment to mixing the feminine with the practical and modern.