Sunday, December 16, 2007

18th century embroidered pockets

In my reenacting life I've been playing the part of a young colonial woman (1740's) for the last 7 years. Pockets have always been one of my favorite parts of the wardrobe, and I've always loved the Lucy Locket nursery rhyme.
Lucy Locket lost her pocket,
Kitty Fisher found it;
Not a penny was there in it,
Only ribbon 'round it.
When I was little I wondered how Lucy could have lost her pocket because they are sewn-in, but this wasn't always so. In the 1700's and early 1800's, women's pockets were a separate garment that tied around their waist. They could be single or double, and were often the only place a woman had to keep private things. Most often keys, change purses, sewing kits and reading glasses or small books were stored in them, but one could also keep commonly used items or things that were no one else's business, like diaries or letters.

I've found that pockets are more functional than a purse or hand bag because you don't have to hold onto them, and far better looking than modern fanny packs. Most women's pockets were plain material with little decoration and were never seen outside the skirts. However, some women had very lovely embroidered pockets. For the most part, this bit of decoration was done just for one's self, not to be shared with the world at large. Occasionally these pockets would be worn outside the skirts because they were worth showing off.

Most embroidered pocket designs in the 1700's were symmetrical or near-symmetrical, which you can clearly see here and here (which has lots of useful information on pockets).

The set that I am currently working on (above) was inspired by a Seneca leaf motif, slightly altered, and some designs from a man's waistcoat of the same time. This pair of pockets is not 100% historically accurate as the designs are asymmetrical, but it is close enough in many ways and was more exciting to me than a symmetrical design would have been.

I do not have the ribbon finished, and have not decided if I should use a dyed twill tape, a woven sash or actual ribbon to fasten these lovely pockets together.

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