With my sewing obsession coupled with our love of books, A Dress With Pockets by Lily Murray and beautifully illustrated by Jenny Løvlie couldn’t have been a more perfect book for us and so I treated myself to a copy which has been enjoyed by the Fae too.
This picture book celebrates modern femininity and challenges old gender bias & outdated values in clothing and attitudes to femininity and childhood by encouraging the phrase ‘pockets lead to adventures.’
At the end I discuss how I made our very own ‘Dress with Pocketses’ as Tinyfae calls it and the result.
When Aunt Augusta decides to buy Lucy a brand new dress, they exhaust the best dress shop in town looking for the perfect dress.
For whilst frills and flounces, tulle and lace are fun and pretty, what Lucy really wants is a dress that will help her have adventures- a dress with pockets.
‘On average, the pockets in women’s jeans are 48% shorter and 6.5% narrower than men’s pockets…
.Less than half of women’s front pockets can fit a wallet specifically designed to fit in front pockets. And you can’t even cram an average woman’s hand beyond the knuckles into the majority of women’s front pockets.’Research into ready to wear jeans in the USA by The Pudding https://pudding.cool/2018/08/pockets/
Ok, let’s be honest here, if a dress has pockets it’s a thousand times better and you want to tell the whole world about it. As a sewist I add pockets to almost every dress I make now that I am confident with the technique, I’m even working on my skills to add invisible zips so I can secure my belongings because whilst I love the idea, I just get fed up with handbags, I much prefer pockets.
Pockets in traditionally assigned women’s clothing are a feminist issue and not simply because women are more likely to be the victims of mugging and theft partly because handbags are easier to grab or steal from than a body contact pocket picked; traditionally womenswear pockets are smaller, sewn shut/decorative or non existent partly for reducing fabric use/costs but also because it is generally believed that they ruin the ‘line’ of a garment making the wearer look bulkier or the outfit saggier than the preferred slimline fashion silhouette and of course it doesn’t hurt that rubbish pockets increases profits with the necessity of handbags.
When compared with the SIZE of pockets in menswear comparable items it’s clear that there is a bias and so manyissues from the perpetuation of outdated and unhelpful cis-gender roles to attitudes of acceptable body size, shape or form with the connotations of transphobia, fat phobia and ableism as any ‘different’ body from the fashion sample size will be ‘lacking’ before we even add the pockets. We see glimpses of this in the book through Løvlie’s playful illustrations and Murray’s text in how Lucy is pressed to wear ever fancier & frilly confections because of the expectations of what little girls ‘should’ like.
By wearers of womenswear refusing to comply with these outdated notions and embracing individuality WITH purposeful fashion, adding or demanding pockets to our clothes like little Lucy whether we wear them in a frilly chiffon ballgown, a power suit, or a hardworking denim shirtdress this is an act of feminist rebellion. And let’s start them young.
Lucy’s desire for pockets is rooted in adventures, that pockets enable and encourage the paths to creativity, curiosity and discovery.
This is a very practical thing because indeed girls are often discouraged from ‘messy play’ or the collections that boys accumulate in pockets because their clothing just like womenswear may not be ‘suitable’ as we see the beautiful frou frou creations that are delightful but you couldn’t scramble amongst the bracken and ferns in silk tulle or satin without someone having a heart attack and whilst there is nothing wrong with wearing pretty things, when it is our only choice it restricts girls vision in life to only sitting still & looking pretty and thus not causing a fuss. And it’s just not fair.
Lucy’s dress in the end is a practical but still swishy pinafore style dress in a blue floral denim or chambray with buckle straps and huge contrast patch or appliqué pockets which is cosy, pretty but hardworking and meets HER needs.
Making the Dress with Pockets
When I decided to undertake this as one of my FaeMade projects I decided this wouldn’t be cosplay, it would be Bookbounding because I wanted something that would fit in Tinyfae’s day to day wardrobe and she isn’t too fond of jean and dungaree weight denim nor buckles. This means the dress won’t be a carbon detailed copy but will largely resemble the style, feel and intention of the illustration.
Bookbounding comes from the term Disneybounding which came about from adults wanting to dress as their favourite characters when visiting Disney Parks but understandably cosplay being banned partially for child protection reasons.
Instead disneybounders take the elements of a character’s costume and make it a real world wearable outfit with the flavour of their character as in a ‘if you know you know’ kinda thrill- and now people Disneybound, others History bound or our case bookbound in everyday life too.
I found the fabric before I found the pattern after spotting a soft blue shirting weight denim in my local fabric store Freelance Fabrics along with the perfect yellow floral Rose & Hubble print.
I researched a lot of pinafore patterns but nothing really ‘felt’ right or presented issues with the pockets until I came across the Kaitlynn by Vintage Little Lady which had these glorious scoop pockets. I preferred both the finished look and the practicality aka capacity of scoop pockets as to patch pockets.
Because this pattern is designed to be a pinafore dress worn over but not concealing the style of another I needed to hack it a little to fit the brief. I did this by raising the bodice chest line by a few inches and adding the chest patch pocket, and to give it a more relaxed feel I omitted the bias binding piping instead opting to replace it with rainbow variegated top stitching.
I layered underneath a striped long sleeve t-shirt we already owned and finished the look with oatmeal heart print tights, aquamarine Converse and a bejewelled frog brooch on the lower right pocket to represent the frogs in Lucy’s adventures.
Tinyfae loves this dress as it doesn’t feel costumey, it’s comfy, she loves the yellow flowers and it has POCKETSES she feels twirly and she can roll about in the grass without worries just like Lily and Jenny created for Lucy!
A Dress with Pockets by Lily Murray and Jenny Løvlie is published by Macmillan Childrens Books.