Here a Pocket, There a Pocket

Rides the WestI love the word pocket.  Pockets can hold everyday items, things of necessity…maybe even the hopes and dreams of a heart. These cloth pouches offered a private place to keep personal items. Pockets can be any size or shape.

1700s PocketsPrior to the 1790s, pockets weren’t attached to their clothing, instead tied around a woman’s waist under her skirt or petticoat. A slit at the side allowed room for her to slip her wrist inside and into the detachable pocket that she sewed by hand, even embroidered with a pretty stitch.

On the other hand…males’ pockets were attached to the waistband of his trousers and into the lining of his coat. So, they pretty much always had the same thing. Theirs were easily accessible and THEY didn’t have to fumble around, trying to get into something hidden. Like it was a sin to wear.

Good Heavens!

There were watch pockets, flap pockets and even breast pockets. Yes, the men had it all. Easy and accessible.

But maybe women wanted theirs hidden. At least she didn’t have to explain to anyone what she carried or why.

And what did she find important enough to put inside? Let’s see.

Early pocketIn Samuel Richardson’s novel in 1742, he described his heroine’s pocket when she escaped her master as holding one shift, 2 handkerchiefs, 2 caps and 5 shillings. Now, that was a mighty big pocket!

The Victoria and Albert Museum have these listed as common items:

Keys, spectacles, a mirror, a watch, a diary (smart thinking, no one could read it,) pencil case, a snuff box, knife and scissors, a thimble, a pincushion.

Okay excuse me, now why on earth would a woman carry around a pincushion? Or a thimble? was she going to whip those out and start sewing? Or maybe she wanted to keep pins handy so she could jab someone who annoyed her. Lord knows there were probably plenty people who did. After all, every time she turned around someone was telling her what to do, say, or where to go.

I found it interesting that some women carried food–oranges, an apple or some biscuits. I think it hilarious to carry biscuits in your pocket. I assume in case the wearer got a hunger pain. But then food was a bit scarce.

This is from Charles Dickens’ novel, David Copperfield: Releasing one of her arms, she put it down in her pocket to the elbow, and brought out some paper bags of cakes which she crammed into my pockets, and a purse which she put in my hand, but not one word did she say.’


If you’d lived back then and made yourself a pretty tie-on pocket, what things would you have put inside?

Here’s my new cover!! This book comes out October 4th and is available for preorder at AMAZON and B&N.

This is Book #1 of my new Men of Legend series. I’m so excited about this.

Love a Texas Ranger smaller

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Here in the Texas Panhandle, we do love our cowboys. There's just something about a man in a Stetson and jeans that makes my heart beat faster. I'm not much of a cook but I love to do genealogy and I'm a bit of a rock hound. I'm also a NY Times & USA Today bestselling author of historical western romance. You can contact me through my website and I'd love to connect with you on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and more. HAPPY READING!

30 thoughts on “Here a Pocket, There a Pocket”

  1. Linda, you had me chuckling and smiling with this post. (Not an easy thing to do at 4 a.m.) Who knew women carried such interesting things in their pockets back then?

    Remember the old game show Let’s Make Deal? On every show, host Monte Hall went into the audience and gave people money if they had some weird thing in their pocket. One time, he asked for a boiled egg — and someone’s pocket contained one! That was my favorite part of the show.

    I’m going to have a fan-girl moment here: A NEW TEXAS RANGER NOVEL FROM LINDA BRODAY!!!! Yay! (I hope you don’t mind the lack of a “squeeee,” but that is one of the things I’m just not up to at 4 a.m. 😉

    Love you, lady!

    • Kathleen, glad I could bring a chuckle this early. I’ll admit I was outright laughing when I wrote this. Can you imagine the huge pockets some had? That one used hers for a suitcase. LOL! And to carry around pins and pincushion? Just too funny.

      Thanks for your congrats on To Love a Texas Ranger. Appreciate it. I think you’re gonna love this story. It opens with a hanging. All I’m saying.

      Love you back, you old sidewinder!

  2. Linda you come up with the most interesting topics. If I lived back then I’d have kept a small knife, a small gun, money, and some kind of ointment or creme for any kind of medical purposes.

    • Hi Tonya………Glad you like my post. You know how strange I am and I look for the odd topics that got little notice in times past. It’s just so interesting to see how people lived. These pockets that tied under a woman’s skirt or petticoats takes the cake. Literally! LOL Lady, you would’ve been well-armed to carry both a knife and a gun! Nobody better mess with you.

      Love and hugs!

  3. Hi Linda, what a fun blog. Your question makes me think of the queen of England. Everything is done for her, but she always has a purse and holds on to it like it contains some fabulous secret. Ooh, to have a pocket that’s elbow deep! I’d keep a book in it, of course, and paper and pen. Maybe an ipad or phone. Also a water bottle.

    Can’t wait for your new book. We write for the same publisher and mine comes out the following month. Yoo-hoo!

    • Margaret, I’m glad you enjoyed my blog. Those pockets were deep. A Ialcould put a whole wardrobe in it. LOL! And lunch too. I laugh also at the Queen carrying a purse on her arm. She couldn’t have much in it.

      I’d probably carry a book or pen and paper in my deep pockets too. Might have room for a computer in there also as large as some of those pockets were! Those big pockets would come in handy if you got put in jail. You could whip out a hacksaw and escape. Men weren’t allowed to search a woman.

    • Yes, isn’t it wonderful that we both write for Sourcebooks? At RT in Vegas at Dawn Adams’ cover workshop they showed your cover in the examples. It’s gorgeous! I just love it. Congratulations! And working with Mary Altman is fantastic. I love her to death.

  4. I LOVE your new cover, Linda! My heart is pitter-pattering over than handsome lawman.

    As for pockets, in my book that just released (NO Other Will Do), my hero, Malachi Shaw, had a rough childhood on his own where he often went without food. Even as a successful adult, he still stashes away food for later. Old habits die hard. He custom made a pocket on the inside of his vest so he could easily hide food. Cookies, bread, even a flapjack. 🙂 I shudder to think of the crumbs, but I’m sure he brushed it out regularly. 😉

    • Hi Karen…..Thanks for the congrats on my cover. I just love it. He just has this determined look on his face that says, “Come on. Show me what you’ve got.” That’s the kind of man he is. Never runs from a fight.

      Malachi sounds like a special kind of character. I love the ones with a heartbreaking past. They sure tug at your heartstrings. What a deep story. Yes, his pockets would have food. I know that book is another winner.

  5. Linda,

    I love pockets, too. I have a a safari-type vest that I throw on when I go outside, because the plethora of pockets are so handy.

    The big, deep pocket made me think of Mary Poppins’ magic carpetbag with the bottomless capacity. *grin*

    Back then, I’d keep at the very least, a derringer and money on my pocket. 🙂

    • Hi Kaye……Thanks for stopping by. I’m glad you like my blog. Yes, those ginormous pockets laughing. They definitely could’ve held an umbrella and even the carpetbag too probably. I can just see this woman who can barely walk because of her heavy pockets! So funny. That would make a funny scene in a book!

      Sounds like you’d be prepared with the derringer and money. Have a fantastic day.

  6. I love your post! Pockets are a must! In my pocket, I would have my phone, some candy, nail clippers, and a tissue or two.

    • Hi Melanie……Thanks for stopping by. I’m glad my post caught your fancy. 🙂 Pockets are essential for both men and women. We simply need them. Your list of items sounds somewhat like mine. Except I’d have gum, a pen and paper in there.

  7. Terrific article! I love the lovely embroidered pockets you showed, and the mention of Dickens and Richardson.

    As for what I myself would carry back then… probably things much like I carry today: a handkerchief, keys, money, pen and paper, and something to read. One never knows when one will have a few minutes to slip in some reading, right? 🙂 (BTW, since I retired I don’t care as much about watches anymore. 🙂 )

    I already had To Love a Texas Ranger on my must-buy booklist. Can’t wait!

    • Hi Eliza…….I’m glad you enjoyed my post. It was a bit unusual. 🙂 Yes, always carry something to read. That’s just a necessity. I don’t wear a watch. Ever. I have so many other ways to know the time.

      I’m thrilled that To Love A Texas Ranger is on your list. Wonderful! I think you’re going to love Sam Legend and this whole series. These Legend brothers are so close and though each one is different, they’re alike in so many ways.

  8. Oh my goodness, I want pockets that will hold biscuits!! How awesome would it be to carry my coffee around in my pocket and not have to hold it?! Genius!!! 😉

    • Hi Susan……Thanks for coming! Carrying biscuits would be pretty handy I suppose. Especially when you’re hungry. I can’t help thinking about all those crumbs though. It would be nice not to have to hold coffee, biscuits, phone, purse……

      Hugs and have a great day!

  9. Linda, I was laughing reading this. WOW, like you, I’m wondering who would carry a BISCUIT in their pocket? LOL And a pinchushion and thimble? I remember my mom always used a thimble. But she didn’t carry it in her pocket.

    I can’t wait to get hold of To Love a Texas Ranger. Oh, my that cover is just wonderful, too. And opening with a hanging? It couldn’t get much better (or more dramatic!) than that! Congratulations on upcoming release!


    • Hi Cheryl…….I’m glad you got a laugh or two. I sat here giggling last night when I wrote it. Imagine carrying cakes in your pocket. How about some liverwurst? Smelly. But they probably wouldn’t notice since they didn’t bathe much.

      I’m glad my Texas Ranger book is exciting you. I totally agree about that cover. I love that man! I have him on my computer as the background image. It’s hard not to sit here staring at him all day. Then, one of my readers sent a mousepad made from this cover and now I only have to glance to my right and he’s there staring at me. I think you’ll like this series but I know you don’t have much time to read. Yep, it opens with a hanging. Very suspenseful.

      Also….Sourcebooks is re-releasing my earlier books and the first one in February—Texas Redemption—got the cover designed by Jon Paul. It’s gorgeous!! I can’t wait to show everyone. This was originally entitled Redemption but since I have a requirement in my contract that every book will have Texas in it, I had to modify it.

  10. My family participates in Dickens Fair. We’ve been putting our costumes together, adding things each year. Last year it was feathers for hats and next year my daughter has all but demanded a pocket to tie on under her skirt to be accessed through the placket opening. Indeed, one can only carry so much in a reticule. Great post!

    • Hi Jeannie……How funny about your daughter! She knows what they wore and she wants pockets! A girl has to be able to carry her important things. 🙂 The Dickens Fair sounds like great fun. Wish I was close enough to come.

  11. My pocket would probably carry a book! What else?

    Our daughter wanted all of her clothes to have a pocket so I had to sew on patch pockets on everything. We called her pocket until she started school, then I didn’t want the nickname to stick. Her grandma often read her a story book named Pockets. She now owns that book.

  12. Oh Linda I can’t wait to read your new book, love your books. I love pockets on clothes and I am always picking up stuff so a pocket is a great place to put it. Back in that day in time I would have put in good luck charms and maybe a few coins.

  13. Interesting post, Linda. As full as skirts and how wide some of the underpinnings were, one could certainly fit a lot under there. The Dicken’s quote stating she went in up to her elbow leads me to believe she had sewn tote bag sized pockets under her skirts. It would be convenient to have them tied around one’s waist leaving your hands free.
    I really like the cover for your first Men of Legend book. I look forward to reading it.

  14. Just realized I didn’t answer the question. I am doing this on my phone as we are going down the interstate in Georgia. It is hard to see more than a few lines at a time. Anyway, I would make sure that the pockets were big enough to hold a book, pen,small notebook, change purse, keys, hankie, cell phone, and chap stick. Guess I would need large pockets.

  15. I don’t what I’d carry for sure, but since my purse carries a lot, I’m guessing I’d be the lady with the elbow deep pockets and a back ache.

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