women's pants pockets
April 10, 2011 3:19 PM   Subscribe

Women's pants - easy way to increase hand pocket size, and add side pockets?

Women's pants in general have useless pockets. Why can't they have pockets that a normal wallet or smart phone can fit into??

Cargo pants aren't always easy to find (or out of budget). I like women's pants that are straight or boot cut and lower rise (inch or two below belly button). I carry everything in my pockets.

I'm wondering if it's easy/worthwhile to learn to sew so I can replace or increase the size of the shallow hand pockets as well as add side pockets to ordinary women's pants. Or am I not looking at this the right way? Men's pants seem to be rather heavy and not fit nearly as well as womens...

I often find myself wanting to modify clothes to my liking. Is sewing easy to do? I don't want things to look ugly homemade, it would be nice to be able to wear these clothes to a casual office work environment and not look too sloppy.
posted by mbird to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (8 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Sewing isn't hard; constructing garments is.

I hear you on the women's pockets front, though. I did have some success with a pair of jeans by simply extending the pockets. To do this, I opened up the bottom seam of the pocket, attached a 3" wide strip all around, then sewed that strip shut at the bottom. (What a terrible description; essentially I lengthened the pocket by 3" by adding extra fabric.) The problem, though, is that you then have a seam in your pocket and if you wear fitted pants the seam may show through or rub your thighs uncomfortably.

If you've never sewn before, hacking pants might be a big leap forward. On the other hand, you might love it and get the hang of it quickly. If there's a sewing centre near you why not take a few lessons to see if you like sewing before you invest in a machine. Many places offer classes in copying your favourite garments or drafting patterns individualized to your needs.
posted by oohisay at 3:36 PM on April 10, 2011

Oh, I forgot to add that if the pocket is sewn into the pant side seam then that simple extension trick won't work so well. The jeans I tried it on had "free swinging" pockets, if you know what I mean.
posted by oohisay at 3:37 PM on April 10, 2011

lower rise (inch or two below belly button)

This is why you can't have nice things (like pockets).

If your rise is that low, there's no room for good pockets that actually hold your stuff. Low rises are passe now anyway.
posted by Sara C. at 3:43 PM on April 10, 2011 [3 favorites]

A lot of women's trousers are made of material and come in cuts that are somewhat unforgiving of large pockets - what works on jeans would not necessarily work on other fabrics, none of my work trousers would look right with pockets that can actually hold stuff.
posted by koahiatamadl at 3:44 PM on April 10, 2011

Agreed that the style may preclude putting lots of stuff in your pockets. It won't just look goofy, your hips may get in the way of accessing the pocket easily. Do you have a pair you like that you can copy the pockets from (shape, size, and where they're placed relative to hips)?

Another issue is having matching fabric - you'd definitely want this for cargo-style pockets, and most onseam pockets have a facing made of the main fabric too. If you're not tall, you can buy your pants too long and cut off the ends, but that still limits pocket size.

Here's a meticulous tutorial for adding pockets to a garment - if you follow through the pictures, you should get a good idea of pocket construction. It would be a good idea to start with woven pajama pants as a trial run, as there's less shaping and the material is easier to work with.

(I can sew, but I just put my phone and wallet in my back pockets because it's easier than tailoring.)
posted by momus_window at 4:01 PM on April 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

I sew. Every once in a while a garment for myself (I'm a lady), and I do alter/tailor ready-made clothing. I would describe myself as an intermediate to advanced (on some things) home sewster, and I've worked with a lot of different kinds of fabric and construction--but I am NOT a tailor or a drapier, etc.

There is lots of good info in this thread already. As far as if sewing, as a skill is "easy" or "easy to learn," or worth it--I think it is absolutely worth it especially if you like to modify ready-made clothing. Take a class, learn how to use a pattern for basic garment shapes, how to choose fabrics for different projects, etc. Even advanced beginner type skills are awesome to have so that you can make good fitted skirts, or silk tanks/shells, the wonderful dress shapes and skills from a Collette pattern.

In general, there are two sorts of pockets--patch pockets and inseam pockets (and their variations). Patch pockets are essentially a piece of fabric applied with an opening on the "right side" of the garment--like the chest pocket on an ordinary men's t-shirt. These can be constructed to be invisible by choosing the same pattern of fabric as the garment and matching pattern placement, or to contrast. Inseam pockets open along the lateral seam of a garment, directly under the waistband. There are combinations--like a traditional front jeans' pocket that is faced with denim and opens in the front of the garment, but is anchored at the lateral seam under the waistband.

A low rise displaces the natural waist and pockets are made shorter so that they still terminate at the natural low hip. This is so the garment falls and fits correctly and because items bulging in your pocket midthigh will look strange. Men's pants fit at the natural waist and have a lot more ease at the hips, accommodating roomier pockets.

Jeans' pockets could be lengthened on lower rises without much compromise of fall or fit (and easily done since the inner pocket is made of simple muslin), but you'll still have bulge from items at midthigh, even with a lot of thigh ease. Pockets terminate at the lower hip because your body naturally pockets there, and items tuck against the body better. Plus, your hands in pockets at that level fold your elbows into a comfortable 30 degrees.

You could learn to create patch pockets in coordinating fabrics that are placed from lateral seam to halfway to the front, with L shaped or scooped opening like the brown skirt here. These are useful style pockets that look best on flat-front pants or skirts.

Or, start wearing skirts. I love skirt patterns from the 50s--because of the fullness of the skirt pleated from the little waists, some of the in-seam pockets on those patterns could fit a nice-sized dog. And everything's hidden by the drape, so no one knows you have a dog in there until your hip starts barking.
posted by rumposinc at 4:55 PM on April 10, 2011 [2 favorites]

The reason why women's pockets are so freaking small is because of hips being small(er than men). Also, men are wearing baggier pants, and thus their pockets hold everything. Women usually have smaller hips AND want a better fit than men, so they shrink the pockets. I had a similar complaint when I was taking design classes and my instructor insisted I put tiny pockets in my jacket that barely fit my hands in. Jeans in general are supposed to be tight-fitting and thus you have pretty useless pockets that as rumposinc pointed out, will look funny if they got bigger.

If you're a beginning sewer, I'd suggest going to the store and picking out a pattern to try that has big pockets rather than MacGyvering the pants you have now into having bigger pockets. I've been sewing since I was a kid and I still have plenty of issues trying to alter stuff like that. If you're going to try that, at least attempt it with pants you don't like. You can learn how to sew in five minutes, but it's figuring out the logistics of patterns and alterations that takes so dang long.

Here's a book I've seen on the topic. I still don't have the knack of doing what she does, but she's pretty comprehensive. Also, advanced, hoo boy.
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:52 PM on April 10, 2011

Men's pants are typically lower-rise, straight-legged, and have the pockets -- I wonder if it would be easier to adjust the fit of men's pants? But I'm not sure what look you're going for. I'm imagining something like this, in that it's low on her hips and has huge pockets, but, y'know, pants, instead of a skirt.

I own 2 of those skirts and love them, BTW.
posted by MeiraV at 7:10 AM on April 11, 2011

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