Any suggestions for a woman who wants to stop carrying a bag?
October 20, 2014 9:09 AM   Subscribe

I really enjoy the freedom of movement that comes from not carrying a bag and was wondering if you had any suggestions for a) women's clothes/unisex clothes/appealing men's jackets or other clothes with deep pockets b) some other alternative?

I've used a shoulder bag for the past 2 years and a messenger bag for years before that (which made sense in grad school). Messenger bags and backpacks mess with my posture, so unless I have to carry a computer or books around, I'd like to avoid them. I don't think a tool belt or utility apron will work in New York City. I'm a freelance artist, so blending into corporate culture isn't a big concern. Thanks!
posted by Geameade to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (39 answers total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
Messenger bags and backpacks mess with my posture, so unless I have to carry a computer or books around, I'd like to avoid them.

I addressed this problem by getting a teensy little leather backpack which weighs almost nothing. I've been seeing more and more of them on the subway, and I think it's an ideal solution.

For the winter, you can probably find a coat with large, deep inside pockets.
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:12 AM on October 20, 2014

How about Cargo pants?

Plenty of pockets.

Another option would be a fishing vest. This one is cool in that it doesn't look like you have bait on you.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:14 AM on October 20, 2014 [4 favorites]

I'm told it's pretty easy to add pockets to the insides of jackets, or lengthen the ones in pants. I'd pick something you like otherwise, and have a tailor alter it.
posted by desjardins at 9:21 AM on October 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

I recently started ordering clothes from eShakti and one of the selling features was the presence of pockets in nearly everything. The styling is distinctly femme, but the pockets on the dresses and skirts are big enough to put a half liter bottle of water or a checkbook wallet into.
posted by KathrynT at 9:25 AM on October 20, 2014 [2 favorites]

This Queen Bee Hip Holster is the best. It's more stylish than a tool belt, but does basically the same job. It comes with a little elastic strap, but also can be worn with a normal belt. It fits a small wallet, smart phone and keys. A+ I wear it all the time.
posted by ohisee at 9:31 AM on October 20, 2014 [3 favorites]

I've seen more fanny packs lately. They make sense, they're big enough for a phone, a wallet, and not much else.
posted by mareli at 9:32 AM on October 20, 2014

How much do you need to carry? I spent years wandering NYC on weekends with just a credit card, subway card, and my phone in the back pocket of my jeans and a housekey and a tinted lip balm in the front pocket. It was fantastically liberating.
posted by mochapickle at 9:40 AM on October 20, 2014 [5 favorites]

This sort of depends on what you consider essential to carry around with you. If I'm traveling light, all I use is a little wristlet (like this) to carry my phone, money and credit cards, business cards, maybe a lipstick or some tampons. I can clip my keychain to it with a carabiner, loop it around my wrist, and voila my hands are free.

In colder weather, I have a denim jacket from Express with incredibly roomy inside pockets that can accommodate a 7-inch Nexus tablet (!). I got it last year, though, so double-check that's the same one before you buy.
posted by Andrhia at 9:44 AM on October 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

I am a tiny woman who wears tiny woman jeans and almost never carries a bag. I have A phone case that holds a few credit cards, and I stick that in my back pocket (yes, it sticks out. No, I don't care). I don't need a key for my house but I imagine that wouldn't be hard to add. Is "carrying less stuff" an option?
posted by brainmouse at 9:45 AM on October 20, 2014

Look into the cases for smartphones that hold cards. Sometimes I just put my license, my bus pass and a credit card in there and then all I need is my keys. Those are easy enough to fit into even conventional lady jeans.
posted by bleep at 9:46 AM on October 20, 2014

You don't say what all sorts of things you'll be carrying daily. Presumably it's not the full assortment of stuff-in-women's-purses, or you wouldn't be able to take this step of going without. I'm a man and I don't carry a purse or bag regularly, but just thinking about men: we usually carry a wallet, some keys, a phone, and perhaps a knife or pen; we usually carry this in our pants pockets (and maybe a shirt pocket) because our pants are usually designed to be slightly less form-fitting.

While I think they look goofy, a phone holster of some sort frees up a lot of pocket space and I do use one when I am carrying two phones.
posted by resurrexit at 9:51 AM on October 20, 2014

Look into travel clothing. There are a lot of jackets & vests out there that have lots of pockets even some hidden pockets. I have not used this company, but have a cheap knock off and it works great, but with the cooler weather coming it would be a great way to combine coat/jacket & bag in one.
posted by wwax at 9:53 AM on October 20, 2014 [2 favorites]

Also not caring that my phone sticks out with the caveat that I have put this thing on my hand every time I sit down.

If I could wear cargo pants in daily life, I would.

The class is Levis jacket is hardly stylish but OMG the pockets! Two button-flap, two deep inside pockets, and two shallow hand pockets in front.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 9:54 AM on October 20, 2014

Penfield and Barbour jackets are still pretty trendy for women (if that matters to you), and they have tons of pockets both exterior and interior. I like my Penfield for this very reason.
posted by telegraph at 9:55 AM on October 20, 2014

My man-purse for cool weather is a blazer. Three inside pockets plus two outside allows me to carry lots of stuff, in addition to the two front pockets on my jeans that hold keys and change. Note that cheap blazers might not have working outside pockets.

My man-purse for warm weather is cargo shorts.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 9:56 AM on October 20, 2014

Yeah, it depends on what you need to carry. I often have a diaper bag with me but when I don't need it I go light: card case (like this), iphone, keys, lip balm. I can fit those in my pants pockets. If the pants don't have pockets I use a light cross body bag (like this) or a light wristlet (like this).
posted by JenMarie at 9:59 AM on October 20, 2014

What do you need or want to carry? I'm a woman and I mostly never carry a bag. In my pants and jacket pockets (pants like jeans, jackets like ordinary jackets without huge or many more than two pockets) I carry: My wallet; my keys; my phone. That's it. If you have much more than that, you may have to go with a bag.
posted by rtha at 10:03 AM on October 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

Nthing the "what do you need to carry daily" question. I carry a bag most of the time, but I drag a lot of things around with me. On occasions where I would prefer not to carry a bag, I put my phone in the inside pocket of my blazer, shove cash+ID+a credit card in my jeans pocket, and take just my front door key with me. Dresses or skirts with big pockets are also helpful, especially if there's some volume in the skirt to conceal any... lumpiness from the contents of the pockets.
posted by bedhead at 10:39 AM on October 20, 2014

I'm not sure if you're also looking for pants with plain old useful pockets (as opposed to the bullshit women's pockets that are only a couple inches deep), but outdoorsy-type clothes seem to be far superior in that regard than anything designed to be primarily stylish. The best-pocketed pants I own are classic Carhartts, and some random North Face pants. You won't win any fashion awards with them, but I think they can be worked into a wardrobe well enough that it doesn't look like you just walked off a construction site. (But I could be wrong. I grew up in the '90s when baggy/loose-fitting pants were cool, and still haven't shaken that perception.)
posted by gueneverey at 11:16 AM on October 20, 2014

Response by poster: Thank you, everybody! This is very helpful.

What I'd need to carry daily is some combination of wallet, keys, phone, charger, lipgloss, a few pens, a few business cards and some sort of small moleskine or other sketchbook. I've seen men's jeans where you can fit a whole small paperback into a pocket - something I'd love. I'm going to start looking for men's pants that fit me and don't look awful, but the blazer/travel store stealth pocket hoodie is another route.

My pockets are too small for this right now, but I wouldn't feel great sticking things in my back pockets anyway. It seems like keeping valuables close to your upper body (inside jacket pocket, front pants pocket) seems safer - is that not right?

Thanks again.
posted by Geameade at 11:32 AM on October 20, 2014

posted by harrietthespy at 11:37 AM on October 20, 2014

My husband owns several things (vest, jacket, pants) from the ScotteVest store that wwax links to above and has high praise for their products, fwiw. You can even fit an iPad into the vest, as they claim, but it's kind of obvious that you've got something that size in there. Smaller stuff is hidden, except for the pants, because the ones my husband owns aren't cut wide enough to afford enough bagginess to hid the outline of a phone, but the pockets are extra-deep and would be difficult for someone else to reach into--they'd have to come at it with a razor blade to slice the pants open to get it.
posted by telophase at 11:38 AM on October 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

I barely carry bags - try trousers with big bum pockets (some retro stuff good for this, combats, dungaree type pinees, a purse on a string you can wear under your top rounds your neck, long boots with a purse tucked in top - a tad awkward at the bar.
posted by tanktop at 1:09 PM on October 20, 2014

I briefly had a men's pair of athletic pants of some sort with pockets that zipped close. This was wonderful for making sure my wallet was actually secure and also for stuffing pockets with more things without worrying they would fall out.

My ex husband was career military. The pockets of his uniforms generally had buttons to keep them secured. If you want to go bag-free, this is a nice feature to have if you can find it in clothes that you like in terms of looks, comfort, etc.

I generally do not carry a bag. Most of the time, I have a Ziploc bag with credit cards, cash, and a few other things in one pocket. (I have health problems and have used a Ziploc bag for a wallet for a few years now. It can be thrown out and replaced with a new one for around a nickel. It's a cleanliness thing.)
posted by Michele in California at 1:17 PM on October 20, 2014

Articles of lined clothing can easily transform into vast, secure wraparound pockets, if the lining attaches at its lower edge, and if you create slits through which to access this inner space -- if an existing pocket is too small, just rip out its lining and you're in like Flynn.
posted by feral_goldfish at 1:22 PM on October 20, 2014

The sketchbook might be iffy, although you can get the teeny kind and that would work, but here's a cool thing - all the dresses and skirts at eShakti have impressively big, deep pockets. Very feminine stuff, and the fullness of a lot of the skirts make your cargo disappear.
posted by Mizu at 1:23 PM on October 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

You'll have more options if you reduce the size of what you need to carry. Quick solutions to this are switching to a men's wallet; and carrying only the keys you use every day rather than every key you own.
posted by Gwendoline Mary at 3:36 PM on October 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

I found this amazing wool vest (in plain dark grey) a month ago. Someone was throwing it out, and I snagged it in case it might come in handy despite the fact that I would never in a million years have bought something like this. But oh my lord. It is the very perfect thing for losing the bag. It has pockets with flaps, and then underneath those pockets it has side access pockets. So you can stuff the main pockets with things, and still have a place to put your hands. Also, there is a roomy interior pocket, which would easily fit a small sketchbook, etc. It is a men's garment (of course, hence those nice unjust pockets), and as a tiny woman, it looks great tossed over sweaters and even a coat. There is a top button, plus a full zipper. It's rocking my world.
posted by thegreatfleecircus at 3:57 PM on October 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

Cross-body purse... I know you said you don't want a messenger or backpack but a cross-body can be as tiny or large as you need and very comfortable; I actually forget I have it slung over one shoulder and across my body. Hands free and stuff you need without saggy-baggy pants pockets.
posted by Lornalulu at 6:57 PM on October 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

I am a pretty stylish and feminine young woman. This fall I've been wearing boyfriend jeans from Target and a big cargo jacket(? not sure what these are called, but it's a popular style-- an olive green fall coat with biiiig pockets) from H&M. I can fit basically everything I need in either my pants or coat, depending on what I need with me at all times and what can hang out in my coat pocket. The boyfriend jeans are VERY comfy and have huge pockets like men's jeans, but they're slightly tailored for a woman's body and a little more fashionable.
posted by stoneandstar at 7:07 PM on October 20, 2014

I've got a couple of these from Travelsmith - lots of pockets without being too bulky.
posted by CrowMeris at 8:28 PM on October 20, 2014

I love tool-ish belts, fanny packs, waist pouches, what have you for holding the little stuff. If you look around on Etsy you should find a lot of variations and something you might like if you don't have pockets on you that day.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:05 PM on October 20, 2014

Freedom. I can sometimes go without a bag if I'm wearing my Uniqlo ultra light down vest. Hidden pocket on the inside too.
posted by gillianr at 10:37 PM on October 20, 2014

Luxirare has some nice wearable items for carrying stuff, like wallet necklaces and mini-vests.
posted by neushoorn at 3:58 AM on October 21, 2014

For more variations on the fanny pack: Nomadic Wise Walker Waist Pouches and Waist Bags.
posted by koucha at 8:06 AM on October 21, 2014

You could get a travel waist belt for your wallet-y things, and then put other things like your moleskine in a pocket. Such a belt would reduce your need for additional pockets.
posted by vignettist at 8:50 AM on October 21, 2014

I wear something like this as a waist bag
posted by PeaPod at 8:06 PM on October 21, 2014

I get by with the tiniest possible cross body. phone + wallet + keys + lip gloss + business cards + one pen.
posted by ansate at 8:00 AM on October 25, 2014

Mod note: Final update from the OP:
Well, this is many years later, but ... designing belts and utility kilts and utility etc would be great and I hope someone does that. Designing women's pants and jackets with real-deal pockets is overdue. There are hacks for lengthening pockets in women's jeans yourself but for now:

I finally just went out and bought men's jeans at Uniqlo. And because they do that free-hemming service, my relative shortness wasn't a problem --- so men's jeans and men's chino shorts + belt = I can walk the dog or go around town without a bag! So I guess - enter the men's section and go get those pockets?

There are also clothing brands like Dapperboi that make suits and jeans etc for someone born with a feminine body.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:31 PM on October 10, 2018

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