Caroline’s Pocket

Did you know that pockets weren’t always sewn into clothes? Girls in Caroline’s day most likely used tie-on pockets.

Temptation:  Fruit Stall, Victoria and Albert Museum

In this painting, the woman has pulled up her skirt so she can reach into her pocket, which is tied on over her petticoat. (Temptation: Fruit Stall, Victoria and Albert Museum.)

In The Smuggler’s Secrets, my new mystery, Caroline has a problem when she travels to Lydia’s farm:

Caroline climbed to the loft and dug through her valise. She had no trouble finding her handkerchief, but… “Oh, feathers!” she said, frustrated.

“What’s wrong?” Lydia called.

Caroline came back down. “I forgot to bring a pocket. I do wish that pockets were just sewn into our skirts!” That would be so much nicer. She had two pockets at home that she’d stitched of cotton and decorated with embroidery. She usually tied one around her waist so it hung over her petticoat, hidden under her skirt. A little slit in the seam of her skirt let her reach into the pocket.

400_scandal_refuted

In this political cartoon, you can clearly see the big pockets two women are wearing on top of their aprons. (Scandal Refuted, or Billingsgate Virtue. Collection Guildhall Library, Artist C. Williams, 1818; Reference Number v9045412, Collage 18969)

Caroline usually wears her pocket beneath her skirt, but she chooses to wear one over her skirt during a quilting bee. Doing so let her keep thread, thimble, and needle case handy.

beechey - pocket

In this painting, a girl has reached beneath her apron to get coins.

In The Smuggler’s Secrets, Caroline makes a new patchwork pocket using scraps of cloth. I was inspired by this original pocket, which is on display at the Genessee Country Village & Museum in New York.

pocket Genessee Country Village

If you’ve read The Smuggler’s Secrets, you know that a pocket like this one got Caroline into trouble!  (Susan Greene Historic Clothing Collection, Genessee Country Village & Museum.)

Next time you put something in your pocket for safekeeping, think how much more complicated it was to tuck things away in Caroline’s time!

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5 Responses to “Caroline’s Pocket”

  1. Arletta Dawdy's Blog Says:

    I enjoy your attention to detail and accuracy, Kathleen.

  2. Stephanie Says:

    I was tickled to learn the description of Caroline’s pocket was based on a real one. Down to the details of the blue flowered fabric! Making a checkered pattern was a clever way to use a small piece of cloth!

  3. qnpoohbear Says:

    Felicity used to have a beautifully embroidered pocket. First they did away with the slits in her skirts and then they did away with Felicity all together. I suspect Caroline’s dresses are not made correctly. I’m a stickler for historical accuracy (historian/librarian/nerd) and I always appreciate your attention to detail. I love Caroline’s books and my time-travel has appropriated some of Caroline’s collection for portraying a New England maritime girl in 1814.

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