) The word "pocket" is derived from the Anglo-Norman word "pokete," which means small bag or pouch.
And the first pockets were indeed small bags sewn onto a thin band that was then tied around a woman's waist, usually over her shift and under her petticoats (men's pockets were sewn right into seams and linings)--women's dresses did not have pockets as we know them, sewn into/onto a garment, until the eighteenth century.
), the tied-on pockets, which added bulk, no longer worked: voila, the reticule (a very small, often drawstring bag) was born.
By the 1840s, as fashion changed again and dresses and skirts became full again, they began to have pockets sewn into the seams.
And these tied-on pockets seemed to have held quite a lot: handkerchiefs, needle kits, combs, pocket-books (small diaries), snuff cases, scent bottles (often held up to the nose to block out some of the unpleasant odors associated with urban living), and sometimes even small food items (! Pockets were often hand made and frequently made by friends as gifts.When fashions changed to the more straight up-and-down form familiar from the Regency period (Jane Austen, anyone?Remember, dresses were full and wide-shirted, with petticoats and/or panniers and hoops under them.A pocket could be worn with no interruption to the line of the dress itself.The dress above (late twenties/early thirties) has small diagonal patch pockets, not terribly noticeable.
In the 1930s: And an evening dress with tiny decorative pockets!