Pockets of history: production and consumption of women's tie-on pockets in Britain from 1690-1914

The project charts the production and consumption of women’s tie-on pockets in Britain over two centuries. These textile artefacts, familiar to Lucy Locket, were popular before the introduction of handbags in the later nineteenth century but are now largely unknown. Their capacious form, plain or decorated, and their varied contents exemplified everyday work, tastes, and skills of women across the social spectrum. They were made at home throughout the period by individuals for their own use and also manufactured commercially from the mid-18th century. This gives tie-on pockets a rich significance as vernacular hand-made, domestic and gendered everyday objects and also as examples of a small-scale commodity offering insight into early production and consumption of ready-mades. The project aims to explore both these strands. Through digital photogtaphy, the project will unite many surviving pockets, currently scattered through small and large museum collections across Britain, into one database and correlate for the first time material evidence from these with three other principal sources of information: visual, literary and documentary records. This will create the basis for the interpretation of the tie-on pocket’s history by allowing for the first time an extensive comparative study of the museum artefacts and their contextualisation within a social and cultural framework. The project aims to bring them into the academic discourse of dress history and cognate studies using conventional scholarly outcomes and also to restore them to popular attention by means of an exhibition.


Principal investigator
Ms Barbara Burman
Principal project staff
Ms Barbara Burman
Start date
Wednesday, October 1, 2003
Completion date
Sunday, March 1, 2009

Our publications are still in preparation.