The Surprising Reason Most Dresses Don’t Have Pockets – and 9 That Do

You don't have to settle.

Last Updated on November 4, 2022

I love dresses, but I wish they were designed to be a little more practical – especially when I don’t want to carry around a bag.

One of the most notable things about women’s dresses today is the severe lack of pockets. I don’t want to be searching around my bag for things when I could just find one in my pocket.

READ MORE: 23 Christmas Party Dresses to Ensure You Dazzle This Festive Season

Of course, all men’s clothing has pockets. So what’s the deal?

Asian woman wears black beret, sunglasses, gloves and a dress

Why don’t dresses have pockets?

Back in the middle ages, both men and women had pockets—or pouches—sewn into their clothes. It wasn’t until the 17th century that pocket inequality began.

Pockets were only sewn into men’s clothes, while women had to wear separate pouches underneath their petticoats that were actually pretty difficult to get to.

As part of the Bags: Inside Out exhibition, the V&A Museum state that the average women during the 17th century wore a petticoat and two layers of undergarments, whilst the ‘pocket’ or pouch would be tied around her waist in-between the ‘under-petticoat’ and petticoat – so not exactly easy access.

As time went on, pockets became small handbags or ‘reticules’ at the time. This evidenced the inequality between men and women in the 1790s, when women didn’t have their own money or property. Their husbands would be responsible for such matters.

Things did improve in the 20th century, when the Rational Dress Society ran campaigns fighting for more functional clothes for women. A suit, named the ‘Suffragette suit’ and with six pockets, became popular in 1910 as women sought independence.

Emilia Wickstead / Courtesy of BFC

It’s still hard to find womenswear with decent pockets, most notable in dresses. As fashion has evolved, women’s clothing became overall slimmer, and most designers were concerned that pockets will only ruin the look.

This is why it’s such a big challenge to find dresses with pockets today – and presumably why it’s strangely satisfying when I do. When people compliment a dress I’m wearing, I find it hard not to respond enthusiastically with, “Thanks, it has pockets!”

We have a great selection of pocket-clad dresses to shop right now, whether you prefer a button-flap or a subtle style.

READ MORE: 17 Killer Zara Dresses On My Wishlist Right Now

Wear Next may receive a small commission if you click a link from one of our articles onto a retail website and make a purchase.

Shop dresses with pockets

DREAM Wonder Flower Ruffle Dress with pockets

DREAM Wonder Flower Ruffle Dress, £190, Sister Jane – buy now

Cord Velour Fit + Flare Dress Me+Em

Cord Velour Fit + Flare Dress, £175, Me+Em – buy now


Winifred Pastel Seersucker Check Midi, £58, Damson Madder – buy now

Long Sleeve Jersey and Woven Mix Dress

Long Sleeve Jersey and Woven Mix Dress, now £63.20, Albaray – buy now

Denim shirt dress

Denim shirt dress, £24.99, H&M – buy now

Smocked Mini Dress

Smocked Mini Dress, £75, & Other Stories – buy now

Mitch Dress Green

Mitch Dress Green, £135, L.F. Markey – buy now

Stella Dress - Brown, £155, Molby The Label

Stella Dress – Brown, £155, Molby The Label – buy now

Lunar Garden Tapestry Dress

Lunar Garden Tapestry Dress, £92, Sister Jane – buy now