Pair of crewel work embroidered linen pockets
Unlike menswear, women’s clothing in the 18th century did not have ‘built in’ pockets and the modern handbag was yet to be invented. Instead, most women wore pockets like these on a tape around the waist, usually over the top of a petticoat but underneath the outer layer of the skirt. Slits could be left in the skirt to allow the pockets to be reached when worn. They were used to store small personal objects and valuables such as keys, personal letters, coin purses and keepsakes. When worn over the skirts they were easy to pickpocket; either by stealing individual items or simply cutting away the entire pocket and this is where the nursery rhyme about Lucy Locket losing her pocket originated.
These pockets are made of plain unbleached linen and decorated with a naïve design of stylised flowers and urns in coloured wools. The embroidery is worked in chain stitch. The designs on each pocket are very similar and use the same colours but are not identical. Embroidery such as this was a common method of decoration and pockets were usually homemade, either by the wearer or perhaps as a gift to a close friend or family member. Other methods of decoration included fine quilting and other types of embroidery. Patchwork and plain pockets would be worn by the working class. Pockets were sometimes made by recycling and cutting down larger textiles such as quilted bedcovers when parts of them became worn out.