Hannah Carlson, "Pockets" in conversation with Lisa Cohen

Wednesday, September 27, 2023
5:00 PM (ET)
Wesleyan RJ Julia Bookstore
Event Type
Bookstore Event
(860) 685 - 3939

Join Wesleyan alumna Hannah Carlson to discuss her new book Pockets. Hannah will be joined by author and Wesleyan Associate Professor Lisa Cohen.


It’s a subject that stirs up plenty of passion: Why do men’s clothes have so many pockets and women’s so few? In her captivating book, Hannah Carlson, a lecturer in dress history at the Rhode Island School of Design, shows us how we tuck gender politics, security, sexuality, and privilege inside our pockets.

Throughout the medieval era in Europe, the purse was an almost universal dress feature carried by men and women alike. But when tailors stitched the first pockets into men’s trousers 500 years ago, it ignited controversy and introduced a range of social issues that we continue to wrestle with today, from concealed pistols to gender inequality, as noted in hashtags like #GiveMePocketsOrGiveMeDeath.

This abundantly illustrated four-color book explores much more than who has pockets and why. How is it that putting your hands in your pocket can be seen as a sign of laziness, arrogance, confidence, or perversion? Walt Whitman’s author photograph, hand in pocket, for Leaves of Grass, seemed like an affront to middle class respectability. When W.E.B. DuBois posed for a portrait, his pocketed hands signaled defiant coolness.

Readers of The Golden Thread by Kassia St. Clair and The Fabric of Civilization by Virginia Postrel will be enthralled. And Pockets is a perfect gift for the legions of people obsessed with pockets and their absence, and for anyone interested in how our clothes influence the way we navigate the world.

Hannah Carlson is an authority on the history of clothing and an award-winning researcher and author. She has been featured on the podcast 99% Invisible, as well as in The Los Angeles Times, Fast Company, and The New Yorker. A senior lecturer in the apparel design department at the Rhode Island School of Design, she has acted as the faculty fellow in Costumes and Textiles at the RISD Museum and trained as a Conservator of Costume and Textiles at the Fashion Institute of Technology. A graduate of Wesleyan University, she earned a master’s degree from FIT, and a Ph.D. in material culture from Boston University.

Lisa Cohen’s writing about clothes has appeared in the London Review of Books, Fashion Theory, Archivist Addendum, and The New Yorker online, among other publications. She is the author of All We Know: Three Lives and is an Associate Professor at Wesleyan University.


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