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Three University of Delaware faculty members, who specialize in fashion and apparel studies, have written a book about pockets, not a pocket book or a pocketbook.

Functional, fashionable pockets

Photos by iStock and Bloomsbury Visual Arts

New book offers practical guide to design and construction

You’re probably familiar with pocket books, those compact paperbacks you can conveniently carry with you wherever you go.

But what about a book that’s actually about pockets?

Three University of Delaware faculty members who specialize in fashion and apparel studies have come up with one, after seeing a need for a comprehensive handbook for students and other designers who previously lacked the specific tools needed to help them construct garments with a wide variety of both functional and fashionable pockets. The result is The Book of Pockets: A Practical Guide for Fashion Designers, published in 2019 by Bloomsbury Visual Arts and now being used in classrooms around the world.

The 208-page book is filled with photos, illustrations, construction tutorials, interviews with famous designers and industry professionals, and samples of work by students at UD and other universities. It has been added to the curriculum in fashion design courses at numerous schools, including the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York and Leeds Arts University in England, and Bloomsbury recently partnered with China Textile and Apparel Press to develop a Chinese-language edition.

In Amsterdam, fashion design students created sample pockets that were added to a display of the book in a store window near their school.

The project began more than four years ago with an offhand remark by Adriana Gorea, assistant professor of fashion and apparel studies in the College of Arts and Sciences.

“In class, we talk about collars and pockets and other design features, but when the students were interested in pockets, I realized that there was really no resource for them,” Gorea said. “I was in my office thinking about this, and I said out loud, ‘There should be a book just about pockets.’ ”

From next door, Martha Hall, then a faculty member in the fashion department and now the director of innovation for the College of Health Sciences, called out: “Then you should write it.”

The two wrote a book proposal and began work, but Hall’s involvement was limited when her faculty appointment changed. Most of the book was then written by Gorea and Katya Roelse, instructor in fashion and apparel studies, who, in addition to her part of the research, writing and photography, also contributed some 200 illustrations.

The two worked in tandem to show students in detail how to design and make various pockets. Gorea would construct a pocket, taking photos of each step, and Roelse would translate the photos into illustrations. They wrote sewing and assembly instructions for the work as well, and later created videos showing the design process, all included in the book itself.

“Every picture, every illustration, tells a story,” Gorea said. “You really want to explain the construction in a way that students can understand and follow.”

With so many visual elements, Roelse noted that the book required more — and more varied — work than many authors might anticipate.

“The content is one thing, but the photography, the illustrations, the technology we had to incorporate … It was really a massive project,” she said.

The book begins with chapters on fashion history and cultural dress and continues with examples of pockets in everything from jeans and cargo pants to couture designs. It includes examples from various costume collections, along with market-bought samples and images supplied by various designers and brands. Activewear and sports uniforms are featured with their special requirements such as the large inside pockets that hold pads to protect football players’ thighs.

“The more we got into this subject, the more potential we saw,” Roelse said. “Pockets are functional as well as attractive, and fashion is becoming more functional and more sustainable all the time. You really want your garments to be practical and to last a long time.”

There are other, possibly less obvious, needs for pockets, the authors said.

Gorea, who previously worked with Adidas Wearable Sports Electronics, noted that pockets are critical in wearable-technology garments such as heart-monitoring sports bras, which are designed to hold an embedded heart monitor or other body metrics device.

“Everything in wearable tech relies on pockets,” she said. “And, as with activewear, they have to be waterproof and flexible and have many other requirements. I think this book could be just the tip of the iceberg in terms of work that could be done on this subject.”

“The Book of Pockets” features a cover image of a 40-plus-pocket coat by fashion designer Kosuke Tsumura, which can be used as a wearable shelter.

About the book cover

The cover of The Book of Pockets depicts a garment called "Final Home" by Japanese fashion designer Kosuke Tsumura.

The coat has more than 40 pockets that can be filled with newspapers for warmth, cushions for comfort, and can serve as a "final home" or wearable shelter. The pockets allow the wearer to transform the coat and take on the characteristics and needs of whoever is wearing it. The garment has been displayed at New York’s Museum of Modern Art.

Roelse said the authors wanted to feature it “because it speaks to the social and sustainability issues in the fashion industry today.”

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