I love pockets so much, many of my purchasing decisions hinge on whether or not a garment has the right pockets in the right places. Most garments arrive with the pockets sewn shut, and it can be a challenge to determine if the pockets are real, faux, should, or should not be opened. In this post, I’m going to lay out the steps I take to determine if a pocket is real and can be opened, as well as how to open it safely without ruining your garment.
Why Do Pockets Come Sewn Shut?
Clothing manufacturers send garments to retailers with the pockets sewn shut for a few reasons, including:
1. Avoid damage – Open pockets are prone to getting caught, yanked, and misshapen during rough handing on the sales floor or in fitting rooms. Sewing them shut increases the likelihood the purchasing customer will get a nice, undamaged item.
2. Keep the silhouette sleek while it’s hanging on the rack – A garment will look better hanging on the rack in a store if it’s pockets aren’t opening, gaping or adding bulk.
3. Preventing thefts – If pockets are sewn shut, small items can’t be stuffed into them in an attempt to pass them by retail workers, and they can’t be used to hide evidence of security tag removals.
Why You Should Open a Pocket
1. To have a place for your hands. Like to stuff your hands in your pockets? Open up those hip pockets!
2. To have a place for your stuff. Like to carry your phone in your pocket or need a place to stuff your gloves? Back pockets on pants or skirts, and jacket side pockets are great for this.
3. Style decisions. Want a cool place to stuff a pocket square or hang your sunglasses? Blazer chest pockets are perfect.
Why You Should Keep a Pocket Sewn Shut
1. You prefer to keep a sleek silhouette. Pockets can gape or stretch (from putting objects or hands into them over and over).
2. They are located in a spot that adds unwanted bulk to your body type. For example, depending on your hip shape, you may prefer the look of hip pockets that are sewn shut.
How To Tell If Pockets Are Real or Fake
Not all garment pockets are fully functional, with some just being a style element that lacks a pocket lining or that can’t be opened without damaging the integrity of the garment. Here’s how I determine if a pocket is real or faux.
1. Check for loose stitching – Often times, real pockets are sewn shut with loose, easy to remove stitches. You know you’ve got one of these if:
a. The stitches are long, loose and clearly visible.
b. Sometimes the thread will be in a contrasting color.
2. Open space at either end – Another way manufacturers often indicate the presence of real pockets is by leaving open space at either end of the stitched up pocket, just enough to slip a finger through. In this case, you can both see and physically feel the pocket lining inside.
3. Find the pocket lining – Sometimes real pockets are sewn shut with tight stitches and closed up the entire way. If this is the case, check to see if there is a pocket lining by flipping the garment inside out. If the garment itself is not lined, you should be able to easily see the pocket lining. If the garment is lined, you’ll need to pinch at the lining fabric and feel around for the presence of a pocket lining. It will feel like two extra layers of fabric beneath the lining.
If the above points are not true, it looks like those pockets are fake and you shouldn’t risk opening them for risk of damaging your garment.
If the above points are true, congratulations! You have real pockets and can now open them up.
How to Open a Pocket
So now that you’ve discovered your pocket is real, and determined you’d like it functional, let’s open it up!
The Tools You’ll Need
1. Seam ripper or small, pointed scissors. I like small sewing scissors or those cuticle, eyebrow/mustache scissors.
2. Good lighting so see what you’re doing. The stitches can be small and/or the same color as the fabric.
1. Gently pull at the pocket area so you can see what threads are holding the two sides together and need removing.
2. Locate a thread that can be easily snipped without damaging the fabric. It doesn’t need to be at the corner, it can be in the middle as long as it is easy to see and get your seam ripper or scissors underneath.
3. With your seam ripper or pointed scissors, snip the single thread.
4. With your fingers, gently tug the pocket open to loosen more threads. Sometimes, if the threads are long and loose, you can easily tug the pocket completely open at this point.
5. When you meet resistance, snip another thread and gently tug the pocket open until you meet resistance again.
6. Continue to snip threads and gently tug until the pocket is entirely open.
7. Clean up any leftover loose and snipped threads by gently pulling them from the pocket area. They should pull out without much resistance.
8. At this point, I like to feel around inside the pocket to make sure there are no loose threads, holes or damage.
Voilà! Now you can use your newly opened pocket!
Lots of great information in this post. One other reason pockets are sewn shut, is to hold them in place during construction. Normally the garment is pressed after each seam is sewn. Often pockets are placed in areas of a garment which curve around the body. On jackets they often sit on top of shaping darts or seams. These sections are pressed on tailors hams so as not to interfere with the shaping. Sewing the pocket closed stops it from pulling open over the ham.
Thank you for your comment Robin! I never knew that! Great tidbit. =)
Great tip, thank you so much….I do love a pocket and now I can go through my pile of jackets and see if there are any pockets I have not utilized!!! Great article. Love your site by the way, being a super petite myself and a pretty tailored dresser, it’s perfect for moi and I’ve got 30 years on ya.
I just bought a vintage chic coat, with stitched up pockets. Thanks to you, I found the hole on the side, and now have two functional pockets :)
Thank you so much. I’m new to wearing blazers and suits. I’m sitting on the plane reading this because I’m was anxious to rip open the pockets of my new blazer!!! I did it, I feel like I look like a pro executive!!!
I opened a kercheif pocket on my hubby’s new suit and there was a second actually two more seams. I’m afraid to open one up, I think the front one is the decoration, but the other one in back is tightly sewn. I guess if it’s a fake, I can just sew it back up again. or put a new pocket lining in so he can have a pocket.
Hmmm…yeah, that could be a faux pocket. One way I look to see if there’s a real pocket is to feel around for a pocket lining from the inside of the jacket. It’ll feel like two more layers of fabric in a rectangle shape dropping down from the opening. If there’s nothing there, then the pocket is faux. If you can find the pocket lining, then it’s usually safe to continue the pocket opening exploration. Good luck!