I still remember the time I was in a parking lot after work, absentmindedly shoving my hand into a fake blazer pocket, when I realized there was a hole in the stitching. Great, I thought, there’s still no place to put my phone and now I have a hole in my blazer. I fiddled with the loose thread and realized that’s not what was going on: Beyond the stitching was a full pocket lining. I picked out the remaining thread found myself with an entire pocket. Two, actually: there was another on the opposite side.
I felt silly, because I knew that pockets and pleats are often sewn shut to keep them tidy while they’re hanging in the store, and yet I was so used to finding fake pockets on my clothes (women’s pockets are so often bullshit) that I forgot this could happen to me. So consider this your reminder to double check the stitching any time you try on a garment with fake pockets.
Where you’ll find these mystery pockets
Pockets tend to be sewn shut on clothes that are formal or business-y, especially suits. Keep an eye out for:
- breast pockets on men’s suit jackets
- front pockets on lined blazers
- back pockets on dress pants
While you’re at it, also look for a big “X” of thread on the vents at the side of a suit jacket or the kick pleat at the back of a skirt or dress. That thread is meant to be cut so the vent or pleat can open. Suits may also have a fabric label on the sleeve, near the cuff, which is likewise intended to be removed.
How to tell if a pocket is real or fake
First, if the garment has no lining, your job is easy. Just look at the opposite side of the fabric to see if there is a big square piece of pocket lining, or if you’re just looking at the back side of the fake pocket slit.
If the garment is lined, though, you may need to feel around for that pocket lining. Can you detect an extra layer of fabric?
You can also do a plausibility check: is there enough room for a pocket in this space? If the blazer is short and the fake pocket is close to the bottom, it may well be fake.
But most importantly: what is the stitching inside the pocket like? When a pocket is sewn shut, it’s usually not stitched tight. It’s often loose, so that it can be easily pulled out. Poke at the corners of the pocket opening and see if anything gives.
How to liberate your not-fake pockets
If you’re thinking about this while you’re still at the store, ask the cashier or salesperson if they can open the pockets for you. Stores that sell suits will be familiar with the not-fake pocket phenomenon and will be able to open them for you.
If you’re on your own, the easiest way to get started is to bring the garment to a place with good lighting and peek inside. Gently pull the sides of the pocket apart, near the corners, and you may notice something start to give.
You often can use your fingers or a handy tool (like a pin or pencil) to unpick the first few threads, and the rest should easily follow. But if the pocket seems to be securely stitched, you’ll need to cut the thread.
The best tool for that job is a seam ripper, which you can buy at any store that sells sewing or craft supplies. It has a tiny spike that you can insert underneath a stitch, and a U-shaped blade that cuts the thread. Cut a stitch or two this way, and the rest should come right out.
If you don’t have a seam ripper, any fine-pointed scissors will do the job as well. Just be careful you’re only cutting the thread that sews the pocket shut, and not the neighboring fabric.