National News

Why women's pockets are useless: A history

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-09-18 05:33

The iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus descend upon us today, and tech reviewers are throwing it a pretty elaborate welcome party. Amid the loving descriptions of its crisp camera, the odes to its intuitive operating system and the near-reverence for its sleek lines and its mystical Apple-ness, one question (quite literally) looms large: Is the bigger iPhone 6 Plus a "pocketable" size?

Case in point:

The Verge's Nilay Patel started his video review like this...

Screenshot: The Verge

...and ended it like this:

Screenshot: The Verge 

Lance Ulanoff at Mashable wasn't sold on the 5.5-inch "phablet" (OK, maybe there is more than one controversy over this phone):

"To be honest, I can see why, even with the heftier price tag, the iPhone 6 Plus is so alluring, but no, I won’t be carrying that giant device in my pocket or feeling its slightly hefty body tottering in my hand. I prefer the iPhone 6."

 Yahoo’s David Pogue agrees:

“The small of hand won’t be thrilled about the added width. The iPhone 6 Plus, in particular, is a pocket-filler.” 

The list goes on. The conversation hinges on the company's decision to release a gigantic phone. However – and we're not the first to point out – the "pocket problem" would be more accurately described as a "men's pocket problem."

Most "pockets" in women's clothing, are, pretty much without question, useless. Some won't open at all. A demonstration:

The great gendered pocket divide is real, and it did not happen by accident. As Christian Dior is reported to have said in 1954: "Men have pockets to keep things in, women for decoration." 

This is how it happened:


Pockets used to do a lot more than decorate, writes fashion historian Barbara Burman in of "Pockets of History: The Secret Life of an Everyday Object." Most 17th and 18th century women tied separate pocket bags underneath their dresses, which they would access through a slit in their skirts and petticoats. 

Courtesy of the Victoria and Albert Museum

Owners thought of them as meaningful pieces of clothing in their own right. They would often spend years embroidering and embellishing them - after all, for many people who shared close quarters, a pocket was one of few truly private places to keep personal possessions.  

LACMA/Wikimedia Commons

Early 1800s

As the 18th century turned into the 19th, however, women's pockets shrunk and sometimes disappeared – especially for those with means.

"The design of the times was 'Greek Goddesses,'" says fashion historian Elizabeth Morano, a professor at Parsons School of Design. "Women...would study the ancient texts and couldn't find pockets, so they didn't use them in the dress. Some of those stories are just stories, but the line was a lot more sleek. Think of the neoclassical dress. It's straight up and down. The line of the clothing changes completely." 

Pierre-Paul Prud'hon, c. 1805 Take, for instance, this portrait of Empress Josephine, hanging out in a forest circa 1805:  

She wasn't wearing a pocket under her empire gown, and neither were her wealthy contemporaries. Inner-clothing storage space gave way to the external "reticule," considered a precursor to the modern handbag. They were carried on arms or in hands, and they held just about nothing. Curators at the Victoria and Albert Museum say reticules had "barely enough room for a hankie and a coin, never mind the mirror, watch, keys, needlecase and oranges that a pocket usually contained."

In terms of functionality, it was a major downgrade. 

"If I were to interpret [the change]," says Morano, "it comes down to 'you don't want this functional item. It's not traditionally feminine, it's not fashionable.'"

Well-to-do women weren't supposed to need their hands for labor, and carrying money just wasn't supposed to be a wife's concern. In Burman's words, "the frustrations and limitations of women’s access to money and ownership of property were neatly mirrored in the restricted scope of their pockets." 

LACMA/Wikimedia Commons

Not everyone would let go of pockets or "dimity bags" without a fight — especially older women, young children, and working-class servants. As the granddaughter of President John Adams and the first lady Abigail Adams wrote: “All old ladies wore these pockets and carried their keys in them." 

Even when smaller, sewn in pockets came back into vogue in the later nineteenth century, there was still a distinction between lower-class women’s ample pocket bags and the “bag like slip of silk” satirized in a popular story from the time called "Grandmma’s pockets." 

Late 1800s

Men's clothing, meanwhile, had more pockets than ever, Morano says, many of which weren't visible to the outside observer. The hands-in-pocket gesture was a staple of nineteenth century photography. Pockets were for men's men.

Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Many family portraits of the time feature the husband standing, hand-in-pocket, as his wife sat with her hands folded on her lap or around a Bible.

Hulton Archive/Getty Images


Along with many of the trappings of the Victorian era, fashion gave way to function for Westerners of all classes and genders at the outbreak of the World Wars. Women working on the war movement were wearing trousers for the first time, mostly men's clothes tailored to fit. 


Topical Press Agency/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

These men's pants had menswear pockets. But after the war, as a two-legged style slowly, but surely took off among more daring women, trousers taken up by the designers of the time - Paul Poiret and Coco Chanel among them. In the words of a Vogue editor in 1939, slacks had to be:

"‘Not necessarily tailored like a man’s—after all, your figure isn’t the same. […] In the early, experimental days, slacks too often were accompanied by too mannish accessories."

That, right there, was the trick: Acceptable trousers needed to be feminized - and one way to do it? Whittle down those bulky masculine pockets.

Or, hey, do away with them all together.

Hulton Archive/Getty Images

By the 1970s, trouser pants were here to stay, bolstered by the feminist movement and glossy magazines alike. At the same time, two more fashion trends endeavored to keep the pocket down: Statement handbags and and super-thin models. 

An ideal of slenderness — not just self-sufficiency — tightened fabrics and streamlined design, at about the same time the "it bag" became a thing. "Stay away from bulky pockets" became the rule for looking long and lean.

Much like earlier centuries' reticule and pocket bag, the form transferred the function. Says Morano: "Handbags have taken such importance recently as accessories that convey meaning... it's another reason [pockets could be] becoming obsolete."

Roger Jackson/Hulton Archive

Smartphones, echoing the "needlecases and oranges" before them, have ended up in bags women carry on their arms or in their hands. Most purses come with a special phone flap. In the late 1980s, luxury handbags started to go by one name ("Kate", "Birkin"):

Sex and the City


Enter the giant smartphone.

"Maybe men are going to have to start carrying bags around," Morano says. "Backpacks? They tend to have more pockets."

And that, I suppose, is what we call "wearable technology."

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Islamic State Seizes Villages; Australia Says It Foiled Beheading Plot

NPR News - Thu, 2014-09-18 04:53

The Islamist rebels also known as ISIS or ISIL reportedly captured 16 Kurdish villages in northern Syria in a major push for territory. The move has prompted fears of a massacre of civilians.

» E-Mail This

How To Make The Most Of Your 10 Minutes With Teacher

NPR News - Thu, 2014-09-18 03:47

Like a good Boy Scout, parents should be prepared: Educators agree that doing your homework can make a big difference. Here's expert advice on how to ace your next parent-teacher conference.

» E-Mail This

Rethinking A Fall Classic: The Parent-Teacher Conference

NPR News - Thu, 2014-09-18 03:47

The New York City schools are overhauling the time, and format, of these conferences in an attempt to add depth and meaning. Among the changes: They'll be held four times a year instead of just two.

» E-Mail This

Scotland's Historic Decision: Should It Stay Or Should It Go?

NPR News - Thu, 2014-09-18 03:38

Scots went to the polls to vote in a referendum that will decide whether they remain with the United Kingdom or end a 300-year-old union.

» E-Mail This

PODCAST: Strong year for corn, bad year for farmers

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-09-18 03:00

First up, the Federal Reserve doesn't think the U.S. economy is healthy enough to raise interest rates for a quote "considerable" time. And fresh numbers this morning from the housing market lend support to that view. And last evening, the Senate joined the House in passing a measure to approve new ingredients for sunscreen in America. There's a backlog at the Food and Drug Administration, meaning Americans have had to do without modern sunscreen formulations that people in other countries have been using. Plus, this year's corn crop is expected to break records thanks, in part, to weather that was generally just about right. The great crop is a paradox for farmers. The Agriculture department says the average price per bushel will probably drop by more than thirty percent. We traveled to Iowa to meet with a young farmer facing a difficult bounty.

Child care providers are the glue of many communities

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-09-18 02:00

One day, there may be universal pre-school everywhere in the U.S., but the scenario where every four-year-old is in school remains a long way off. In the meantime, some of the gap is filled by a fleet of women, working out of their own homes, providing childcare and preschool services. They tend to only make news when something awful happens to a child. Yet in many neighborhoods, these workers are the glue that holds a community together.

Take Vernessa Easly. She has run a home-based childcare for 19 years out of her Long Beach, California home. Her day starts around 5:45 AM as she prepares breakfast for her early arrivals. The first child is dropped off at 6:00 AM.

Vernessa’s husband, Earle, quit his job at the local school district some years ago and joined her in running the business, which they call "Little Tykes." They employ one full-time and one part-time teacher, and they serve up to 24 kids a day.

Easly’s proud of her blended curriculum that incorporates all the things little ones need; from singing, literacy and pre-science lessons, to healthy meals and lots of outdoor play.

Home childcare providers like Easly tend to do it all these days, as families rely on them for more than just childcare. Single mom, Kinta Cox, has sent her daughters to Easly since they were toddlers.

Easly has attended parent-teacher meetings when Cox could not get off from work, and she has even driven the girls home when Cox had car issues—all at no-extra charge.

“She’s taken my kids to the doctor during emergencies,” Cox says. “She is there for me.”

Easly will often keep Cox’s daughters well into the evening if she is running late at work or stuck in traffic. Easly also feeds the girls a hot breakfast and dinner, lessening Cox’s food costs.

Yet providers like Easly are not making much more than the low-income families they serve. Easly estimates she and her husband brought in a maximum of $40,000 combined last year. A 2012 Health and Human Services study found that the average home childcare provider nationwide worked 54 hours a week and earned just $22,000.

William Yu of UCLA’s Anderson Forecast studies the economy of early childhood education. He says preschool teachers tend to only make a little more than daycare providers. Last year, according to Yu, the average early childhood teacher in California made $30,000. Yu compares this to a profession in California that demands similar entry qualifications yet pays much more money—prison guards.

“If you look at prison guards, they are making $72,000,” he says.

Yu says it’s all good and well to have bipartisan support for expanding preschool access. Yet, he asks, if you were thinking about your future career, doesn’t it make much more bottom-line sense to become a prison guard?

Almost 14 hours after the day began, around 7:30 PM, there are still a couple of kids waiting to be picked up. Easly’s husband keeps them busy with a coloring project—she’s still bustling about in the kitchen prepping the food for the next day.

Your sunscreen is way out of date

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-09-18 02:00

The sunscreen you used over the summer is about 15 years out of date.  

That's because the FDA hasn’t approved applications for new sunscreen ingredients since the late 1990s.  

The applications are mired in complex regulations that ironically were supposed to simplify FDA approval of ingredients that have been used safely in other countries.

“It’s just ridiculous,” says Scott Faber, vice president for government affairs for the Environmental Working Group. “Consumers in Canada, the EU, Australia, are able to use sunscreens that are much more effective at blocking out both UVA and UVB rays."

Sunscreen makers have joined dermatologists in a coalition called PASS, or Public Access to Sunscreens. The coalition says manufacturers want access to the very latest ingredients.

“It would allow product developers to innovate and use new technologies and new science," says Michael Werner, chief lobbyist for PASS. 

While the FDA declined an interview, it did issue a statement saying that it "has prioritized reviewing the safety and effectiveness of additional sunscreen ingredients as quickly as possible given the agency’s resources."


Graphic by Shea Huffman/Marketplace

In Iowa, big corn crop presents a problem

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-09-18 02:00

This year’s corn crop is expected to break records, thanks in part to near-perfect weather. Paradoxically, that means bad news for corn farmers. The United States Department of Agriculture says the average price per bushel will probably drop by more than 30 percent. I went to Iowa, the nation's top corn-producing state, to see how that is playing out.

But because this is a story about how markets work, I stopped first at the Chicago Board of Trade, where Scott Shellady trades for TJM Investments. He described a farmer’s ideal scenario: "If you want high prices as a farmer, you want there to be a drought on everybody else’s farm except yours."

In theory, a big crop should have an upside. Sure, he said, prices are low, "but you, technically speaking, are making more of it, so lower prices but more of it should help make up for that."

So, does it? "Not really," he said with a rueful laugh. "Not all the time. No."

That’s because once the market has more than it wants, prices drop precipitously.

That’s a new experience for Alex Edgington. He’s 27, four years into his career as a farmer.

The day we met, on his farm about 10 miles south of the Minnesota border, corn prices at the Chicago Board of Trade had just gone below $3.45 a bushel.

"I sold my first 5,000 bushels of corn for $4.86, and it did nothing but go up after that," Edgington said. "So for me, this is definitely my first down year, and it’s nerve-wracking. It’s very scary for me."  

Most of his acres are in corn, with some soybeans—which are also in oversupply. He's also got 53 goats, and gets paid by another farmer to keep 175 head of cattle on his land.

"Having the animals, that’ll keep me afloat this year," he said. "I don’t know how I would do with a five-year deal of this."

I ask him about Scott Shellady’s colleagues at the Board of Trade. Couldn’t Edgington have sold his crop on the futures market there earlier this year? Prices were above $5 at one point.

"The opportunity is always there to sell," he said. "And sometimes you do risk it, waiting for a higher price. Other times, especially last year, you don’t know if you’re gonna have a crop. We planted one third of our acres last year."

Spring rains made it impossible to plant more. If they had tried pre-selling super early, hoping to grab higher prices, he said, that would have been trouble.

"It's a risk," he says. "Everything's a risk, in farming."

Always-online requirements are ruining mobile gaming

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-09-18 02:00

I'm not a true gamer, but I love playing games on my tablet. As a New York commuter—though yes, I do spend time reading—gaming is a key part of my day. Or at least it used to be. Recently my commute has very little game play in it, thanks to the growing popularity of a feature I absolutely hate in mobile games: the always-online requirement. 

More and more, the mobile games I'm downloading and trying to play on my phone or tablet use this, and in the process renders my gaming experience at best annoying and at worst impossible. The early versions of this road block started with getting a generic error message or pinwheel suggesting the game was having trouble booting up. Now, it's more direct: "Error! No Internet connection available. Please make sure your device is connected to the Internet."

The worst. 

Requiring a constant internet connection for PC and console games to work has been around for a few years. For game makers, it seems to serve some different purposes, some of which it can probably be argued do benefit the user. It makes it easier to deliver updates, have a more dynamic, changing game environment, especially in the case of massively multiplayer online games.

That hasn't stopped big controversies from blowing up over what has also been called "persistent online authentication." Remember the "Diablo III" release? OK, that was back in 2012. How about EA's "Sim City" always-online foul-up a bit later? Followed a few months later by the resignation of the company's CEO John Riccitiello? The most recent example would probably be not game-based but console-based. When it looked like Xbox One would have an always-online requirement built in, gamers revolted, and Microsoft reversed course so quickly that it made you worry the massive tech company might sprain an ankle.  

In the mobile game space, this requirement seems to be about everything from getting me to spend more money with in-app purchases, to incorporating some sort of bogus "social" aspect of the game that is more often than not a nudge for a free bit of advertising. But it doesn't at all seem about making my experience as a game player better. I can't fix it or toggle it in the game's settings (which ought to be a no-brainer). I can't even easily tell while I'm shopping for games whether the requirement is part of what I'm buying unless I go through reviews with a fine-toothed comb. Basically 99.9% of the time, the benefit of always-online for the user seems nonexistent. 

That might be because the benefit for the user is actually nonexistent 100% of the time. The always-online requirement is also a form of DRM, or digital rights management—essentially, a way for publishers to be sure that you aren't using a pirated copy of a game. I get that, but it seems to me that pirated copies of video games aren't a particularly popular form of personal copyright infringement.

And until the day the entire globe is magically blanketed in free WiFi shooting out of Google unicorn horns, making the mobile game player be online when they want to play hurts the user and the publisher. Why? Because the company that makes the game is cutting my potential in-app time in half, and making me not want to spend any money on games made by hardworking developers.

For the record, I'm happy to be convinced that making games this way is somehow essential, but I just don't see it as a user. For now, I hope that mobile gamers are one day as engaged with the products they buy as real-deal gamers, and that they too consider revolt. 

How affordable is the Affordable Care Act?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-09-18 02:00

A survey out on Thursday suggests many Americans who signed up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) find their coverage affordable.

That’s particularly true for people with low incomes who are paying less than $125 a month in premiums, similar to people that get coverage at work. To be sure, there were good deals for consumers in the first year of the ACA.

But the Commonwealth Fund’s Sara Collins, who co-authored this report, says for individuals earning about $30,000, or say $60,000 for a family of four, those deals could be hard to find.

“People are paying more than they would have if they had gotten a plan from an employer,” she says.

Collins’ report raises an important question: Are the ACA subsidies generous enough to make insurance affordable? The federal government is on track to spend at least $11 billion in financial assistance this year.

Sharon Long with the Urban Institute says a chunk of people who buy their own coverage—in and off of the exchanges—are still struggling.

“Among those who are buying coverage on their own, almost half report they are satisfied with their coverage. But that means about half are not satisfied,” she says. For the unsatisfied, the big problem is price, says Long.

And, she adds, that’s the case for more than half of the 41 million Americans who remain uninsured.

LinkedIn changes policy on banned content in China

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-09-18 02:00

Up until now, LinkedIn was blocking posts from its members in China that were deemed sensitive by China’s government—For example, posts about the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests, or about Tibetan independence.

Censored content was not only blocked inside of China, but removed from LinkedIn's site worldwide.

In an email to Marketplace, LinkedIn Director of Communications Hani Durzy wrote the company has officially changed its policy so that sensitive content will still be censored inside China, but not on its site outside China.

China social media expert Jeremy Goldkorn says LinkedIn isn’t the first Western company that has bent over backwards to please China’s government in return for access to its market.

“It’s a very difficult environment to navigate, because the lines shift. So today, you might be in a space where you feel comfortable and you feel like you’ve gone out of your way to please the government, but it still might not work," says Goldkorn.

Bloomberg’s a good example. Late last year, the news site killed a story that exposed corruption among China’s leadership.

Despite the kowtow to China’s government, Bloomberg’s site in China remains blocked.


Jacqueline Woodson On Being A 'Brown Girl' Who Dreams

NPR News - Thu, 2014-09-18 01:29

In her new memoir for young adults, Woodson uses free verse to tell the story of growing up in the 1960s and 1970s. Her work for young readers often touches on themes of race and identity.

» E-Mail This

Jacqueline Woodson On Being A 'Brown Girl' Who Dared To Dream

NPR News - Thu, 2014-09-18 01:29

In her new memoir for young adults, Woodson uses free verse to tell the story of growing up in the 1960s and 1970s. Her work for young readers often touches on themes of race and identity.

» E-Mail This

Ads Get Creative, Even Seductive, To Attract Voters

NPR News - Thu, 2014-09-18 01:06

Voting might not be the sexiest thing in the world, but at least one ad campaign encouraging Americans to register is pretty provocative.

» E-Mail This

From Coffee To Chicory To Beer, 'Bitter' Flavor Can Be Addictive

NPR News - Thu, 2014-09-18 01:06

If you don't think you like bitter foods, try them again. Jennifer McLagan, the author of Bitter: A Taste of the World's Most Dangerous Flavor, is on a mission to change hearts and minds.

» E-Mail This

Islamic State Planned Killing In Australia, PM Says After Raids

NPR News - Wed, 2014-09-17 18:53

Fifteen people were arrested across Sydney in the counterterrorism operation, which one official said was the largest in the country's history.

» E-Mail This

Two More NFL Players Placed On 'Exempt List' Over Domestic Violence

NPR News - Wed, 2014-09-17 16:39

The Carolina Panthers placed Greg Hardy on the list over a long-running case and the Cardinals did the same after Jonathan Dwyer was arrested on suspicion of aggravated assault.

» E-Mail This

Doctor Says Toronto Mayor Rob Ford Has 'Rare ... Difficult' Cancer

NPR News - Wed, 2014-09-17 15:45

The mayor, who made international news after he admitted to smoking crack, dropped out of the mayoral race last week. Ford's doctor said he was "optimistic."

» E-Mail This


KBBI is Powered by Active Listeners like You

As we celebrate 35 years of broadcasting, we look ahead to technology improvements and the changing landscape of public radio.

Support the voices, music, information, and ideas that add so much to your life.Thank you for supporting your local public radio station.


Drupal theme by ver.1.4