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For insight into female pocketiquette, I defer to Deluxe by Dana Thomas, page 187. It's my new favourite book (for now).

She refers to a story from Diana Vreeland's memoir, D.V., in which the famed fashion editor has just joined Harper's Bazaar and has a "brainwave!"

As an excerpt of an excerpt, here it is: "We're going to eliminate handbags.... Now look. What have I got here? I've got cigarettes, I've got my lipstick, I've got my comb, I've got my powder; I've got my rouge, I've got my money. But what do I want with a bloody old handbag that one leaves in taxis and so on? It should all go into pockets. Real pockets, like a man has, for goodness sake."

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Ms. Vreeland then proposed devoting an entire issue to pockets, which, let's just say, did not go over well given the amount of income the magazine derived from handbag advertisements.

That was in 1937. Seventy years later, only the necessary objects have changed: BlackBerry, iPod, ID card, credit card, a $20 bill, blister-pack gum and lip gloss would be my must-haves.

It would seem that fall fashion has been tailor-made for working women who would rather employ their pockets than be forced to carry an obscenely overpriced bottomless pit otherwise known as a handbag.

For starters, the trend toward men's suit styles - wide-legged pants and classic blazers cut narrower for women - means that there are traditional pockets aplenty.

Then there is the more recent and increasingly common feature of adding invisible pockets into voluminous skirts and dresses.

But just because pockets exist doesn't mean they're meant for use, or at least for anything other than a hideout for your hands. And even then, what may seem protective to you can come across as standoffish to others.

One colleague recently told me clothes with pockets can occasionally be problematic. Yes, her ID card and her paper-thin cellphone are easily accessible. But a few days ago, upon being introduced to someone important, she couldn't get her hands out in time and felt obligated to explain herself later (as in, "So I figured I'd let you get settled before officially saying hi").

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A woman's relationship with her pockets can be revealing. Literally. Adding excess fabric to breasts, hips or thighs (where pockets are typically located) subtracts from a flattering silhouette.

"They give a bump in the suit," says Cathy DeSerranno, the style consultant for Toronto's First Canadian Place, which has more than 120 retailers on its concourse levels.

Back pockets, when filled, are the most objectionable. "Especially if the jacket has a vented pleat, the entire line gets distorted."

Perhaps that's why some women choose to have their pockets removed altogether or to never unstitch the ones that come that way. "Visually, it looks better if you don't see the line underneath," says Claudia Bucci, who represents the second generation of expert tailors at Giovanni of Italy, where Toronto's best-dressed have gone for custom clothing and alterations for almost 25 years.

She also points out that diagonal pant-pockets can bulge when women have wider hips. For an expensive suit that otherwise fits, this is an easy fix that costs no more than $10.

The trend, according to Ms. Bucci, is patch pockets, which are attached to the outside of a garment as opposed to sewn into it. Theoretically, these are more ideal for storing things, although Ms. Bucci says they serve more as a decorative detail than as a kangaroo pouch.

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Among the selection of fall fashions from Theory, one of my top picks for modern, mid-priced office attire (widely carried by Holt Renfrew), I noticed plenty of pocket styles - diagonal pockets, watch pockets that are flat in the front, flap pockets - that most people are unlikely to notice until they reach for them.

Ms. DeSerranno says women don't realize they may use the pockets to project a more masculine attitude. "Most pockets aren't meant for lipstick," she says. "Sometimes, they allow women to feel more in charge and establish their place."

Whatever the motivation, women can rest assured that even if Theory charges $235 for a pencil skirt, that skirt is the same price whether it comes with pockets or without. No brainwave there. Only when an It bag can be purchased for that price (as opposed to $1,200) will my hands be out and applauding.


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