What are Patch Pockets?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Patch pockets are flat pockets sewn to the exterior of a garment. They are typically unfitted, and can come in a range of shapes and sizes. Many garments are made with these types of pockets, since they are cheap and relatively easy to install when compared to other pocket designs. It is also possible to add patch pockets to an existing garment, should the need arise. Since these pockets are external, they are also potentially endlessly configurable, which can be rather convenient.

Patch pockets are flat and may be decorated with buttons.
Patch pockets are flat and may be decorated with buttons.

The origins of the pocket are centuries old. Originally, pockets were actually small bags or purses which were tied on over garments. Numerous pockets could be a sign of social status during the medieval era, since a woman would have needed pockets for the keys to the house, along with utensils like scissors which were traditionally held by the highest ranking female of the household. Over time, people began sewing pockets onto their garments, and the patch pocket evolved.

To make patch pockets, pieces of fabric are cut out and sewn directly onto a garment. Typically, the edges are turned down so that they face the inside of the pocket and will not fray or look unsightly. A pocket may also be lined or reinforced with fabric so that it is especially sturdy. Since the pocket is sewn onto an already completed garment, it looks like a patch, and some patch pockets are in fact purely ornamental, just like many patches are.

Usually, a patch pocket is deeper than it is long, and it may have rounded or square edges. Depending on the design of the garment, these pockets may be made from a coordinating or contrasting fabric. It may also be decorated with buttons, embroidery, or other sewing notions. Because this type of pocket is flat, it can also disrupt the line of the garment, so it is usually carefully placed to ensure that it does not place stress on seams

Generally, a patch pocket is not the best place to store secure items, since their shape will be clearly visible through the pocket. Heavy or lumpy items may also drag parts of the garment down, or simply look unsightly. It is ideal for slim, flat items such as slips of paper and business cards. Because a patch pocket is not terribly functional, some people regard them as purely ornamental. As with all pockets used for storage, it is a good idea to check the bottom seams of the pockets periodically, to ensure that things will not fall out while the pocket is in use.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


For some reason pockets and jeans always remind me of little boys. They are so excited when they first discover those pockets, and oh, the treasures that can be found in them!

They always love it when someone gives them some money to put in their pockets, but it is the items they find when playing outside that can really be a surprise to a Mom! I never knew if I was going to find something dead or alive in there. I learned pretty fast to be sure and check the pockets before loading the washing machine.


It is hard to imagine garments of clothing without pockets. My pockets are mostly used for functional purposes, although there are patch pocket blazers that are made just to look nice and dressy. I know some people who will not buy a shirt without a front pocket to put their pens or cell phone in.

If I buy a pair of pants that do not have a pocket, I quickly realize how much I rely on them. I always have something in my pockets - chap stick and keys are the two big ones.

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