So, if I have a single email I dread getting more than any other, it's this one: “Hi, Tamara! My [wife/mother/sister/niece/cousin/whoever] has just started researching concealed carry and wants some pointers on how to hide a carry gun and still dress stylishly!”
I will admit that I just surrendered on this, and long ago. It has been so long since I've had to worry about wearing anything other than jeans and t-shirts and big, blousey, “I'm borrowing this from my boyfriend” unbuttoned overshirts that I'm barely fit to give advice on this topic, but I can offer a list of “don't do this” from my sad tale of woe, as well as some general grumps.
First, please join me in my ongoing protest of the war against belt loops on women's pants. Serious gun belts tend to run in the neighborhood of 1.25-1.5 inches wide. I currently wear “mom jeans” from Lee largely on the strength of the fact that they've never let me down in the belt loop size department, even if it means I probably chew up three or four pairs a year because what do you expect from jeans that cost less than hiring the neighbor kid to mow your front yard?
A belt is necessary for most forms of carrying a serious-size pistol on or about the waist, but the weight of the gun acting against the belt and using the latter as a lever will eventually tear belt loops loose from their moorings.
Belt carry seems to work best for curvier types with slacks or jeans that are worn either at the waist or at the hips. A beltline worn between the hips and the waist tends to jab the rear of the gun into the ribs, and the problem only got worse for me when I quit smoking and got...fluffier.
And that last point is one of my big confessions: I made the problem worse by denying that I needed to buy larger jeans and belts and just kept...er, sucking it up, as it were, and squeezing into my old ones. Now I was pressing the pistol uncomfortably into my side, bruising myself and probably flirting with sciatica, all because I was unwilling to say to myself “Self, it's time to get some bigger jeans.” If I had just started trying to carry at that point in my life? I'd never have kept it up.
I wouldn't be as quick to eschew less-conventional forms of carry as I was, if I had it to do all over again, either.
Pocket carry is still problematic because it's apparently a regulation promulgated by the United Nations that the pockets on women's clothing be largely decorative. My guy friends talk about throwing things like J-frame revolvers or Glock 26's in their trouser pockets and I have to burn with envy because the pockets of my hopelessly un-stylish Lee mom jeans will barely hold a decent flashlight or middlin'-size pocket knife, and they are downright capacious compared to more fashionable jeans. A gun? Ha-ha-ah-ha! It is to laugh.
Another example of carry for the sort of guns usually stuffed in pockets would be the Flashbang bra holster. I would definitely recommend instruction from a trainer familiar with their employment and an inert plastic “blue gun” to train with, should you settle on this form of concealed carry.
A belly band, or various other solutions that mimic foundation garments are often recommended. The problem with them is that safe re-holstering is pretty much impossible in any reasonable time, which means practicing with that carry setup in a class or pistol match is unfeasible. But you can simulate it pretty adequately for training purposes by using a conventional inside-the-waistband holster worn in relatively the same orientation on your waist.
Lastly, I'd like to pass on the observation that just because a garment is made of opaque fabric and it is between an observer's eyes and my gun, it is not necessarily “concealing.” Like the time I showed up at a class with an Arc'teryx shell zipped up in front and the instructor informed me he could about read the serial number on my gun through the stretchy light gray fabric every time I twisted at the waist.
Darker colors and patterns (especially random patterns) are more concealing than lighter, solid colors.
So, I'm going to keep dressing like a tactical hobo because fortunately my job lets me do that, but those are the lessons I've gleaned for when the situation requires at least “business casual.” I hope this helps!
Lead image by Jason Baird. Belly Band holster shown is from Crossbreed.