Women like to look good. Apparently that’s true even when they’re also trying to hide a gun. Today, women make up about 23 percent of gun owners nationwide (up from 13 percent just a decade ago), according to the Chicago Tribune.
In Illinois, which has just emerged from a long court battle and enacted a sweeping “concealed carry” law, women make up about 20 percent of license holders. So, it’s just natural that they would want attractive clothing strategically designed to hide those guns, right?
Drop the unisex, forward with fashion
While adoption of the concealed carry law is new for Illinois, the idea of designing clothing to hide firearms has been around for some time, targeted largely at men. Visit any Bass Pro Shop or Cabela’s, and it will soon become clear that there are several clothing options to conceal a weapon if you’re a man. Women, on the other hand, have had to adopt.
Notes Marilyn Smolenski, one of two women who organized the recently held Chicago Firearms & Fashion Show, “For a long time, companies were taking unisex products and just making them smaller. Our hips are different. Our waists are different.” Certainly, women’s fashion needs are different as well.
Female gun-owner fashion sites emerge
As a result, a new industry has been born and is currently in its nascent stages. Evidence of this can be seen in several new websites that are popping up to fill the need. Among those are Smolenski’s own Nickel and Lace, which features an under-the-bust camisole holster; AlphaGirls, which also adds jewelry and hair accessories that can be used as weapons; and The Well Armed Woman, which has done more than $1 million in sales, including about 600 holsters to Illinois women alone.
These new retailers are still outgunned by the largest manufacturer of such gear, 5.11 Tactical. This company’s products are still 90 percent male-oriented and largely feature outerwear with hidden pockets, coverts shirts, and waist or ankle holsters designed with men in mind. Noted the company’s vice president: “It’s not hard to design and create products for women. The challenge is finding retailers to sell the products.”
One item that has proven popular for gun-toting women are concealed carry handbags, which are available in a wide range of options. However, many women complain that this is not an ideal spot for a woman’s gun for several reasons. Among the points often cited are that it’s not always easy to access in times of need, nor may it prove safe for women with children. Many women have suggested they feel far safer with their gun on their person. Of course, many others suggest that not having a firearm at all may prove the best solution.