CCW Dilemma: How Do I Carry In a Dress?

You want to carry your firearm, but you’re wearing a dress that can’t accommodate your IWB holster. Now what?

by posted on February 17, 2023
Deering Dilemma Carrying In A Dress

I get asked this question frequently: How do I carry concealed in a dress? If you normally carry on your hip, appendix or small of back, whether outside or inside the waistband, a dress throws your whole waistband-based system out the window. 

You have a few options. The first, of course, is to not carry at all. This might seem blasphemous to some concealed carriers, but I don’t carry my firearm absolutely everywhere I go. Sometimes it’s just a hassle based on my outfit or my destination and I leave the gun at home. That said, if you want to carry and you’re wearing a dress, here are your best bets.

Most obvious is purse carry. I’m not a huge fan, but you can safely carry your firearm in a handbag if you follow some simple guidelines and maintain extreme vigilance. Make sure the purse is suited for this purpose.

If you’d like to carry on-body, you’ll need to explore other holster options that don’t go on your waist. Which one works best for you will depend on the length of the dress, the number of layers you’ll be wearing, and other factors.

If it’s winter and you’ll have a vest, jacket, secure wrap or other covering garment on you at all times, you can try a shoulder holster like the type detectives wear in old movies. This will secure the gun on your side under an armpit and stay covered by your outer garment. If the dress looks good with a strong belt, you might even be able to wear an OWB holster on a belt and keep it covered with a jacket, assuming you can cinch the belt tight enough that you can safely draw (since the dress probably doesn’t have belt loops to hold the belt in place).

Pocket holsters like the Sticky Holster might be an option if your firearm is small enough and your pocket is big enough. Unfortunately, women are usually cursed by the fashion industry with tiny-bordering-on-useless pockets.

If the dress is floor-length, you can consider an ankle holster or, depending on your footwear and the size of the gun, maybe even a specialty holster that clips to a pair of boots.

If the dress is shorter, a thigh holster is an option, as is a belly band, a bra-mounted holster or even a pair of tactical shorts or leggings that have a built-in spot to carry your firearm. The trouble with these options is that they depend on pulling the dress up—sometimes way up, in the case of the bra holster, unless you’re wearing a wrap dress—to access the firearm. This takes a good bit of time and is quite exposing, although if you’re at the point where you need your gun, I suppose a little flashing is the least of your concerns.

All of these alternative holsters are going to require a much different draw-and-fire procedure than you are accustomed to. You’ll need to practice drawing an unloaded gun from your shoulder, belly band, ankle or other alternative holster; try it with different dresses to identify the steps needed to clear the dress and access the firearm and to remove it from the holster without the holster coming along for the ride or getting hung up on fabric.

Understand that most or all of these carry positions are a compromise between convenience and speed—you give up some time and easy access in exchange for being able to make your firearm work with your outfit. But sometimes, the dress is worth it, and you can go about your day safely and securely carrying concealed in comfort and style. 

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