In October of 2014, I wrote an article about the Suited Operator. This piece discussed the transition from uniform to street clothes, or just carrying concealed, and the challenges that face people who still need to carry a firearm and other tools. Some of the feedback I received revealed I had not addressed considerations for women who make this transition. Subsequently, I interviewed several ladies about their concerns and found some solutions to pass along to you.
1. The Hips Have It
The beltline is one of the most important areas for consideration. Women’s pants often do not have belt loops. In addition, if there are belt loops, they are sometimes too skinny to accommodate a decent gun-hanging belt, or they are spaced too far apart to offer much support for your favorite shooter and holster. Some women’s pants do not even have pockets! What’s the solution? First, you can try to shop for pants that have all the attributes you are looking for. If you come up short or find a pair of pants you love that don’t work for you, take them to a tailor. You can have your cake and eat it too by having a professional add on belt loops. Keep in mind the weight of whatever kit you may be carrying and plan accordingly.
2. Back on Top
Women’s shirts offer some difficulties when carrying a firearm is the order. Many tops are cut very fitted and may be too short to tuck. If a blouse is designed to be worn over the top of the pants, this creates a real problem for accessing a firearm. Imagine needing to draw your weapon quickly and grabbing a handful of bunched up shirt. This type of garment can limit (or slow) access. In addition, a fitted shirt can print badly and ruin your efforts if you are trying to carry concealed. What’s the fix? Look for tops that can be tucked and stay away from anything that slows or prevents quick access to your sidearm.
Coats can be another area where troubles prevail. Many of these are also fitted and do not allow extra room to carry a firearm. Other times, women will find a coat that works and purchase it, only to find that it can accommodate a worn gun, but the coat will not button, zip, or otherwise close. The best solution is to shop smart. When trying on coats, keep in mind your particular needs. You may shop with your weapon on and try coats in the dressing room to ensure a good fit and function. Wearing a vest is also another possible alternative but this may be a little more obvious depending upon your clothes (like a technical vest with a pant suit).
3. Shoes, Shoes, Shoes….
The challenge here is form versus function. Ladies love their shoes but should be careful to find a balance between fashionable and wearable. If your profession might draw you to a bloody crime scene, open-toed shoes are not going to work very well. When carrying a gun, think about stability and being capable of running without turning an ankle. The ladies I spoke with suggested clogs like Danskos or dress flats. These types of shoes allow you to retain some fashion without limiting the physical activities you may need to perform when carrying a firearm.
4. Diamonds and Glocks
When transitioning from a uniformed or otherwise restrictive setting, the women I interviewed suggested that when it comes to jewelry—less is more. Patrol procedures limit an officer to stud earrings and perhaps a wedding band. The temptation may come to resume whatever might be worn in less rigorous settings. However, when carrying a gun women may still need to respond to violence with violence of their own. Small hoop earrings and understated necklaces add character to an ensemble without creating undo risk to operations such as drawing, firing, or reloading a firearm.
5. Who is Paying for This?
I was told harrowing tales of sticker shock for women making the transition to suited operator. Much the same as for men, when going from a uniformed environment that might even include a uniform allowance, it is a difficult transition. The unfunded mandate of being required to dress a certain way without being compensated can be tough. Check with an accountant as being obligated to dress a certain way for your job may be a tax write-off. It could defer some of the capital outlays required to get suited up.
Women face even more difficult challenges in the way of clothing when they want or need to wear a gun. Their clothing is often designed more with fashion in mind than function. Two tactics that can help counter this are shopping smart and knowing a good tailor who can help you wring all the function out of your wardrobe. The theme of keeping function in mind also applies to shoes, hair, and makeup. Some brands the ladies suggested for those making the change to suited operator included J. Crew, Eddie Bauer, and New York & Company. I hope this helps you achieve that perfect balance between fashion and function. Ladies, any other tips? Please feel free to add them to the comments section.