If you've seen my holster collection, you may think I have a problem. I promise I don't. I'm just a woman who goes out of her way to carry on-body every time I leave the house. And unlike my husband, who only wears jeans and T-shirts, my outfits run the gamut. Jeans, joggers, leggings, skirts, dresses – they all seem to require a different type of holster.

The outfits I've struggled most with over the years are skirts and dresses. While it's tempting to settle for purse carry while wearing them, I prefer to carry on-body when I can – specifically, appendix carry. I've tried a few thigh holsters but haven't given them enough chance to review. What can I say – carry habits die hard! Here are my two favorite ways to appendix carry in dresses and skirts.
 

Related: Do I Have to Ditch My Personal Style to Carry Concealed?

PHLster Enigma

 

PHLster Enigma holster
The Enigma can be uncomfortable because there are many points of contact with your skin, so wearing shorts underneath helps. (Photo: Elizabeth Bienas/Guns.com) 


The PHLster Enigma has a sort of cult following, and I admit I've changed my mind about it over the past year. At first, I hated it because it was uncomfortable. But, like anything else, I knew I needed to give it a chance before I completely wrote it off. These days I find myself wearing it whenever I'm not wearing jeans and a belt.

The Enigma attaches to your body instead of your clothing. You get the benefit of carrying in your normal appendix position without having to clip the holster to anything. This makes the Enigma versatile regardless of the outfit you want to wear, but I've found it especially helpful for beltless clothing.
 

PHLster Enigma holster
The elastic waist on this dress creates a nice bubble for concealment, and the pattern helps disguise my carry. (Photo: Elizabeth Bienas/Guns.com) 


Skirts, in general, are pretty easy to carry in, because you have access to your waistband like you would in pants. The biggest issue I've run into is concealment. I tend to wear skirts and dresses most in warm weather, so the material is thin, light, and delicate. The trifecta of printing, if you will.

Because the Enigma can be worn tight to the body, I have found that it does a great job of concealing. You can easily move it around on your torso and adjust the belt's tension to find your sweet spot in most outfits.
 

PHLster Enigma holster
This dress looks like it would print like crazy, but the material is sturdy enough to prevent an outline of my pistol and holster. (Photo: Elizabeth Bienas/Guns.com) 


Dresses can be trickier, but I've found the Enigma works in many I own. Aside from the concealment concerns discussed above, the main issue with carrying appendix in a dress is the draw. You need to be able to clear the garment enough to access your firearm. For me, this is easiest when the dress is either loose, stretchy, or both.
 

Pros & Cons

Pros:

  • Can work with skirts and dresses.
  • Keeps your gun in the normal appendix position.
  • Fits securely and doesn't shift around.

Cons:

  • Can be uncomfortable to wear at first.
  • It's expensive.
  • Takes time to dial in and get used to.
     

Bellybands

 

Crossbreed Holsters Liberty band with DCC Monoblock metal clip
The DCC Monoblock metal clip is an excellent choice for use with a bellyband. (Photo: Elizabeth Bienas/Guns.com)


Another option, if you're not ready to invest in the Enigma, is to wear a bellyband. I like this option better for skirts than dresses, because I wear my bellyband high on my torso. In a high position, it’s easier to draw in a skirt than a dress.

Because I'm not a fan of soft holsters, I use a Kydex holster and clip it directly to the bellyband. That way, everything is attached to my body and not my clothes.
 

Crossbreed Holsters Liberty band with DCC Monoblock metal clip
I'm wearing the Crossbreed Holsters Liberty band here, which gives me access as if I were wearing pants. (Photo: Elizabeth Bienas/Guns.com)


My favorite bellyband is the Liberty Band by CrossBreed Holsters. It has a small lip that the holster clips can grab, so it doesn't move around while you're wearing it. I've found this works best with metal clips like the DCC Monoblock. The band also wraps over the holster for extra retention and stability. 

Bellybands can also be worn anywhere on the hips or torso, giving you some flexibility depending on the dress or skirt. You can also place your Kydex holster in any position around your torso to get better concealment.
 

Pros & Cons

Pros:

  • Affordable.
  • Can wear it with your current holster.

Cons:

  • Can shift around while wearing depending on the holster.
  • Can be uncomfortable for some.
     

If All Else Fails…


I prefer on-body carry whenever possible, but in certain outfits, it's just not a reality. Some dresses are too form-fitting and tight to clear with any type of speed. Sure, you can choose not to wear these outfits, but dressing around your gun isn't the only way to carry.

If all else fails, off-body carry is the next best option. Make sure to choose a bag that's designed for concealed carry with a separate pocket for your pistol. I prefer a cross-body bag that cannot be snatched easily. It's also important to remember that you can never set your bag down, so if you're going to a party, for example, you may opt to forego carrying for the night.
 

Related: The Pros and Cons of Off-Body Carry
 

A Word On Drawing

If you're only used to clearing your shirt when you draw, grabbing a skirt or dress will initially feel challenging. You'll likely have to bend forward and down to grab, and it's a lot more fabric to move out of the way. Just because it's hard at first doesn't mean it's impossible. But, it does mean that you need a lot of practice before you carry this way.

Continuous learning is also essential. Once you get the basic idea down, you'll get better, but don't forget to practice when you add new outfits into the mix. Skirts and dresses in different lengths and made of different materials will require specific practice. Repetition is the mother of all skills, including drawing from concealment.
 

Related: 4 Tips to Stay Concealed with Your Next IWB Holster
 

Final Thoughts


Concealed carrying as a woman presents some unique challenges, especially when wearing fitted, dressier outfits. Remember that it's not impossible to pull it off. You may need to try several holster setups and keep them on hand so you've got options. Whatever you choose, take the time to practice your draw and ensure you can access your firearm quickly and repeatedly, if needed. 

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