Yes, Virginia, it is possible to dress stylishly and conceal a gun at the same time. Kathy Jackson goes into a lot of detail on her website, www.corneredcat.com. Basically, there are a multitude of holster options and you can carry a mid-sized semi-automatic without printing (printing is where the outline of the gun shows through your clothes). Patterns break up the lines better than solid colors. Vests and jackets over the top hide the bulge. In the summer, a blousy baby-doll top can be very forgiving, in winter a bulky sweater can be your best friend. You may also want to go up one size in your top to give you some extra room around the middle.
How to you choose a holster? Unfortunately, trial and error seems to be the most common. Once you’ve been doing this a while, you will find you have a tote bag full of holsters! I’ve tried a lot of different types; Inside the Waistband, on the Belt, Shoulder, Small of the Back, Ankle, Belly Band, Thigh Band… They come in leather, Kydex (which is a custom molded thermoplastic acrylic), a ballistic nylon fabric, other fabric (as in the belly band and thigh band, usually an elastic based material with Velcro attachments) or some combination of the above.
My preferred carry gun is a Ruger P95 9mm, which is a mid-size semi-auto. Ruger’s current equivalent is the SR9. I have found that a leather, inside the waistband, holster tucked in almost directly under my elbow works well for me. My gun sits well in the natural curve there, doesn’t dig into my ribs, and I can bring my arm down and mask it just a little more if I feel I might be showing something I don’t want to. That is what I like, you may find you like to carry a little farther forward, or farther back, or on a belt (that is a little harder to conceal). Holsters are made to fit specific models, so look for one that is designed for YOUR gun!
First, and probably the most critical, is what is the purpose of a holster? To hold your gun! If it can’t do that, it really isn’t any good to you. Try this experiment with any holster you want to use. Unload your gun. If it a semi-automatic, remove the magazine and lock the slide back, look inside, check with your finger, nothing? Check again! If it is a revolver, open the cylinder, remove any cartridges, rotate the cylinder and count the holes. Nothing? Look again! Hey, redundancy helps keep us from making a mistake! Now, release the slide, or close the cylinder, and place the gun into the holster. Over a soft place, like a bed or sofa, turn the holster upside down. What happened? If nothing, give it a little shake. Did the gun fall out? Not a good holster for you. If the gun falls out (aren’t you glad you made sure it wasn’t loaded?) with a little shake in a controlled environment, what will happen when you bend over to pick up something you dropped or if you have a run away, or stoop down to pick up a child? A well made holster that is designed for YOUR gun will hold it securely and safely and still allow you to draw easily when you need to.
What about when you just can’t carry on your body. Not idea, but there are occasions when only a purse will do. If you carry in a purse, you must remember that your gun is in there, don’t lay your bag down on a table and walk away. You are responsible for your gun and must keep control of it at all times. Manufacturers have gotten smart and designed many fashionable carry bags for the ladies. They come in leather and synthetics, large, small, evening, business…and they all have one thing in common. They have a compartment dedicated to holding your gun. Usually a holster that attaches to a Velcro panel. Why not use my evening bag, it will hold my little .380? Yes it will, and your lipstick, pen, keys…what happens when your lipstick floats into the trigger guard, or your pen ends up in the barrel? You cannot safely carry your gun in a regular purse with other objects. Plus, the gun tends to be the heaviest thing in there, which means it will settle to the bottom. Then, when you need it…you have to dig through everything else to get to it. The only time I would even consider using a regular bag would be with compact .380, in a pocket holster, inside a compartment in my handbag where it was the only thing in that compartment. For example, I have a lovely evening bag that is divided into two sections. I would only do this if I used a pocket holster to help secure my pistol AND I resisted the temptation to put ANYTHING ELSE in that compartment. Again, this is not the ideal situation.