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Gun chic: how to be fashionably locked and loaded

What do you give the gun-toting woman who has everything?

If she’s tired of lugging her Luger in a grungy gym bag (aren’t we all?) the answer is as close as a click.

Texas-based handbag designer Kate Woolstenhulme has the stylish solution to “concealed carry” problems which afflict thousands of women in the U.S., where packing hidden heat is legal in all 50 states.

“There are bags for it, but they’re usually black or brown and there wasn’t a lot of selection,” says Woolstenhulme, who is also an aviation designer. “You can’t put a gun in a regular handbag, because it’s not safe.”

Today’s pistol-packing mamas shun lumpy, boring bags, says Woolstenhulme, who found chic containers lacking when she got a shiny Smith & Wesson 9mm from her husband as a Christmas present back in 2008 when they were living in gang-ridden Miami. “A lot of what our culture is about is fashion.”

The result: a range of purpose-built bags that let you stand your ground in style.

In 56 style and colour combos to suit all ages and tastes, Woolstenhulme’s bags are equipped with handy lockable compartments to secure weapons and “quick release retention straps” that are fast on the draw. All can be ordered from her website. There’s even a tekkie model to accommodate an iPad and a back pack that appeals to the college crowd. If you have $4,200 to spare, there’s a hyper-hip crocodile version.

They’re not only natty, but necessary, Woolstenhulme points out. That’s because in the U.S. you can bear – but not bare – arms, in the perhaps counter-intuitive theory that a crude show of weaponry could intimidate people, in a country where there are 90 firearms per 100 residents. 

“You have to be very discreet,” she says. “No ‘imprinting’ can be visible from the outside, so the average person wouldn’t feel threatened.” The built-in holsters are “completely adjustable” for your favourite gun, and protected by material tough enough to keep your semi-automatic from accidentally ventilating a boardroom floor – a serious fashion faux pas.

With 43 per cent of American gun owners now female, women of all persuasions are buying weapons, Woolstenhulme says. The market is growing. Her customers range from 20s to 70s, not all of them packing pistols. “If they don’t choose to carry a gun they may want to carry a Taser. Or a baton, a knife or pepper spray. The whole point is to get out of a situation.”

Not only style-conscious civilians order her bags. They’re a must-have item for law enforcement ladies who want to get away from those big, bulky gun belts that (let’s face it) can make you look fat.

And for after-hours there will soon be a starlight selection: “I’m jumping all the way to small with an evening bag,” Woolstenhulme says. “It will have a detachable strap. And for night – a chain.”

Gives a whole new meaning to “hot date.”    

Olivia Ward has covered conflicts, politics and human rights from the former Soviet Union to the Middle East, South Asia and the U.S. She has only been on the receiving end of a gun.





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