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What to Wear for your Tattoo: Practicality, Placement, and Privacy

You've picked an artist, booked your tattoo, and the big day is approaching...but you don't know what to wear. Read this to avoid awkwardly taping clothes out of the way or fashioning boxers from dental bibs.


How to Dress Practically for a Tattoo


When dressing for a tattoo appointment, prioritize your comfort and the artist's access to your skin. Remember you’ll have to sit or lie down in specific positions; jewelry, buckles, buttons and textured fabrics can quickly become uncomfortable. 


In general, you’ll want to wear soft, loose clothing that you don’t care too much about. Tattooers wear black for a reason; ink is permanent, and sometimes it ends up where it's not supposed to. In short: dress like a goth in a yoga class. 


Bring an extra layer in case you get cold, especially if your placement requires you to show some skin. Keep reading for what to wear for your tattoo placement and tips on privacy.


What to Wear for your Tattoo Placement


Forearms, Hands and Lower Legs 


Dressing for a lower limb tattoo is as easy as wearing shorts or a T-Shirt. If it's chilly outside (or in the shop), bring a zippable sweater. Remember that you can wear warmer clothes and change at the studio.


If you do wear long sleeves, make sure you can roll them past the placement of your tattoo by at least 2” without squishing the skin or constricting circulation


How to Dress for a Collar Bone Tattoo


The perfect garment here is a tube top. Unfortunately, everyone owns a tube top. In nearly every other situation, they’re extremely impractical. 


For those who wear bras, a strapless bra (or anything that will stay up without the straps. You won’t be jumping around) works the same. If you want to keep the rest of your torso covered, choose a stretchy/loose top that you can pull your straps down and tuck them inside your bra. Tank tops work well for this.


If you don’t wear a bra, this situation is probably easier for you. If you do want the rest of your torso covered, bring a zippable sweater; wrap the sweater around yourself just under your armpits and zip it up as high as you can.


OR buy a tube top.


This image shows the shoulders and upper chest of someone with a fresh tattoo of a sparrow on each collar bone. the birds are in black and grey and are mirrored, both flying towards the centre on the chest where an existing tattoo can be seen on their chest, just above their tube top.
A tube top or bandeau is the best choice for getting a collar bone tattoo.

How to Dress for a Back Tattoo

For a low back placement, choose a loose shirt that can be pulled up and low rise pants that can be rolled or pulled down. , such as leggings or sweatpants. For your upper back or full back, choose a bikini or wrap top that can be untied once you are lying down. A zip up hoodie can be used similarly, but remember to let your artist wrap your fresh ink before you cover it. 


How to Dress for a Chest Tattoo

There’s no way around going braless for a chest tattoo. You may be able to wear a spaghetti or tube top, but not if your design connects the sternum to the upper chest. As your artist if the supply nipple pasties or bring your own.


How to Dress for a Hip or Butt Tattoo

For a hip tattoo, you'll want to choose something very loose and flowy or just rock your underwear/bikini bottoms. A maxi skirt or loose fitting shorts will work. Consider an oversized T Shirt or dress to stay covered when you get up.


Men: If you don’t have a lot of flowy short-shorts and skirts in your closet, look for PJ pants made from a thin material at a thrift store. Cut the leg off high enough that they can be lifted over your tattoo. 


A woman with one side of her shirt lifted to show a large, black and grey tattoo of a cat, dog, and wild flowers on her outer thigh. The tattoo is incomplete.The animals are lightly shaded while the flowers are still linework.
Wear soft fabrics that are easily lifted away from the area of your tattoo.

How to Dress for aThigh Tattoo

For a thigh, shorts that can be lifted higher than the tattoo or anything you’d wear for a hip tattoo will work. 


How to Dress for a Shoulder Tattoo

Wear a tank top, halter top, or spaghetti top that allows you to pull the straps off of your shoulders.



A Note on Privacy 


Your artist won’t flinch working on a butt cheek; we see bodies everyday. Skin is just skin. You, however, might not be comfortable showing your tattoo placement to strangers. 


Some shops have large windows at street level and most have several artists’ stations in an open concept workspace. Are you comfortable being tattooed where others can see and hear you? 


It’s OK to ask your artist for privacy. Call ahead and ask about the environment to see if you'll need anything to feel comfortable. Every shop will offer you a privacy screen or have a specific station they use for private tattoos. At my current shop, Tradesmen Tattoo, my station is in a separate room in the back. When another artist needs a private space, they use my room and I take their spot in the common area. 


Even if you are fully clothed, if you are more comfortable in a private space or with an artist of the same gender as you, talk to your shop ahead of time. 






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