New tattoo booked but not sure what to wear on the day? Hear from a pro what clothes to choose for every placement.
You’ve picked your favourite artist, you’ve finalised the design and the date is set - but what should you take to your appointment? More importantly - what to wear?
Wardrobe dilemmas are usually reserved for the likes of wedding receptions, job interviews and first dates. But actually, planning what to wear when getting tattooed is really important to your comfort (and accessibility for the artist) on the big day. After all, it’s as much a special occasion as any.
What to wear to your tattoo appointment
From spine to sternum, the placement of your new ink will mean different outfits work better than others. We asked Sarah (she/her) of @big.bird.tattoo, a UK artist based in Huddersfield, what clothing she would recommend for different tattoos.
She’s recently put together some top tips on how to prepare for your appointment, as well as what to wear and how to get the best out of your tattoo experience.
The key takeaway when choosing your outfit is to opt for "comfortable, loose, darker clothing."
Ask yourself, do I mind if I get tattoo ink on this? Is it loose enough to roll out of the way whilst keeping me covered up? Can I sit for hours like this without feeling uncomfortable, self conscious or cold? And if you aren’t sure, a good tattoo artist would be happy to help and let you know what they’d prefer.
An arm tattoo may seem like one you don’t have to consider much - just roll your sleeves up, right? But remember, you might not want to wear your favourite top with the risk of getting tattoo ink or blood on it. Your best bet is a dark, short sleeved or sleeveless top that you don’t mind getting ink on. There’ll be plenty of chances to wear your favourite tees to show off your new tattoo when it’s healed.
"Being in comfortable clothing is the main priority as well as accessibility for your artist," Sarah explains.
For arm tattoos, consider a dark top
Loose button up shirts with a vest underneath are a great option for shoulder tattoos - then you have the choice to drop down a shoulder or even wear the shirt the wrong way round.
Think about how you might sit for your design. For example, if you plan to sit upright and want to cover your front, then a vest top or t-shirt might not move out of the way for your artist to get to work. For women, a halter, racer back, cold shoulder style or tank top could also work, depending on the placement.
Back and spine tattoos
In the same way, you’ll definitely need to consider clothing that allows for your back to be unobstructed.
Choose "something you can wear backwards so you are covered at the front but still accessible at the back," suggests Sarah. Other great tips on Big Bird’s Instagram include a hair band for those with longer locks, as well as going braless or choosing a soft bra, so the stencil can sit flush to your skin.
Chest and sternum tattoos
If you identify as male, you might be more comfortable removing your top for chest and sternum art. If you’d prefer to cover your chest or breasts, bandeau, tube and strapless tops are best. You could also wear a thin spaghetti strap top and take the straps down once you’re lying on your back.
Baggy tops and shirts that can be buttoned down are perfect for a rib tattoo sitting. If the placement is fairly high up and you’d like to cover your breasts, you could even use nipple covers or a soft, wireless bra to protect that area from view.
"Being covered is the most important thing for these type of areas,” shares Sarah. "No tattoo artist should ask you to be topless - make sure your boundaries are respected."
Loose clothing that can be folded upwards is a great choice for a stomach tattoo. Think about the aftercare too. When your sitting is over, you don’t want to have any tight clothing sitting on the healing piece. A baggy t-shirt means you can move it out of the way for the artist, as well as leave the studio knowing it can start to heal without obstruction.
A baggy t-shirt means you can move it out of the way for the artist
Skinny jeans would be a big no here! Jogging bottoms, a long, floaty skirt, loose dress or stretchy trousers would work well for a hip tattoo. This is because you can move them out of the way for the sitting, and not have them tightly fitting for when you leave.
"No tattoo artist should ask you to be topless - Make sure your boundaries are respected"
Like a hip tattoo, it’s best to wear flowing clothing on your lower half for a bum tattoo. Consider what underwear or swimwear you could wear to allow your artist to freely work whilst you feel your boundaries are respected. Perhaps a thong style bikini bottom along with a floaty skirt or beach wrap could work.
If you wear boxers, you could wear a cheap pair that you don’t mind cutting to adapt for the tattoo placement. Tattooist Sarah also provides a blanket for her clients - so maybe you could ask your artist or bring one along.
Leg, thigh or calf tattoo
Think shorts, loose-fitting trousers and skirts - even PJ bottoms are great for this one! The main criteria is that your clothing isn’t restrictive when rolled up your leg. For a particularly high thigh tattoo, a split leg skirt or wrap and comfortable underwear could be a good option. Again you could always pack a blanket to find a way to cover your body in a way that makes you feel good about your tattoo appointment.
For a high thigh tattoo, consider clothing that will allow access
A foot is easy enough to whip out for your tattoo sitting - but think about the aftercare on this one! You don’t want to be attempting to wear restrictive boots or trainers over your freshly penned ink. Flip flops and open sandals are a good choice - so maybe stick to foot tattoos in summer to avoid chilly toes on the way home.
What to take to your tattoo appointment
As well as what to wear, there are other things you might want to consider for your tattoo appointment. From sleep to snacks, as well as a great tattoo preparation kit, read our top tips on how to prepare for a tattoo.
For more tattoo advice, inspiration, and interviews with amazing artists, check out the Stories & Ink Journal.