Ladylike Tattoos: Are They a Thing?

A new line of tattoos for women—tiny birds, stars, hearts, and script designs—is being marketed for its feminine attributes of being dainty and pretty.

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“These tattoos were designed with me in mind,” Shelly Coffman, creator of the temporary Poppy Drops Lady-Like Tattoos, told Adweek Tuesday. “You can wear this on the weekend if you’re feeling a little edgy and still take it off before the business meeting on Monday.”

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But, in the day of Demi Lovato’s armful of birds and Megan Fox’s shoulder-blade poetry—and when more U.S. women than men are tattooed (23 percent vs. 19), according to a 2012 survey—is there really such a thing as a “lady-like” tattoo?

“This would have been a perfect idea in about 1978,” Margot Mifflin, author of the new Bodies of Subversion: A Secret History of Women and Tattoo, told Yahoo! Shine about the Poppy Drops idea. “Women don’t tend to get dainty tattoos like birds, flowers and butterflies so much anymore. And the imagery is less gendered in general.” Trends Mifflin does see, she said, include Gibson Girls, Day of the Dead–style vixens, pinups and “animals dressed as humans.”

As far as where they’re getting inked, “the tramp stamp is considered an unfortunate cliché now, and more women are getting tattooed on their ribs,” she added.  

Still, tattoo artists around the country say that what women want really depends on the customer, and whether she is a tattoo aficionado or the impulsive walk-in client who “wants that quick, I-want-to-sit-there-for-10-minutes-and-then-show-my-friends tattoo,” noted Briga Lapiner, an artist at the all-female staffed Beaver Tattoo in Queens, New York. And in that latter case, it seems Poppy Drops may be onto something.

“There are certain trends, especially if you’re not a tattoo enthusiast,” Lapiner told Shine, explaining that “tiny little pieces,” like stars, flowers, cherry blossoms, brightly colored dragons and kanji, Japanese calligraphy, all continue to be popular.

Celebrities, too, largely dictate which tats are in demand with female customers. “I had a full week last month where everyone wanted the Demi Lovato black cross or mentioned Rihanna, wanting stuff on their fingers,” she added. “Lots of tiny little script.”

Jen Beirola, owner of the lauded Grinn & Barrett tattoo shop in Omaha, Nebraska, told Shine that, “In the past, women wanted the smallest tattoo possible. That was ladylike. But I always recommend going large enough to complement your body part, otherwise it’s going to look like a little black dot on your boob.”

More and more women are taking heed, she said, as many, lately, are wanting “an entire paragraph on their ribs.” Infinity signs are also big, with many of her customers citing celebs, “or a photo that goes viral,” as their influence.

A particularly all-inclusive take of women’s tattoo wants can be found in the just launched UK quarterly magazine Things & Ink, which “embraces female tattoo culture, for artists, collectors and those yet to go under the needle,” writes editor Alice Snape. Issues are filled with colorful images, real-life stories, tattoo art, opinion pieces, fashion, history, beauty and more. The current cover girl is a redheaded tattoo artist from Leeds, covered with bright art—yellow stars on her shoulder, a red hearts on her left temple, and a trail of pink flowers on the side of her neck—that’s both feminine and bold.

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