Beauty from Ashes: The Creation of Nickel and Lace

I love stories of triumph and success. But most often, these victorious tales are born out of struggle, adversity, and challenge. There are always those obstacles or naysayers, those bad guys or bad luck, which riddle the otherwise happy tale with woes…or pulverize it into near oblivion. But that’s the moment when the second wind hits, when the strong survive instead of succumb. And that’s exactly how the Nickel and Lace shapewear holster came to be.

I met Marilyn Smolenski, a good friend and fellow female in the firearms industry, not too long ago and had a rare and wonderful opportunity to really get to know her, her product, and her story. Growing up in Louisiana, Marilyn had been involved with firearms and hunting from a young age, and she took that love and appreciation for shooting into her adulthood. So she was especially smitten with her boyfriend (now husband) when he expressed a mutual interest in firearms. The couple thoroughly enjoyed their 2A talks and gun outings, but Marilyn struggled with finding a holster that would work for her for concealed carry and for pistol training. “I actually cried when I used Mark’s holster,” she confessed. “I had bruises all over my hips. It was so uncomfortable, and it just didn’t fit me or work for me at all!”

The holster problem immediately got Marilyn thinking about options and alternatives. But with few to turn to that felt right, she decided to explore the possibilities of creating her own design. It was a risky and difficult road, with a lot of dead ends, but Marilyn was determined to find an answer, not only for her but also for countless women who struggle with the same issues. Drawn to the discreet but durable shapewear form and function, Marilyn began crafting her idea. But just as her holster was literally taking shape, she was dealt a devastating blow. A very substantial amount of her investment money was stolen by someone in the garment business, someone she thought she could trust.

Instead of giving up, Marilyn used this painful opportunity to take a step back from the project and take a fresh look at her design. This downtime and this new perspective inspired some changes and alterations…and ultimately resulted in the unique, comfortable, classy, and practical holster that makes up Nickel and Lace today. The multi-functional, open-bust camisole, available in black or white, can easily be worn under most clothing and provides all the benefits of your favorite shapewear, with a built-in holster for your favorite sidearm. And I can honestly tell you that Marilyn’s creation is nearly as clever, resilient, and lovely as Marilyn is herself.

With the success of Nickel and Lace, Marilyn has continued to use her creativity, inspiration, and love for firearms to partner with other products, businesses, and industry leaders as co-founder of the very popular and successful Firearms and Fashion Show. And Marilyn is working her magic once again to organize and direct this event for the upcoming Concealed Carry Expo at the fairgrounds in West Bend, Wisconsin. Scheduled for Saturday, May 9, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., the fashion show features head-to-toe concealed carry looks for men and women and features a wide variety of fashionable and tactical clothing items and holsters for the ankle, thigh, back, chest, and even inside a purse. There’s sure to be something to catch everyone’s eye and fit anyone’s needs. You should definitely plan to attend. Of course, Marilyn (and Nickel and Lace) will be there. And so will I! And who knows? If you’ve been struggling with concealed carry options, this might be just the place where your success story begins.

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