Learn How SIMPLE
Digital Patterns Really Are!

Sign Up to Receive
The Ultimate Guide to Digital Sewing Patterns eBook + a FREE Skirt Pattern!


BurdaStyle readers, a question: How do you feel about tattoos?

I’m on the fence about them, especially as their popularity has grown and almost everybody seems to have one. Tattoos can certainly be stunning works of art, as above. And they can make a powerful statement — every day and for the rest of your life. I’m not sure there’s any statement I’m THAT committed to making, but that’s me.

image via

When I was growing up in the Sixties and Seventies, the only people I ever saw with tattoos were older men who’d been in the navy, who usually had an anchor tattooed on their forearm (Think, Popeye the Sailor). I never saw a woman with one, or a young person.

Today you can get a tattoo, on a whim, at the mall — it’s like piercing your ears.

Once upon a time, if you were a fan of say, singer Patsy Cline, you might wear a Patsy Cline t-shirt….Today, you can wear Patsy permanently on your bicep.

images via here and here

When did words (or t-shirts) fail to express our enthusiasm — or am I missing the point?

I love Shirley Temple as much as the next person, but I doubt I’d tattoo her on my calf. And as far as the cast of Star Wars, fuggitaboutit!

images via here and here

Here are just a few of the obstacles I don’t seem to be able to overcome with regard to tattoos:

1) They’re extremely painful to get (or so I’ve heard), often requiring pre-tattooing inebriation.

2) They are permanent — if your taste/lifestyle changes, you’re out of luck (unless you want to undergo expensive laser treatments).

3) You see them everywhere, which seems to diminish their cachet (not that cachet is the reason most people get tattoos).

4) They inevitably turn dark green with age.

images via here and here

In closing, readers – do you consider tattoos fashion, art, rebellion, or a bit of all three?

Jump in!


When native New Yorker Peter Lappin bought his first sewing machine two years ago to hem a pair of thrift store jeans, little did he know he was initiating a journey that would bring him fame and fortune. While awaiting his fortune he stays busy writing “the world’s most popular men’s sewing blog,” Male Pattern Boldness, and now contributing to BurdaStyle.

“For more than twenty years I’d lived on the edge of the Garment District without even knowing what a seam ripper was. Now I rip daily!”


  • Dsc_0614_large

    Jul 5, 2011, 11.15 PMby Amelia Blakeman

    The first thing that jumped out at my from this column was #1 “They’re extremely painful to get (or so I’ve heard), often requiring pre-tattooing inebriation.” The pain varies in placement, with the artist, and with personal tolerances, however a reputable tattoo artist would never tattoo someone who was inebriated. And I’d certainly never work with an artist who was willing to. There is a lot of misinformation out there about tattoos and I’d talk to a professional before jumping to too many conclusions about the way you will experience and react to the process (allergies, fading, etc).

    People get tattoos for many reasons, and all of them are valid; be it a meaningful reminder or just something they like to look at. Whether you hate them, love them, or are indifferent you shouldn’t knock other people’s choices or even expect to be told why they chose to get tattooed.

    Lastly, it makes me sad to see people in this community say disrespectful things about others’ choices. I’m not a freak because of my tattoos and I certainly don’t want your pity.

  • 486043_10200326557759449_664517254_n_large

    Jul 2, 2011, 01.16 AMby heidilea

    A note about point number 4—only the older style “india ink” tattoos grow green with age; modern inks are synthetic and don’t do this. However, they do fade and “blur,” requiring touch ups every so often (if one is inclined).

    One should approach getting a tattoo with the same thought and care as choosing a marriage partner or having a child (I’d also say buying a house or car, but those aren’t things that stick with you forever). My first tattoo will celebrate it’s 13th year on my arm come Monday. I got it at the age of 16, and unlike most teenagers, considered carefully what I was going to get. My second at age 19 took two years of consideration, as did my third and final tattoo (at age 22). What I did not consider at my young age: tattoo designs, like jewelry and clothing and everything else humans adorn their world with, go in and out of fashion. While my narrow band of roses was very cool and classic in 1998, not so much now.

    However, I don’t really care. I forget they’re all there until someone says something. I don’t regret them, either.

  • 100_2495_large

    Jun 28, 2011, 05.11 PMby kittydarling

    Tattoos can be very beautiful, but I think they should be the result of serious consideration. I know a few people who have gotten tattoos on a whim and inevitably regret it. I plan on getting a tattoo for my college graduation present, but it is one I have thought about for a long time.

    Yes black henna is very bad- I have been using real henna for years and have seen the awful scars black henna can cause. I agree with you ichigogirl- stay away from black henna!

  • Drawing-eye-29_large

    Jun 26, 2011, 10.11 PMby Carnadalopia

    In closing, readers – do you consider tattoos fashion, art, rebellion, or a bit of all three?

    Well, although I am late to this posting, I find the topic fascinating. I think that a tattoo can represent fashion, art, or rebellion. What really creates the message behind the tattoo is the person that gets the tattoo and the meaning that it has for them. For example, my tattoos are none of these. They are physical representations of the most important aspects of my life (a family tree, etc.). Rebellious tattoos I think are most common and least attractive, because they don’t usually involve much thought or commitment to the actual design. Regardless of that fact, they can still be absolutely beautiful. I like nothing more than to see a beautiful tattoo with great meaning to the person that wears it. The cherry on top of the cake is to hear that they have designed it themselves.

  • Photoge01_large

    Jun 24, 2011, 10.29 PMby gedwoods

    I am fascinated by tattoos, but I’ve never been tempted for myself. I’m not sure why. They say tattoos are about transformation, and so I guess I have never felt the need for that particular form of transformation. But I think they are cool on other people.

  • Pic_large

    Jun 23, 2011, 08.46 PMby rabierau

    I also love the tattoo in the first picture.

  • Pic_large

    Jun 23, 2011, 08.45 PMby rabierau

    I love tattoos, occasionally I see one that I don’t particularly like and wouldn’t want on my body, but who cares? If the person likes it and it’s meaningful to them, then that’s all that matters. I don’t have any tattoos yet but there are a couple I’ve been thinking about getting for a while. It’s just kind of a daunting thought for me at the moment, most of what I’m worried about has been said in the other comments. I’m too scared that I won’t like it after it’s permanently marked on me. But when I do eventually get tattooed, it is for my expression and happiness and I believe nobody has the right to judge me for that.

  • Flo03_large

    Jun 22, 2011, 07.14 PMby agirlnamedflo

    I think tattoos are great. Although as a make-up artist, I only encourage post-wedding tattoos. Spending hours covering a tattoo is a hassle and costly. Please think before you ink:)

  • B7ac9c599b960e8b2b4c593e62f5903862798f3b_large

    Jun 21, 2011, 11.12 AMby myk

    Tattoos are beautiful when you know the story behind why they are there. Yes some people do it for the reason of fashion, art or rebellion, some even caused by an addiction to tattooing (yes, like addiction to plastic surgery!) …but some also have them because they are meaningful to them. I have one, on my back close to my shoulder..I got it when I turned 30 and I never regretted getting it.

  • Cali_large

    Jun 20, 2011, 02.44 PMby threadsquare

    I’ve thought about this many times, and my answer to the question is “all three”. Plus some. I love tattoos, and think they can be absolutely gorgeous. Sometimes meaningful (indigenous cultures, the long history of Russian prison tattoos, personal history, etc.). And sometimes just silly. I have two tattoos, and while I don’t fully regret the first, it was just a whimsy at age 17, poorly placed, and has no meaning other than a reminder of a specific day in my life. Many of my friends are completely covered, and I love the look. But I know it’s not for me (and I don’t have the time or money anyway :) ). I think it is still a sort of rebellion, especially to be covered in sleeves, etc., but at the same time, even that sort of tattoo art is used to conform to a specific culture. How many lone stars, epaulets, and barcodes have I seen? Due to recent books on Russian prison tattoos, I’ve even seen some of those showing up on people who haven’t “earned” them, and think they’re simply cool – I do take a bit of issue with that sort of appropriation.

  • 11258216_10206641305901111_7249394459930650298_n_large

    Jun 19, 2011, 05.26 PMby nouvellegamine

    i have two, one on each arm & i love them. i’m a tall, lanky, rather twee looking wallflower of a woman who has almost always dressed like her grandmother. they provide just the right amount of symbolism to my appearance. the first one i got when i was 27, the second one when i was 33. i’m now 38. i’m usually complimented on them, especially by people of my grandmother’s generation. so, i think, if something is “you”, very you, then you can wear it with style until you die :)

    1 Reply
  • 126_large

    Jun 19, 2011, 01.29 PMby Mslesliepear

    I want a tattoo to cover up a scar on my back. While I’m here today because of the scar I still don’t like it. I am quite a drama queen when it comes to swimsuit shopping & glad I’m married because the wedding dress shopping was even worse. When I decide what I want I’ll cover that thing up and show it prouldy. I’ve never worn a halter dress or bikini. My point is when judgemental people look down their noses at people with tattoos the should really look in the mirror and see what they need to change. Attitude maybe?

  • 100_2202_large

    Jun 18, 2011, 06.01 PMby kraftykatina

    I have two and I regret one because it’s visible when I teach if I don’t wear long sleeves. And my tats welt up…might be a personal problem but you should check out this NPR story:http://www.npr.org/2011/05/09/135845526/tattoo-ink-stained-by-safety-concerns

    3 Replies
    • Jeans_sew_along_best_large

      Jun 18, 2011, 09.34 PMby Peter Lappin


    • Dscf6507_large

      Jun 18, 2011, 10.47 PMby urbandon

      Fortunately the inaccuracy of that (npr) story is highlighted in the the readers comments on the same page. Sounds like you have an allergic reaction. The FDA cannot even draw solid conclusions on ink…

    • 486043_10200326557759449_664517254_n_large

      Jul 2, 2011, 01.19 AMby heidilea

      Mine welt up occaisionally, too; but I discovered it’s usually when I’m dehydrated, so this may be the problem.

  • Vatten_large

    Jun 18, 2011, 11.01 AMby ichigogirl

    As I often do, I agree with you Peter. Having said that, there are some fabulous tattoos on other people than me, and I think they can be classy and artistic if well chosen and executed. But not for me (at least not yet, and since I’m approaching my 40’s probably not ever!).

    2 Replies
    • Jeans_sew_along_best_large

      Jun 18, 2011, 03.53 PMby Peter Lappin

      I’ve also seen tattoos I’ve admired. But not for me (I don’t think…).

    • Vatten_large

      Jun 18, 2011, 07.22 PMby ichigogirl

      I guess one should never say never ;-)

  • Dscf6507_large

    Jun 18, 2011, 08.11 AMby urbandon

    I like them and have two. The first I got at 18 when only bikers and sailors had them. Now days they are popular and just a bit of fun. Mine were thoughtfully designed, placed and executed. Tattoos are fun, creative and a way to self expression.

    Any comments around ‘mutilation’ are antiquated or naive at best. Do I call you a freak because they have a blue rinse and set? No.

    1 Reply
    • Jeans_sew_along_best_large

      Jun 18, 2011, 03.53 PMby Peter Lappin

      Who told you about my blue rinse?! LOL

    • This is a question
  1. Sign in to add a post


  • Editors' Pick
  • Pattern Collections
  • BurdaStyle Academy
  • Burda Challenge
  • Backstage Report
  • Fashion & Trends
  • DIY to Try
  • Tips & Techniques
  • Member Highlights
  • Sewing Projects
  • Outta Town
  • Contests & Competitions
  • Archive
  • Guest Columns
  • Videos
  • Meg's Magazine Mash Up
  • As Seen In
  • Podcast
  • Holiday