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I, Clausewitz : A Would-be Conqueror's Diary
Neither holy nor Roman nor an Emperor
Why female breastplates don't need breast-bulges 
14th-Apr-2008 06:27 pm
French dragoon
I believe most readers of fantasy (and some historical) fiction would be quite familiar with the depiction of women's breastplates with two separate bulges--one for each breast--as shown in some of the designs on this page (note that I'm NOT specifically blaming this armorer for the designs, especially in light of the clarification you'll see on top of the gallery if you follow the link). In this post, I'm going to discuss why this design is not a good idea on the practical level.

First and most importantly, having two breast-bulges on a solid breastplate would create a concave channel just over the wearer's breastbone. Most blows that strike the breast-bulges on the inner halves (i.e. the halves facing towards the center of the chest) would naturally get deflected into this channel. This becomes a serious problem when the armor has to deal with a powerful upwards thrust; the presence of the channel would tend to direct the thrust towards the middle of the chest and up beneath whatever throat protection the wearer had at the time, whether it be a bevor or a gorget or an aventail. An experienced fighter might actually be able to see this opportunity and exploit it as soon as he/she could engage the breastplate's wearer in a close-range thrusting fight with sword or dagger.

Compare this with a conventional breastplate design where the armor's rounded surfaces are built to deflect all blows in an outward direction. The design doesn't render it absolutely impossible for a thrust to get redirected under the wearer's throat defenses, but at least the likelihood of such an unfortunate event would be much, much lower than if the wearer had a breastplate with two breast-bulges. Moreover, many conventional breastplates (such as the works of Anton Pfeffenhausser displayed here) possess a pronounced vertical keel designed to deflect the opponent's thrusts away from the centerline of the wearer's body--which also means away from the wearer's throat.

As if that wasn't enough, twin-bulged breastplates ignore the anatomical makeup of the female breast itself. To make a long story short, the breast largely consists of fat and modified sweat glands (for the production of milk, that is), and hence it's not nearly as solid as a comparable mass of muscle. So all but the largest breasts can be bound quite flat against the woman's chest without occasioning too much discomfort. In turn, this means a fighting woman probably isn't going to need a breastplate with a chest profile larger than one worn by a fighting man of a similar height and general body shape, and therefore it's quite likely that the woman would simply fit into the man's breastplate with the aid of some padding to make up the slack in the waist and shoulders.

Of course we shouldn't forget to take account of how plate armor is supposed to fit against the body. Breastplates are called "breastplates" for a very good reason: it covers the breast. The waistline on a correctly-fitted breastplate actually doesn't lie on the modern trouser waist (i.e. around the navel), but slightly higher at the bottom of the ribs (that is, the position known as the "natural waist") This marks the very bottom edge of early cuirasses like the Churburg model shown here; later breastplates with articulated faulds (such as the two 15th-century examples shown here) have an additional section below made to protect the kidneys and the hips, which extends down to approximately the height of the hipbone. This feature tends to make a male wearer's torso look a little shorter and his legs a little longer than they really are, but one one hand it's necessary to preserve the armored man's freedom of movement--a lower position for the waistline and/or bottom edge would prevent the man from bending naturally at the waist--while on the other it has the side effect of making the male breastplate perfectly wearable by women, because its high-waisted design places the inevitable chest bulge (note that I'm talking about a singular bulge, not two bulges) in a good position to accommodate the woman's breasts if she were about as tall as or slightly taller than the man for which the breastplate was designed. Further examples of male breastplates with globose chests that would have easily accommodated a woman's torso inside can be seen in this page about 16th-century Imperial armors attributed to the armorer Kolman Helmschmied and this article on the decoration of European arms and armor in the 15th and 16th centuries. Additionally, this picture displays a reproduction armor in the 16th-century Maximilian style, while this image gallery shows a high-quality replica of a 15th-century armor in action; these last two examples give particularly good illustrations of how the chest bulge on their breastplates would fit against the body of a living wearer.

A second aspect of fit that would be worth examining is how closely the armor lies against the wearer's body. High-quality harnesses of plate were obviously made to an exact fit for the customer, which would make it easy for an experienced armorer to build a female armor with just some minor tinkering upon the proportions of a perfectly ordinary male armor. And yet, by the second half of the 15th century, the state of both metallurgy and the economy in Europe had improved to such a degree that plate armor could be produced in larger quantities and at lower prices than ever before. This led to an increasing trend for ordinary soldiers (below the pay grade of men-at-arms) to wear relatively cheap munitions-grade plate armor, principally on the upper half of their bodies. These munitions-grade pieces, being mass-produced rather than individually fitted, were generally made a bit large so that all but the burliest soldiers would be able to wear them without modification; most soldiers thus found their armor somewhat oversized, but for the most part they coped easily by wearing enough padding and/or additional clothing to provide a snug fit for the armor. A woman would have been perfectly able to use the same approach. In fact, if she weren't flat-chested, she would probably have had an easier time hiding her breasts in a munitions-grade breastplate than in the largely unarmored dress of later soldiers!

In conclusion, a female warrior who wants to wear a solid breastplate isn't going to need anything more than a male breastplate sized for a man of about the same height as her. It's hard to find better proof of this idea's practical and aesthetic advantages than these suits of armor . Even medieval artists seem to have understood the principles because this 15th-century depiction of Joan of Arc shows her in male armor without any fear of contradiction!

Edited to add: I've recently been informed (thanks, Matthew Amt!) that ancient Greek and Roman muscle cuirasses actually had a similar fit to medieval European breastplates in that their "waistline" lay noticeably higher than the wearer's navel, so the anatomy depicted on the cuirass was vertically "squashed" compared to the wearer's actual musculature. The pteryges (a skirt made of leather strips) hanging from the bottom of the cuirass) might have been meant to hide this feature in addition to providing a modicum of protection to the thighs.
14th-Apr-2008 01:22 pm (UTC)
There's one thing the NHK drama about Yoshitsune got right: Tomoe Gozen was dressed in regular man's armor.

She looked pretty kickass in it. :-)
14th-Apr-2008 03:35 pm (UTC)
Meh. It would have been horrible otherwise. I don't even want to imagine o-yoroi modified to have two breast cups.
14th-Apr-2008 02:47 pm (UTC)
I agree that the double breast armor is impractical and in the end, ridiculous. However, I do have to ask how big is "the most ridiculously oversized breasts", and yes, I'm interested in actual cup size. For example, I am quite large, and binding my gals down still probably wouldn't get me into some of these armors.

Another question is how close do these rules follow for leather and chain armors? The real ones, not costume.

14th-Apr-2008 04:31 pm (UTC)
However, I do have to ask how big is "the most ridiculously oversized breasts", and yes, I'm interested in actual cup size.

I'd leave that to the readers' subjective judgement. If you're asking my own personal opinion, though, I'd say it depends heavily on the size of the woman. A stout seven-foot-tall woman might easily get away with an E (or DD) cup where a lean five-foot-tall woman would have stumbled from all the wobbling that the same size of breasts would cause in the ordinary course of hand-to-hand fighting.

For example, I am quite large, and binding my gals down still probably wouldn't get me into some of these armors.

That you wouldn't get into some means there are still others you're going to fit into--check out the Italian designs in particular among the 15th-century armors and the Helmschmied ones among the 16th-century pieces. And if your mention of "large" refers to your body as a whole rather than just your breasts, of course you should get a fairly large guy's armor in the first place! ;)

Another question is how close do these rules follow for leather and chain armors?

For leather, it depends on what sort of leather you're talking about. Check this post for a quick overview--and once you're done with that, it'd become fairly obvious that the design of boiled leather breastplates would largely follow the same rules as their plate counterparts while buff coats would simply have to fit snugly over whatever ordinary clothing the wearer has at the time, especially if the wearer is planning on using the coat as a foundation garment for a plate harness.

Mail is a bit trickier. For maximum protection and convenience (and historical accuracy!), a coat or hauberk or haubergeon (or whatever) of mail would have to fit quite closely around the wearer's torso, and for women it'd be hard to decide whether the close fit should be measured according to the chest circumference with bound breasts or the one with unbound breasts. Still, I'd favor binding the breasts as tightly as you can without impeding breathing and movement because you simply need to immobilize them as much as possible if you don't want them to shift your balance in an undesired and unpredictable manner at a critical moment in the fighting. You can then fit the mail to the measurement thus produced.

(Of course, modern women would be well advised to forego the inconvenience of binding and use a good, close-fitting sports bra instead.)
(Deleted comment)
15th-Apr-2008 02:26 am (UTC)
Right. I forgot to take that into account. I guess we can blame it on my lack of experience in dealing with with large-breasted women, since here in Asia there are proportionally fewer of them than in, say, Europe or the U.S.
(Deleted comment)
15th-Apr-2008 03:15 pm (UTC)
Hey, relax. It wouldn't be surprising if either of us gets it wrong. Neither of us knows how it feels to have to wear bras just to keep our chest from pulling us off-balance! ;)
18th-Apr-2008 08:49 am (UTC)
You were right the first time, in fact; a D cup size is much larger on a 40 back size than on a 30 back size. I don't know whether that's falls out of the 'inches different' model, or is something that's been introduced by manufacturers. Cup sizes do vary somewhat by manufacturer, and of course shapes vary considerably. Bravissimo has lots of information here.
14th-Apr-2008 06:14 pm (UTC)
Not relevant to the actual topic at hand, which is women's armor, but the Churburg model is pretty much what I wish my kit looked like, and what I hope some day to proudly own.
14th-Apr-2008 11:13 pm (UTC)
Thank you! Those boob-plate armors artists love to draw look incredibly uncomfortable.
15th-Apr-2008 01:23 am (UTC)
Oh, nice post :). Those bulgy breastplates always seemed pretty stupid to me, and not very functional, judging from personal experience playing sports; if you have your breasts loose enough to have separate 'armor bulges' for them, it doesn't seem like you'd be wearing a bra at all, and that would hurt/be uncomfortable, given the running/jumping/dodging swords you'd be doing, and, also - the breasts would not just stay, nicely and separately, in their separate little 'bulge pockets' - they'd move around quite a bit, and probably be squeezed/bumped against the metal quite uncomfortably, if the area between the breasts lies flat against/a little above the chest.

Although that does raise a question for me (TMI warning?): I don't have particularly huge breasts - I'm a c-cup - but I can only 'bind' them - using a sports bra - to a certain point without making it very uncomfortable and inhibiting movement; with my tightest sports bra on, there's still about an inch or more of 'protuberance,' though I'm stocky and have a decently-sized ribcage. So what I'm wondering is if a normal guy's armor would account for that amount of bulging going on? What about women with larger chests?

Also, I noticed the bit with the edge of the armor not hitting at the waist - I take it people would have to be within a couple inches of each other to use each other's armor? Obviously they wouldn't be swapping armor if there's a foot's difference, but about how near in size would they have to be to use it effectively?

Well, thanks for taking the time to post; definitely gave me some food for though :).
15th-Apr-2008 02:41 am (UTC)
So what I'm wondering is if a normal guy's armor would account for that amount of bulging going on?

I'm sure the answer is yes. "Normal guy's armor" would include a wide variety of styles and designs at any given place and time during the Age of Plate, and you would certainly have been able to choose between them if you had enough money. And don't forget that the guys who whore armor tended to be larger and more muscular than the average of their time, so there's going to be a great deal more room inside than most people would imagine--and more so for the cheap munitions-grade models, since most of them seem to have been made deliberately too large in a "one size fits all" approach.

What about women with larger chests?

As I said in my answer to gerriwritinglog above, they'd be well advised to choose the models with more globose chests. There's always going to be some of those if you look hard enough.

I take it people would have to be within a couple inches of each other to use each other's armor? Obviously they wouldn't be swapping armor if there's a foot's difference, but about how near in size would they have to be to use it effectively?

For very high-quality custom-made pieces, yes, you'll have to be very close to the wearer's size in the first place if you want to have a decent chance of being able to wriggle into the armor. Low-end (though not necessarily low-quality) munitions-grade armor, on the other hand, wasn't usually fitted to an individual, and in fact their design was meant to fit as many kinds of people and body shapes as possible within a given range of sizes, so like I said you'll just have to pick a size that's not too small for you and pad or stuff the insides to fit.
18th-Apr-2008 08:57 am (UTC)
Ah, BTW, for both you and gerriwritinglog: have a look at this photograph, which shows a reproduction of another Helmschmied armor being worn by a man in the flesh; take special note of the huge chest bulge, which is certainly much bigger than necessary for accommodating the wearer's chest muscles. Similarly, this Flickr photostream shows a 15th-century harness in action, also with a very noticeable bulge in the chest.
19th-Apr-2008 08:48 pm (UTC)
Oh, thanks, I can really see what you were talking about now :D.
28th-Apr-2008 01:09 am (UTC)
Hmm, but don't female fencers' plastrons have breast bulges?
28th-Apr-2008 10:31 am (UTC)
No, but the solid breast protectors worn under the plastron do. ;)

That point of pedantry aside, the breast-protectors worn in modern fencing are designed with significantly different objectives from what we find in the design of breastplates meant to be worn as armor. The modern breast-protector is not required to withstand attacks delivered with great force through the medium of a heavy blade; even the strongest thrusts it can be expected to encounter in daily use are probably not strong enough to skitter all the way up under the fencing mask's bib and into the wearer's throat if that thrust got deflected rather than absorbed by the breast protector. Moreover, I wouldn't expect a modern fencer to intentionally seek to work his/her weapon up beneath a female opponent's throat protection, in stark contrast to medieval and Renaissance harness-fighting techniques that do actively try to circumvent the bevor/gorget in order to strike a lethal hit. Different circumstances, different principles, and (naturally) different results.
6th-Dec-2009 12:01 am (UTC)
As a female fencer, I have had a blade go up my bib and leave a nasty scratch up my neck (that was the extent of any injury, though). I have no idea if it was from my breast protector or not, but it's only happened once in all the years that I've fenced.
27th-Jun-2008 08:46 pm (UTC) - A few words from Pitbullarmory.com
Howdy Friends, This Essay written about womens breastplates is all true. My female BPs are not made for fighing in for all the reasons listed above. Women fit into Male breastplates just fine. I have a great time makeing the female ones WITH THE BOOBS though and enjoy forming steel to the female body. So yes all the info is true but I think we all know what BP all the guys will be looking at the most......THE ONES WITH THE BOOBS :)

Take care

The Pitbull
28th-Jun-2008 03:11 pm (UTC) - Re: A few words from Pitbullarmory.com
As long as you don't try to pass the booby ones as combat-ready armor, know ye that I have no grudge against you.
5th-Jul-2008 09:08 pm (UTC) - BreastPlate
‘Scuse me if seem to be treating this thread in a frivolous fashion. I’m actually pretty impressed with the research Clausewitz and those who replied put into this topic of female breastplates. But your potential readers haven’t put all that effort into it. For ninety percent of them (At least), the word `Breastplate’ calls to mind one image: Xena!

(I'm Dark at FM. I didn't realize this comment forum was not part of FM.)
6th-Jul-2008 07:00 am (UTC) - Re: BreastPlate
Which is why I'm putting all this effort into educating them....
3rd-Mar-2009 07:10 am (UTC) - Hi there
Hi guys,I just joined your forum because Im doing research on historical armor. I dont sell BPs with udders because they are good to fight in. I just like to make them. Strange enough some people like to buy them. You ladies wear shirts right? and theres bumps on the shirt as you stand there right? My BPs are the same basicly as you standing there in a shirt. Dont buy them if you dont want to its no problem at all, its not meant to offend anyone nor should it, the answer is simple. I like dogs, I have an armored dog, I like squirrels, I have an armored squirrel, I like boobs........... you get it.

Take care

24th-Dec-2009 12:36 am (UTC) - Re: Hi there
Ooops. I obviously forgot to add the clarification that this post isn't specifically directed at your armory. Done that now.
3rd-Jun-2009 08:54 pm (UTC) - Why this doesnt matter in fiction
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/RuleOfSexy + http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/RuleOfCool is why bulging BREASTplates are used in fiction,
11th-Sep-2009 09:36 pm (UTC) - Re: Why this doesnt matter in fiction
You forgot http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/MostCommonSuperPower
15th-Jan-2011 11:04 pm (UTC) - Re: Why this doesnt matter in fiction
Two years ago huh? I really do hope people have grown smart enough not to think copy and pasting links from a /wiki/ site somehow makes a counterpoint to this post. The 'reason' for it is sexist people who see women only as a sum of sexual parts... shiny sex objects there to turn men on (It's 'weird' how the rule of 'sexy' only seems to apply to women most of the time and not guys. Gee, I wonder why). And those type of men are pathetic as they give excuses as to why they just /have/ to turn women into wank material.
11th-Jul-2009 07:38 am (UTC)
Hello. Sorry to reply to an lj-post you made over a year ago, but I just happened across it and I can't help but have a reaction.

In your intent, you are thorough and correct. But when you say flatly "this design is not a good idea no matter how we look at it," you lose some of your credibility.

Your tactical assessments of a breastplate as regards use in combat is correct. However, even putting aside the above comment regarding its use in fictional works, there are several purposes to female breastplates having the form of the wearers unbound breasts - even if they are, in fact, bound underneath.

First, comes the considerations of ceremonial armour, where style comes over form; people are willing to weight their ceremonial armour with gold surfacework, unnecessary flourishes, gems, etc., and as such it is unlikely that their vanity would not extend to breasts as well.

Secondly, in a Joan of Arc scenario (female martial leader/figurehead turning the tide of a war based largely on morale) it becomes quite important for said female to be recognizably female - from a distance, even. (Not every civilization/war paradigm used banners/standards, after all.) Also, it would probably have been inappropriate for the 15-century artists to display Joan's breasts in the example you gave, considering they were religious monks in a time of sexual taboo and repression, she was a national hero and saint, as well as the fact that they probably never laid on eye on either her or her armour. Their fear of contradiction is much lessened by the fact that most knew her by reputation only, as well.

I could write more, but I've pretty much already made myself look like an ass and a jerk by being overly combatative and nitpicky.

Good assessment of why boob-plate armour is a bad idea when you actually want it to protect your chest. Cheers.
11th-Jul-2009 02:50 pm (UTC)
Ass and jerk? No, actually you've raised some interesting ideas. I certainly hadn't thought about ceremonial armor--one of the areas I consistently tend to miss.

As for Joan of Arc, though, I don't think it's just because the illustrators were monks. The idea that warrior women simply donned men's armor is consistently found not only in art (just look at all those medieval depictions of Amazons) but also in literature, and the absolute lack of evidence to the contrary forces me to conclude that breast-bulges on breastplates was simply never a significant presence on field armors.

Still, the idea brings up an entirely unrelated possibility: in a science-fiction (or space opera) setting placed in our future, the influence from our era's artwork might make the people expect female ceremonial armor to actually have breast-bulges.
17th-Jul-2009 11:38 am (UTC)
Hmm. OK. More recent searching may have to qualify "absolute lack of evidence to the contrary." Thanks to writemedieval and the link she gave to Karen Larsdatter's site on medieval material culture, I finally ran across a rather funny medieval depiction of the Amazon queen Marpesia, which does have distinct breast-bulges pasted on what's essentially a male breastplate (with male torso proportions to boot!). There's also a more ambiguous depiction of Fortitude--ambiguous, I say, because it's also possible to interpret her torso armor as soft armor and the shading doesn't make it clear that there's a "valley" between the two breasts. Still, they both depict mythological and allegorical figures as opposed to contemporary ones, and they're still dwarfed by the much larger number of female warriors shown wearing plain male armor, like here, here, and here. And also 1480s depictions of Joan of Arc (like this and this in male cuirasses with funny embossed/gilded decoration over the breasts that nevertheless don't seem to have modified the form of the cuirass in any substantial way.

There are also some funny depictions of women in armor that seem to have been specifically modified to fit the female figure, but without the unnecessary innovation of separate breast-bulges--like this, this, and this. Too bad these armors appear to be purely imaginary....
6th-Oct-2009 02:39 pm (UTC)
Those look more like besagews to me.
26th-Nov-2009 03:53 am (UTC)
I know you wrote this a long time ago but I just recently found a link to this post. While I agree whole-heartedly that they are impractical and vaguely silly I don't believe any armor built with breast bulges was meant to be as good as normal armor.

Any armorer truly skilled in his trade would know what that change in shape would entail and would warn a woman against it. A woman who was really serious and wanted to be shown simply as a good warrior would of course wear normal armor. Any armor built to be so overtly shaped like a female torso was most likely so the woman wouldn't be mistaken as a man when wearing the armor. The only women who would wear it would essentially be women who cared more about people KNOWING they were a woman and wanted them to know that a woman was fighting. The glory of being a woman in a role traditionally ONLY for men probably outweight the (probably not as slight as it may have seemed) risks of the blade being deflected up to the throat.

Considering the time period when these armors were used in battle any woman who could openly show that she was a woman during a war was going to want to show off that she is in fact a woman who has permission to be there.

Obvious exceptions would be Joan of Arc who wasn't in it for the glory, and any army that regularly employed female soldiers. Obviously they didn't need to the special armor since they were nothing special, and they would care more about their lives than people knowing for certain of their gender.
27th-Nov-2009 05:53 am (UTC)
Considering the time period when these armors were used in battle etc.

Yes, that's a point that certainly deserves consideration, since after all the time period when breast-bulged armor is actually used in combat (of whatever sort) is pretty much limited to the 20th and 21st centuries....
16th-Dec-2009 03:42 pm (UTC) - Belgariad by David Eddings
David Eddings in the Belgariad actually discusses this fact when the princess tries to get this armorer to make her a breastplate, and his first design is as flat as a man's. The princess objects, asking for armor that accentuates her breasts. He explains to her all these reasons why it's a bad idea to have breastplate designed to accentuate her feminine attributes.

She convinces him to make her way on the grounds that she isn't going into combat and that it's mainly so she can look inspiring for her soldiers. He does agree, but he grumbles all the while that he's a skilled armorer not a bloody costume designer.
23rd-Dec-2009 03:01 am (UTC)
First off, I agree that female-shaped armor is pretty ridiculous, not to mention the veritable scraps of metal that some fantasy rpgs put on their women. But I have a question. If the problem with the channel between the breasts was that it deflects blows up beneath the throat protection, then why not add a set of down-facing ridges between the breasts to catch the blades, or a thick lip at the top of the plate to stop them? Couldn't there be a way to lessen the weakness of 'breast plate' by the form of the armor?
23rd-Dec-2009 04:15 pm (UTC)
Such a ridge may help protect the wearer's throat, but the blow would probably just get deflected slightly onto the wearer's chin or face--hardly a pleasant proposition. Not to mention that adding two breast-bulges and then adding protective ridges or a thickly rolled edge to compensate for the design's weakness still sounds like a massive waste of resources compared to simply making an ordinary breastplate that gives equal or better protection for the wearer without the need for any such modifications.

Not to mention that a ridge or rolled edge would hardly be of any use when the throat protection (bevor, standard, aventail, or whatever) is worn outside the breastplate, in which case a decent opponent is going to be able to slip a thrust into the gap anyway. If the ridge or raised edge is thick enough to stop even such a dedicated attack, then it's probably thick enough to make the armor very uncomfortable to wear!
24th-Dec-2009 01:29 am (UTC) - Breasts
Hi there, All breastplates have a roll at the neck opening to catch thrusts. Some times I leave the roll open to make a better stop. I like the idea about a stop rib also I may have to try that out. Lastly, any gorget or bevor should be worn under the breastplate, boobs or no boobs thrusts would be up in there. Happy Hollidays.

Take care

(Screened comment)
25th-Aug-2010 05:50 pm (UTC)
but even then helmets still often had their own gorget sections that hung over both the breastplate and the inner collar

Hmm. Seems like I messed up a bit with the terminology there. Apparently the lower front half of the armet or close helm's face is still called the bevor, so I shouldn't have called it a "gorget section" since this would confuse the issue with the real gorget/collar worn under the breastplate. Oh well.
10th-Nov-2010 12:03 pm (UTC) - my opinion
I think that the issues you are talking about here is just en effect for the universal problem: men vs women. Men have their custom armors that depict strong muscles so women had to have "bulges"... Of course that in battle such an armor wouldn't actually be efficient... but it could symbolize that importance of a woman on the battle field... This issue is mainly related to a psychological state of mind...

Escorts Amsterdam
16th-Mar-2011 07:15 pm (UTC) - Re: my opinion
Well, muscle cuirasses were never universal even in their Greco-Roman heyday, and in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance they were almost exclusively seen on Neoclassical parade armours, so I don't see how this point would be relevant for actual combat armour.
7th-Aug-2012 04:49 am (UTC)
This argument about not having female armour look feminine has given me a bulging headeche of my own. I feel so conflicted as an artist.... I can't figure out what I should do to distinguish my females from my males? I keep going back and forth with my decision.... should I make them flat or have some sort of feminine curve on the armour plate? It's been tormenting me!

I want to be realistic.... but I don't want my heroine's helmet off in order to tell she's a woman during the battle. It might work for Eowyn in LOTR, but I want people to regonise she's not a man.

I_clausewitz is there anyway that the armour could have small round curves on the metal without it becoming separate bulges? You know like pronounced curves that show the female form slightly, so it's obvious the knight is a woman without them turning into giant cups? Would that work, without them having those nasty defects you mentioned earlier?

I wish I could post you the pic that shows what I mean. If you look up the concept art for Sif from Thor, thats what I mean. Would that be realistic? Sorry I just want to make sure I draw the armour correctly, it's just as important as anatomy to me and I want to get it right.

14th-Aug-2012 09:35 am (UTC)
If you don't have to be strictly historical, you can modify the proportions of the armour somewhat, such as by putting a little more emphasis on the outward curve that inevitably shows up on the breast portion of medieval breastplates and raising its position a little to be more in line with . . . well, the breasts. Nipping the waistline and raising it a little bit further--especially if you raise the sides more than the centre to give a V-shape like that on Elizabethan breastplates--may also help in drawing more attention to the feminine curves without being martially irresponsible. In fact, armourers Patrick Thaden and Ugo Serrano seem to have done just this for a fantasy piece a few years ago.

Alternatively, even historical armour could look quite attractive on a woman. Just check out Cate Blanchett in Elizabeth; her harness might be 50 to 100 years out of date for the actual setting of the movie but it looks smoking hot on her in spite of its full coverage.
20th-Apr-2013 02:12 pm (UTC)
"...all but the largest breasts can be bound quite flat against the woman's chest without occasioning too much discomfort."

As a binder-wearer, this sentence makes me bonkers.

A lot of binders are uncomfortable even when you don't have "all but the largest breasts". Contrary to what you seem to think, women's breasts actually have like, NERVES in them, as opposed to only "fat and modified sweat glands". You're compressing tissue! This can be very uncomfortable! Over and over in queer forums I see warnings not to wear your binder constantly because IT MAKES THE TISSUES BREAK DOWN FROM THE COMPRESSION. Some people have issues after years of binding because their chest wasn't able to fully expand, AND YOU WANT US TO FIGHT LIKE THIS?

I don't like the "dent for each boob" design either, but the solution you've come up with here? Dude, no. Just no. It makes NO MORE SENSE than the "dent for each boob" design. If you'd based this idea around something less compressing, like a sports bra, and maybe even thought a little bit about how lots of women have different boob shapes and densities and still deserve armor, I wouldn't have nearly as big a problem with it.

Also, as someone who has tried to wear other clothing made for men, "the woman would simply fit into the man's breastplate with the aid of some padding to make up the slack in the waist and shoulders" also makes me lol. Like shit it's that easy-- just put some armor shoulder pads in! No one will notice how the entire breastplate wasn't made to fit you in any way!
23rd-Apr-2013 06:12 pm (UTC)
This is quite an old post and I haven't updated it (or indeed thought about it) for a very long time, so I may be wrong about binding. However, I stand by the notion that women should normally be able to wear unmodified male armour since plate armour and contemporary male clothing in medieval/Renaissance Europe followed a very different silhouette from modern male apparel. The waist was high and sharply cinched (with an almost corset-like effect) while the chest was padded for a somewhat pigeon-breasted effect, which the brestplate exaggerated to an even greater degree by leaving some empty space between its curved surfaces and the padded/quilted garment worn underneath. This leaves an enormous amount of space for a woman's breasts and in my experience women usually have to pad their waists and shoulders up more than bind their breasts in to fit into a man's breastplate. The result is also far less noticeable in armour than when the woman tries to fit into a man's clothing since the silhouette of historically-accurate plate armour already looks quite "unnatural" to the modern eye.
17th-May-2013 01:59 am (UTC)
Furthermore, the standards of male attractiveness at the time highly emphasized the same area of the body as we do in women now. An attractive man would have a big chest and a big waist, the difference is that theirs would be mainly muscle tissue. Regardless of comfort, it's a lot harder to bind down a pair of massive pecs than it is to bind down the breast tissue.

A woman would have more problem with being of the wrong general build than trying to fit her breasts inside a piece of armor designed to house the kind of large pecs a soldier needs to get the most out of his weapon, a weapon powered in large part by his pecs.

The same applies (to a lesser degree) for the hips, as a soldier did a lot of walking and running and would naturally build up a large amount of muscle in the area.

The modern fascination with the so called 'six-pack' was not really present at the time. A six-pack doesn't make you a better warrior. If your six-pack stands out more than your arm and leg muscles, you've been focusing too much on muscles that won't let you kill people better.

In fact, the large pecs of a strong warrior is why men push back their shoulders to make their chest look bigger if they want to intimidate someone. They're some of the most important muscles for making your arms move quickly and with force.
4th-May-2013 08:56 pm (UTC)
. It makes NO MORE SENSE than

As someone who actually uses these, uhm, yes, it makes a lot more sense.

Like shit it's that easy-- just put some armor shoulder pads in! No one will notice how the entire breastplate wasn't made to fit you in any way!

You clearly don't know how armor works. Most armor was not formfitted to one wearer but made in bulk to fit many different body shapes.
It is that easy. Literally. Because it's the exact same thing men did. Nobody noticed because all the other people using armor looked the exact same way.

I sincerely doubt you ever actually bound your breasts for this purpose or even touched armor, because as someone with large breatss that has done both, I can ascertain that pretty much your entire point is wrong.


Dude, armor wasn't worn 24/7. Someone wearing it wouldn't bind "all the time" but when donning armor. We know this is fine, because this is exactly what real women actually did in history. You know, the ones that really existed and really wore this armor.
21st-Oct-2013 12:39 am (UTC)
*Thumbs up*
23rd-Apr-2014 05:20 am (UTC)
Hi there, I enjoy reading through your post. I wanted to write a little comment to support you.
8th-Jul-2014 12:20 am (UTC) - Nowadays
History is history and this seems reasonable and accurate to me. If I was to make armor TODAY, though, for a woman, I could make it BOTH practical AND still make her look like a woman. You don't need separate cups AND she doesn't have to wear male armor- if you do it right you can have the best of both worlds out of armor with real, practical combative value. You don't have to choose between look and function- and women do not have to conform to male armors to survive a fight. Yes, that's what they did in the past but we (at least I) have learned from the past and upgraded. I'm not talking about those crap, mass-produced, one-size-fits-all Kevlar-and-ceramic vests we all make soldiers wear because we are cheap, either- I'm talking about fitted armor for people that spend more money on themselves than any government spends on a soldier's armor. Its not famous, on TV, or mass produced in armies these days but we really have come a long way.
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