There’s the one-tumblr crusade against the chainmail bikini called Women fighters in reasonable armor.
And the even more popular “Women’s armor sucks”
In case most of you haven’t noticed, I’m a guy. But since I A) make women’s (and men’s) armor as a side business, B) have worn armor in both actual wars and in choreographed fight sequences, I figure I have enough cred to add my $.02 to the discussion.
I’ll start off by admitting openly that I love women’s fantasy armor from an aesthetic perspective. If I didn’t, I probably wouldn’t go into the pain-in-the-ass effort of making it. And I’ll also admit that, upon seeing Return of the Jedi in theaters, leia’s metal bikini single-handedly drop-kicked me out of the cooties stage at the tender age of five.
That said, having married a lady Barbarian who hits people with plumbing supplies in the woods on a regular basis, and some of my nearest and dearest being stuntwomen, I have a vested interest in seeing the armor that I make hold up to snuff. I’ve made works going from a B cup to an I (yes, I. It’s not a typo). I have yet to work in boobplate, but I have made chain and scale.
The chainmail bikini is a staple of sword-and-sorcery fantasy convention, and was designed as pure fanservice from the ground up.
After a while the big point that comes up (usually on the spur of the moment from some drooling fanboy who is, shock of shockers, actually asked why the young lady in question isn’t wearing something more *ahem* “substantial,”) the usual excuse is “less protection equals more mobility.”
And the crazy thing is, that’s partially a legitimate excuse. It happens (in much less exciting form) in Afghanistan today, when the merits of the OTV vest vs. plate carriers are debated.
When I think of the possible tactical uses for this sort of thing, what comes to mind is this:
Now take a look at Sonja here.
However, this poses the practical problem of running afoul of public nudity laws in between adventures, not to mention where to put your keys. Oh, and content creators may have some complaining editorial types. Chainmail bikinis let you go down to the minimum possible coverage while keeping the local public decency authorities off your back. And if you’re wearing that little, you might as well armor it up. In the unlikely event that someone did tag Sonja in the boob, she’s at least got a shot at it sliding off the scales.
Then there’s the distraction factor (which I remember at least one comic having Sonja claim it helped). Hell, if you keep it shiny, a little tassel-twirling technique can have you bouncing sunlight in an opponent’s face with minimal effort.
Am I reaching? Maybe. Doesn’t mean I’m wrong. If you’re going to go for the bikini, just have some tactical sense in mind as well as aesthetic sense is all I’m really asking.
Now we get into boobplate. Never made it personally, but I’ve worn plenty of guyplate (pecplate?) between historical plate armor and modern body armor vests, so I can speak with some distinction on this.
Ironically, boobplate has been a relative non-issue in live performance, looking at the rash of armored women over the last few decades.
But as an armorer, I take a certain amount of umbrage at some recent posts on the topic.
Here’s “An armorer’s take on boobplate”
And here’s the boobplate in question:
The two big objections (I said shut up, peanut gallery!), seem to be:
- That blows to the torso will fall into the center of the chest by sliding along the inside of the breast cups, and
- That a strong enough blow or a forward fall will crack the sternum.
“I worry constantly that she’s going to fall hard and it will crack her sternum, even with the padding. Note also that it seems almost perfectly designed to guide sword points and arrows into her heart. They still have to penetrate the armor but, honestly, that’s a design flaw.”
Excuse me, what the fuck?
So she trips and falls, and lands boob-first. Obviously, the breast cups aren’t going to compress or absorb. This transfers the force to the sternum through the padding…. And to the entire rib cage, in the case of this piece, which results in spreading the force throughout the torso. You know, the exact same thing that an unarmored fall would do? Or even a fall in a non-boobed plate would do?
But no, it’s “oh me, oh my, she’ll fall and hurt herself.” Does this sound insulting to anyone else?
For a guy who makes women’s armor, he doesn’t seem to think outside the boob too much.
As far as guiding blows inside, it might. But it’s unlikely. Attacks landing on the outside line will slide off the outside line, not inside.
If an attack comes inboard from the nipples, then for the same reasons it probably will slide down into the crease between the cups. So, an attack that comes to the inside line makes an impact.
Surprisingly, this is not that big a deal. One reason is that inside shots are rare and easy to defend. Most attacks against an armored opponent come from the outside, and often at an angle
Another reason is that a penetrating thrust to the center of a plate-armored torso is a stupid move, because few medieval weapons could actually penetrate it. A warhammer? Maybe. A sword? Not happening.
So, why boobplate and not the “bind-and-stuff-in-men’s armor” popularized by Joan, Brienne, and others above?
Because (holy shit!) women have, in general, a wider range of torso shapes than guys do. Armor has, from the dawn of time, been designed for men almost exclusively. A vest made of tough stuff does a pretty good job of protecting the vitals on a guy, with minimal adjustment for sizes without having to do trig. Guy’s armor often has (although hasn’t always) been a case of “adjust various rectangles as needed.”
Women add more curves to the mix, to varying degrees. And in some cases it’s easier (certainly less expensive in-universe, given what it takes to make custom armor in that era/the fantasy equivalent) to go the bind-and-stuff route. Apparently this was the worthwhile case with Joan, and there’s a couple of canon paragraphs about Brienne of Tarth’s suitability for wearing a man’s armor.
But for some, that ain’t an option. I have one friend with a 39″ bust and 30″ ribs. Binding ain’t gonna work because, in her words, “all that has to go somewhere.” Simply padding out the gambeson with additional padding to make it fit a guy’s armor is equally ridiculous (how ridiculous? Take 2 beer cans and put them end-to-end. From where the first can becomes it’s widest to the other end is about 9″. That’s how much padding would be needed, were anyone crazy enough to try that method).
If I was faced with that sort of challenge, I’d probably make a solid frontal arc instead of individual cups, and empire waist the gambeson while I was at it. But that’s just me.
Like the chainmail bikini, there’s nothing inherently wrong with it so long as it makes sense in universe.
Which means there are good ways to do boobplate…
P.S. due credit and thanks must go to my colleague and friend Rob Dehoff, for his tactical input in an earlier discussion that led to this article.