Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Why Breasts on Breastplates: Part Two

How many more fantasy women have to die?

So my article yesterday on world and character building generated a lot of comments.  Not on world or character building, but instead on my off-handed remarks concerning breasts on breastplates.

I loved it.

Not just because breasts are a wonderful topic (they are), but because it highlights exactly what I was talking about in regards to world and character creation.  Also, I really love doing research on these kinds of things, and then discussing that researching with like-minded folk.  It helps me in my own character and world creation.

So let's get started!

Nice breasts on a bad breastplate.
Through the lens of our modern culture, it would seem that armorers, working on female armor, should make such an allowance for a woman’s breasts.  First, because, well, they’re breasts and like all things feminine, they shouldn’t be treated like a man’s.  Second, of course, they’re breasts and why not show them off!

This misses the mark, exactly because we’re a modern culture so far removed from a time and place of armed men (and women) who wore armor because it meant the difference between life and death.

So let’s look at the breastplate.  I won’t take you through a whole history lesson of development and different versions (partly because I only know a fraction of the information and can’t be bothered to track down the rest).  Suffice to say even ancient man understood that getting a sharp stick or piece of metal stuck in your vitals was bad.  Downright detrimental.  Unhealthy even.

Note: Gambeson lacks penis bulge.
To compensate for the lack of natural armor, humans started covering up the soft, fleshy bits with cloth, leather, wood and eventually metal.  This culminated in all kinds of various armored bits, including our subject, the breastplate. The best designs of a breastplate are convex, meaning they bulge outward like Santa’s belly.  This provides the strongest shape of armor, distributing the force of any blow away from the center, and resulting in more glancing blows.

With that in mind, it should be understood that plate armor was never worn by itself.  At least if you wanted to keep the skin on your bones.  Most armor wasn't custom tailored, but even armor that was would be bigger than the average man-at-arms (bigger being preferable to smaller, which would cause all kinds of mobility issues).  It was also made out of metal.  Metal chaffs.  Like a lot.  And not in a good way.  To compensate for this, layers of clothing would be wor
Get that man a breastplate, stat!
n, usually a padded leather jacket or gambeson (rich, customized armor would have already taken these layers into account).  Once the padding is in place, unless the lady in question was extremely busty, all chests are essentially rendered equal.  Even an extremely busty warrior-woman, wearing a proper gambeson, would only be slightly more “chesty” than her male counterparts (provided her male counterparts aren’t Arnold Schwartenegger in his Pumping Iron years).  Any compensation needed in armor, especially breast cups, are rendered unnecessary.

Now those are some dangerous curves.
The other thought toward breast compensation (as you can read from either this link or this one) is that breasts on a breast plate negate the entire point of the armor. Instead of shearing off the force of a weapon to either side, away from the vital central region, those lovely metal spheres create a wedge pointed straight at the center of the wearer's chest. Any force that hits the breasts will now smash that wedge into the chest, damaging the very area it’s supposed to protect.  In fact, a man-at-arms facing a woman-at-arms wearing a chesty breastplate would be at a distinct advantage.  He no longer would have to find one of the chinks in her armor, she’d be wearing it.  He only needs to smash her in her breastplate, letting it do the damage for him.

So, in short, while women warriors should wear armor, it should also make sense.  From a modern view, breastplate breasts do, but from reality (where the woman wants to survive past round one), they do not.

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