News - Female armor: our take on women's knight kit

January 12, 2024

Minature-of-Queen-Isabella-and-her-army-from-royal-ms-15-e-iv-vol-2-f316v

Five years ago, we posted our first photos of one of our most recognizable armor kits – a female knight armor called "Dark Star." Those first photos ignited a heated discussion on female armor kits, particularly the cuirass shape. This "boobs or no boobs" debate was one of our most shared Facebook posts in ArmStreet history. For a couple of weeks, the fight between two parties, protecting or rejecting the idea of the shaped female cuirass, went viral on both our page and all around the medievalism media.

Female knight armor made of blackened spring steel “Dark Star” Medieval female warrior full armor set “Morning Star”


Initially, we didn't see this coming. The reason why we decided to make our first female knight kit this way was mainly about a craftsmanship challenge – we thought that making an elegant cuirass with a slightly emphasized female breast shape was a more challenging task than adjusting the regular chest piece for the measurements and proportions of the female body. We were already getting and fulfilling numerous requests from female customers on our recent armor design adjustments, so it was the next step.

Arguments for and against

Historicity.

While many participants claimed it's not historically accurate, this argument is not completely true. For obvious reasons, there are not many historical examples of actual female knights wearing armor. The existing sources clearly show that the entire range of breastplates existed, at least in the imagination of medieval illustrators.

Vigiles misc 03

We can see the whole range - from the regular breastplates custom-adjusted for the wearer with a more or less flat chest, cuirasses with slightly emphasized and sometimes decorated breast areas to those which are formed to fit an essential size female breasts. In serious historical research, every piece of armor should be carefully examined for its realistic intended use. In the same way, illustrations should be supported by other sources. In general, we assumed that the mainstream approach was to shape the cuirass slightly differently to fit the female body parts, but mostly just adjusting the size and shape without significant changes compared to male cuirasses. However, in the domain of historical stylization, many sources allow the interpretation of female body-shaped cuirass, so we promised to offer both versions with a flat and a shaped cuirass, and so we did.

Penthésilée BnF Français 599 fol. 27v Joan of Arc on horseback

Sternum hit

Some people argued that this shape could put a fighter in potential danger due to the possibility of "commodo cortis" trauma or other injuries associated with the sternum area. We found that mainstream sports practices don't consider this a realistic possibility. We offer a traditionally shaped cuirass and recommend it for full-contact sword-fighting activities. Still, from the mainstream and WMA sports experience, thousands of female WMA fencers use similarly shaped plastic gear for chest protection, and it is widely used in all types of swordplay. Say, in HEMA longsword where, by our own experience, the interactions could deliver a way stronger impact to the body with a thrust than a sword hit delivered to the body through the cuirass and a gambeson in the SCA heavy or a rebated steel sword tournament.

HEMA fencer Veronica Dovgal wearing plastic chest protection Spring steel female armor set “Morning Star”
Plastic chest protection,
HEMA fencer Veronica Dovgal
Traditionally shaped steel cuirass
for full-contact swordplay

Customer's preferences

We got a lot of compliments for eventually delivering a female knight armor kit. Aside from a breastplate, proportions of the female body are different, and a lot of factors were taken into consideration. Now we have three beautiful full kits in our "Stars of Steel" collection. Regarding breastplates, the preferences are practically distributed equally between cuirasses with and without shapes. We are happy to report our best achievement against our initial evaluation: the number of female knight kits ordered against a similar type of male armor called "Dark Wolf" is comparable. We hope that we played our role in both serving the interests of our female armor customers and increasing the popularity of swordplay among women. After sponsoring the Ukrainian bohurt team for the "Battle of the Nations" for several years, we have a special place in our hearts for female sword-fighters. We are thrilled to see our gear on women at the SCA and LARP events and, recently, at HEMA tournaments.

Blackened spring steel armor set “Dark Wolf” Blackened lightweight medieval female armor “Evening Star”

Armor and fashion

While armor played a vital and apparent functional role, throughout history its designs were heavily influenced not only by practical engineering reasons but also by appearance and fashion. A lot of armor kits in museums haven't seen battles and were practically an appearance and status symbol – the owner's main role was to rule and give orders rather than fighting sword to sword with the enemy. You can also read our research on the cost of medieval armor to see that many armor kits were practically like supercars for modern-day football players: a passion, a hobby, and a symbol of power and success. We can assume this also applies to female armor. It works this way nowadays too: when some are buying the armor for sword-fighting purposes, many choose lighter sword-fighting activities like LARP or enjoy owning and wearing "real steel" armor for appearance and style.

We are interested in discussion - please leave your comments, and they won't stay unanswered. Please tell us what you think!

Female warrior armor collection "Stars of Steel"

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