Why the boobplate it is dangerous for the wearer of armor: a historical analysis and the opinion of a professional gunsmith

Cyclically we need to talk about ugly female armor that populate fantasy illustrations. Partly because controversy is the spice of life, partly because in the domain of 2018 it is not possible to draw women in functional armor.

Boobplate: what's this?

Now, everything has been said about the mail bikini and the classic lingerie armor. I think it is now evident to everyone how much they are ridiculous to use in combat, so little is the protection they offer and so much are uncomfortable, with their metal ornaments on bare skin. In fact, nowadays there are not even so often female characters in battle bikinis or skimpy dresses, whose use is made possible only thanks to an unclear magic that everything can.

However, the boobplate, that is the breastplate with the shape of the breast in relief. It is very easy to find it in the character design of many bookish, cinematographic, comic and video game female characters. In many cases, in fact, the boobplate, more massive and opaque than the bikini mail, it seems to be almost an evolution, indicating that the authors are gradually realizing that even heroines need functional equipment.

But more coverage does not mean at all, in this case, more protection. From a physical point of view, in fact, la boobplate it could be very dangerous to wear (yes, even in real life). Which unfortunately seems not to be particularly known even by the most careful designers and character designers.

Typical example of boobplate (also quite moderate)
Typical example of boobplate (also quite moderate)

Why do you use the boobplate?

Let's take the same as an example Wayne reynolds, official role-playing game illustrator Pathfinder (whose second edition we talked about Thu!). In commenting on the new look of the iconic Paladina and, in particular, the fact that its armor has one boobplate less accentuated than before, the artist motivates the new armor not so much with arguments related to practicality, but due to simple aesthetics.

The iconic Paladin of the second edition of Pathfinder - Drawing by Wayne Reynolds
The iconic Paladina of the second edition of Pathfinder - Drawing by Wayne Reynolds

Reynolds then, in the comments, adds that he has done a lot of research on how people with different physicists wear the same armor. So, he realized that women with prosperous breasts find flat breastplates too restrictive, with the breast flattened painfully and moved laterally. In addition, he reports that women who wear modern armor made of glass wool, modeled on the shape of the breast, find them comfortable and effective in combat, certainly much more comfortable than forcing the chest into a binder.

Now, I'm sure Reynolds did his research and that he's in good faith. It is probably much more so than those who wear one boobplate to their female characters to make the viewer understand that yes, under that armor there is a woman with poops. Because obviously to the average viewer, according to these people, the female character is only interested if it can be sexualized.

However, as was said before, the boobplate it is dangerous and not very functional although it can be comfortable for women with a prosperous breast. Let's see why. We will take as a reference the reflection of a professional gunsmith, then also reported by Tor.com, the online newspaper of the American publishing house Tor, and from Kotaku. It may also be interesting to take a look at the video by SnapJelly, in which the author explains in 3 minutes the major problems of boobplate.

Classic Renaissance armor. Note the curvature, which can also contain a prosperous breast!
Classic Renaissance armor. Note the curvature, which can also contain a prosperous breast!

Historical armor: how they were and what they were used for

First, for those who are less familiar with the topic, we quickly introduce the concept of "armor". Although sometimes it is used as a synonym of "armor", the armor is only one component, that is the front metal plate that protects the bust (the breastplate) and the rear one that repairs the back. The historical cuirasses, the first examples of which date back to Greece in 350 BC, are one of the most effective and long-lasting protective clothing in human military history. So much so that some types of armor were used even in the First World War!

Armor plates in general are meant for make cutting weapons completely harmless, at least for the part protected by the plate. In addition, they are apt to protect from the impact of blunt weaponswhich, however, could still be dangerous. So, to further shelter from the barrel of maces and war hammers, as well as to avoid the friction of the metal against the body, padded clothing was worn under the armor. However, piercing weapons, such as stalks, could still pose a danger. It seems, in fact, that certain types of rod weapons, such as the ace and the halberd, have been developed precisely to counteract soldiers protected by armor.

What does this introduction make us understand? That armor is forged to deflect heavy blows and to prevent cutting weapons from causing damage. If the latter cannot quarter a soldier's chest because they encounter hard steel, the former tend not to be able to do great damage (at least on the torso) because the shape of the armor means that the blow of a war hammer turned outward, sliding on the curved surface of the breastplate. In this way, a blunt blow would struggle to reverberate all its strength on the sternum of the fighter. Yes, making armor was a science and Italian gunsmiths were among the best armor forgers in Europe.

The sternum fractured by the boobplate is not beautiful
The sternum fractured by the boobplate is not beautiful

The physics of the boobplate

Now, back to the boobplate, you've probably already figured out where its "factory defect" is. Indeed, the breast pad is not suitable for deflecting blows to the sternum. This is due to the fact that the two hemispheres cause a war hammer not to slide outwards, but inwards. A wedge-shaped interior right towards the sternum, on which the full force of a war hammer is unloaded. Or a fall in the face because the heroine on duty stumbles.

The result: fractured sternum that punctures the heart and lungs. Dead heroine. You think what luck!

So ultimately the boobplate it makes no sense to exist because it is a deadly trap, which does exactly the opposite of what a breastplate should do: protect the chest.

Ma the gunsmith Ryan, member of the Mad Art Lab, has something to add, in this sense. Given the amount of padding that was worn under the armor, one boobplate which accurately traces the shape of the breast is useless. Indeed, the underlying protections would have made even the most prosperous chest a single homogeneous hill, which cannot enter the two cups of the boobplate. The latter, therefore, could only work if worn directly over the bra, or in any case not over a padded protection. Which would only make it more uncomfortable and more dangerous.

Professional padded garment
Professional padded garment

What can be done for women with prosperous and bulky shapes?

Binder regularly on the market
Binder regularly on the market

First of all, there is no need to bandage your chest. In fact, not only is it an ineffective breast containment method, but in the long run it can also become dangerous. There is a reason why transsexual men use i binder, a garment specifically manufactured to flatten the breast in a comfortable and safe way. So, if you really wanted to keep your boobs good, even for cosplay, it is much better to use a binder, compared to bandages.

Secondly, it is not even necessary to flatten the breast. In fact, many historical armor plates have a wide curvature which can easily contain the chest of a shapely woman. This without detracting from the functionality, since the armor with this shape distributes the pressure of the blows better.

Then, of course, a female armor should be thought of, if possible, on the wearer's body, therefore taking care to change the proportions. Shorter protections will be needed on the arms and legs, as well as the fact that the female shoulders and waist are narrower. These changes have been developed even in theU.S. Army, after studies on the physical problems encountered in female soldiers, tried on equipment designed for their male colleagues.

It would be interesting to understand what precautions are taken with actresses and their stunts, with these boobplates
It would be interesting to understand what precautions are taken with actresses and their stunts, with these boobplate

Free choice and correct information

We specify that it is not meant that a woman cannot fight using one boobplate. Gunsmith Ryan built some to order, and Reynolds met women who used them. However, the fact that you can wear them while fighting doesn't automatically make them safe. The gunsmith of Mad Art Lab himself says he is worried about the structural defect of these armor and the fact that his customers can fall and fracture the sternum. For sure, a professional adventurer would never wear it to go fight.

This obviously does not mean that the boobplate cannot be used in official situations or for decorative purpose, maybe during parades and other important events. Always taking care not to stumble, huh!

Furthermore, it is perfectly legitimate that some women prefer breastplates with raised breasts aesthetically, as they make them feel strong and sexy at the same time. However, aesthetics should be subordinated to safety, especially when it comes to historical re-enactments. A dangerous armor can only be worn with the relevant precautions and, if possible, also with adequate insurance coverage. For sure, women who use them should be aware of the danger and should have access to an alternative.

Then of course, if free-vaxes exist, free-boobplates may also exist. But at that point the proverbial "their business" starts.

Professional adventurers, like Joan of Arc, don't wear the boobplate


The boobplate in Skyrim's steel armor doesn't make much sense, for example
La boobplate in steel armor of Skyrim doesn't make much sense, for example

No, the armor equipped with boobplate they do not serve in any way to contain women's breasts. It's just about a way to emphasize how, under the armor, the woman has boobs. They can make sense in certain contexts, especially if controlled and not dangerous, but in combat they would be more problematic than anything else.

This does not mean that designers and character designers cannot use the boobplate like Marketing Strategy to better sell their products. But at least they should be more honest or more informed when they justify their choices.

Also because, if it were not a parade armor, no adventurer would wear a deadly wedge on her sternum of her own will. And, if it does, it should have some good reasons. Is she a gladiator who prefers spectacularity to her own safety? Or is it a member of a body of female guards who want to sell their image better? The context, as can be seen, is never irrelevant.

Finally, given the beauty of the historical armor, perhaps it would also be the case to do a level up and to catch up with the great artists of the past, creating both beautiful and functional armours. Provided that it is not too difficult, for those used to relying on lingerie to draw armor.

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