There’s a Right Way and a Wrong Way to Design Contour-Hugging Armor for Women

Boob-shaped armor would have directed arrows straight to a woman’s heart and broken her sternum if she fell off her horse

Photo: bbaltimore

The U.S. Army recently acknowledged that men and women are not built the same. With women increasingly doing the same military jobs as men, the army decided it was time to redesign its female soldiers’ armor. USAToday reports:

Seven hundred female Army troops are testing a new combat uniform for women with shorter sleeves and with knee pads in the right place for their generally shorter legs. A committee on women’s issues has recommended that flight suits be redesigned for both men and women so it’s unnecessary to disrobe before urinating. And engineers have been looking at ways to design armor that better fits the contours of a woman’s body.

The army means armor that is neither too snug or too loose in certain places. Not the overly contoured, figure-hugging breast plates worn by Xena Warrior Princess and countless comic book heroines. That type of flatting, anatomically-correct armor may look good but ultimately would have been the women’s undoing. explores the science of why breast-shaped armor simply would not have worked:

Let’s begin by stating the simple purpose of plate armor—to deflect blows from weaponry. Assuming that you are avoiding the blow of a sword, your armor should be designed so that the blade glances off your body, away from your chest. If your armor is breast-shaped, you are in fact increasing the likelihood that a blade blow will slide inward, toward the center of your chest, the very place you are trying to keep safe.

Additionally, continues, a woman wearing pointy armor who fell off her horse risked breaking her breastbone as when the valley portion of her cleavage-flatting plate smashed into her chest with inordinate force deflected off of the uneven breasts cones.

With a strong enough blow to the chest, it could fracture your sternum entirely, destroying your heart and lungs, instantly killing you. It is literally a death trap—you are wearing armor that acts as a perpetual spear directed at some of your most vulnerable body parts. It’s just not smart.

Armor designed with historic accuracy in mind would have assumed a gender-neutral shape anyway. Soldiers wore heavily padded vests beneath their armor to protect themselves from the uncomfortable metal casings, explains. So even if a woman did wear armor, she would have been rendered an amorphous blob from all the padding, anyway.

More from

New Camouflage Makeup Protects Soldiers from Bomb Burns 
Medics May Be Able to Save Soldiers By Injecting Foam Into Gut Wounds 

Get the latest stories in your inbox every weekday.