Thu
Aug 25 2011 4:46pm

A Place For Gals With Gauntlets: Women Fighters Wearing Reasonable Armor

Perhaps the most understandable qualm about the renderings of lady warriors is how often they are inappropriately vested for their tasks. A chainmail bikini at a Renaissance Faire is one thing, but it has no place on a real battlefield. We’re always excited to see women who are portrayed with the proper accoutrements. Particularly because, you know, it really is a question of historical accuracy.

So we were absolutely thrilled when this Tumblr account popped up on our radar — one devoted entirely to women in reasonable armor. Head-or-at-least-neck-to-toe coverage, swords and shields included, and ready to take you out. Check out some of our favorite pictures below.

Above Untold image copyright © Ignitus Innovation, Inc. Art by Christopher Miscik


Stubby the Rocket is the Tor.com mascot. Stubby has no need of armor — Stubby is armor.

23 comments
Mel Chesley
2. Mel Chesley
Haha! That is awesome. I love the fourth one the most. I also like the Samurai style. It is refreshing to see such great artwork featuring women wearing REAL armor.
Ian Johnson
3. IanPJohnson
To be fair, it's not just the women fighters who suffer from the dreaded "chainmail bikini syndrome", if you could call it that. Look at any example of classic Conan-related art, and you'll see exposed flesh out the wazoo. Look at art of Conan in a bearskin kilt and horned helmet fighting some sort of monster or ethnic person and, if you have any knowledge of how armor really worked, you'll basically have a major "WTF?" moment.

Of course, women have been hit especially hard by "chainmail bikini syndrome". I blame this on the fact that early on, fantasy art was targeted specifically towards lonely adolescent heterosexual males. (The target audience has broadened out now, though, thank the deity of your choice.)

And then you could look at any aspect of arms and armor in fantasy art: the ridiculous knobs and jagged edges on most fantasy swords, video games' tendencies to have katanas in European-inspired regions (I'm looking at you, Oblivion), and the preoccupation in anime with Gundam-style power armor… the list goes on and on.

Thanks for posting this. And I agree with the owner of this Tumblr– Éowyn is awesome.
Sky Thibedeau
4. SkylarkThibedeau
The original Red Sonya in the Conan comics "Song of Red Sonya" was dressed in a regular chainmail shirt. It wasn't til Savage Sword of Conan #1 that they changed to the Mail bikini. I see these at Comic Cons and Renfaires and think "Aren't you COLD? looking at you makes me Shiver!!!! BBRRRRrrrrrr"
Mel Chesley
5. AndieN
I "like", a LOT.

One of my "most hated" covers lately would have to be DAW's treatment of CJ Cherryh's Morgaine. Insult to a great character imo.

Mind you, then there's the whole business of what lies within the covers of most paranormal-fantasy-romances (ie yeah, I reckon the romance parts are fantasy of the 'purest' (ha!) kind as well.) Not just the katana wielding chicks in stilettos but I had the misfortune to be shown one recently where our heroine had to take off her skirt to fight better - in her thong! Yeah, ri-i-ight. So, ok, there was a certain snicker value, I'll grant that.
Evan Langlinais
6. Skwid
As I noted first time I saw this going around, there are a couple in there that I think are just bishy guys in armor...but it's an awesome compilation, nonetheless.
Binyamin Weinreich
7. Imitorar
I think this would be a good time to plug Esther Friesner's Chick's in Chainmail anthology series, which mocks the "chainmail bikini" cliche mercilessly and hilariously.
TW Grace
8. TWGrace
Im not sure the third one is as fuctional as a chainmail bikini...
Mel Chesley
9. mirana
Yeeess!! Whenever I get a chance to do a female warrior I always make their armor practical (as in head-to-toe). Glad to know there are other artists out there who take that practicality seriously.
Darren James
10. b8amack
Red Sonja's chainkini is still more protection than Conan's loincloth.
Mel Chesley
11. Bill Warren Jr
That last sketch can easily be explained. The exposure of the Heavenly female form is a distraction to the villains while the rest of the troop turns said villain into a pin cushion from hiding ;). Thanks for the depictions of true women in armor not Chain Mail bikini tops and a bit of silk usually seen.
Mel Chesley
12. 12stargazers
Skwid @6.

Your comment reminds me of two things.... One, the time a (female) costumer friend met my career military brother and they got to talking about kevlar and corsets and kevlar corsets. (Which blew his mind on a number of fronts.) That leads directly to item two. A workshop with some Marines at a writers retreat where I got to try on a flack jacket. (which is the modern take on articulated medieval armor. )

As I stood there, shifting my shoulders around (in place of my usual dressing room calesthenics) thinking "this could use a bit of tailoring" the Marine offered to take it since it was too heavy. "No, no." I said. "I'm actually feeling pretty butch."

To summarize my experience with armor... anything offering any amount of protection makes the perkiest pair of breasts look like a set of pecs. (I'm trying very hard not to go into my "the physics of breasts" rant.) The only way you're not going to get a "bishy male in armor" and still be realistic is to have steel corset like the one in the third piece of art.
Mel Chesley
13. SKM
I love the fourth one.

Also, am I the only one reminded of this CollegeHumor sketch?
http://www.collegehumor.com/video/6550847/female-armor-sucks
Mel Chesley
14. Queen MyrdemInggala
Actually, the only time I'm aware of female fighters wearing very little in battle, happens to be the last-ditch defense of the Nordalbingia in 783 by the young Saxon women fighting baresark - Fastrada amongst them, later to become Karl der Gross' wife. But I suspect that, like men fighting baresark, was both a result of religious exaltation aka frenzy, and a calculated attempt for demoralize the enemy by appearing more fearless than them.

I'm sure that Our Lady Saint Joan d'Arc would have considered it de rigour to appear in battle with no less than a full accoutrement of plate and mail armour, with sword and lance.

Queen ConegUndunory MyrdemInggala
Sky Thibedeau
15. SkylarkThibedeau
As far as Conan in his loincloth, I think he probably resembles some of the Picts North of the Wall in Britain in Summer anyway.
Mel Chesley
16. blatanville
So...this is supposed to be about empowering women by giving them practical armour, and you name the images files "lady-armorXX.jpg"?

We are given no indication of their rank by these images. :)
Trey Palmer
17. Pilgrim
Does anyone know about Frigg Akerfeldt from Guilded Age? Tough, agressive and properly armored. In her origin story she specifically says "the spring break look is for tards."
Chris Lough
18. TorChris
@16. The image file numbers are far more banal than rank. They're just there to denote the order the images are placed in the post. You'll see the same thing in the Star Trek: Next Gen recaps, in fact.
Mel Chesley
19. Maria (BearMountainBooks)
That is HIRALROUS. I recently did a post complaining about "poses" of women on the front covers (it was less to do with armour and more to do with how anyone could sit or stand in such a position and fire a gun.)

Okay, I actually have complained about it more than once:

http://www.bearmountainbooks.com/favorite-reads/art-reviews/cover-art-discussions/have-you-ever-shot-a-gun/

http://www.bearmountainbooks.com/favorite-reads/art-reviews/cover-art-discussions/another-bad-cover/

I have no idea what the photoshoot people are thinking when they come up with this stuff!

Maria
Mel Chesley
20. Ellynne
A friend and I once tried to come up with reasons for bikini armor -

1. On Xena, where all the guys seem to have really heavy armor, super warriors like Xena may gain a real advantage by being able to use their inhuman speed and wall crawling agility when they're heavier opponents can't.

2. The guys in places like the Xena-verse are incredibly easily distracted by bikini armor to the point that it completely throws them off their game (this explains why only girls who score well on the "immature fantasy of a hot babe" meter are warriors. It's required to survive).

3. There is a strange genetic condition that causes some people in these universes to be born with all their major arteries and organs centered into such a tiny space that they really can guard it with bikini sized armor.

Note that, while obviously sex-linked, there are rare instances of guys with the trait. Conan has everything important hidden behind his beltbuckle.

(Although I guess Conan could also claim to live in a time period where armor is not readily available. Judging by the people most likely to have it, dark gods may have a monopoly on full armor so only people who have sold their souls can acquire it)
Mel Chesley
21. Gorbag
chain mail's no fun on bare skin, let me tell you. You need at least a layer of rawhide or leather under that, and then, to be absolutely comfortable, you need a padded linen underjacket ...

chain mail on bare skin in a blizzard, brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr..................... we killed and ate the Black Tark who tried that gig on us! (cost is no exceuse - if you want to field armoured orcs to beat the Northern Tarks, you pay extra for proper armour!) He was surprisingly edible - I'm betting he spent most of Lugburz's money on his own fat belly.

So a chainmail bikini? Nice stunt, but you want to imagine just how that looks with a finger's width of rawhide and then two of linen padding underneath the chain links? makes an orc veteran laugh, I can tell you that!
Valentin M
22. ValMar
Cool pictures. I'm glad you didn't miss Artesia, though there are far more impressive pictures of her.
Stephen Dunscombe
23. cythraul
Note that even an all-concealing breastplate-with-bulges like the one in the third picture isn't a great idea. Any kind of valley in the middle will still deflect some blows inward, toward the center of the body, rather than outward away from it.

I'd imagine that if a woman's well-enough endowed enough that her armour needs to reflect it (which sounds unlikely, in light of 12stargazers's comment @12), I'd imagine you want the whole front of the armour to come to a vertical ridge, so that the breast-shapes are concealed within a larger shape that'll still deflect blows outward.

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