The physics of boob armor


These female superheroes are all wearing … boob armor. Wonderwoman, Xena, the Valkyries from Thor, the goddess Athena, and don’t even get me started on video games. They all have some sort of feminized breastplate. But, did boob armor ever actually exist? And if it did, would it have worked? There are two potential historical examples of specifically female armor that I could even come close to grasping onto. And that is a hypothetical suit made for Joan of Arc. And this would’ve been from around the 1420s, 1430s. And armor that was produced for Queen Elizabeth I. Parker Brown is an armorer. He’s been making 18th century armor and tools for the past 15 years. What did the armor look like? We don’t know. Because it is hypothesized that the armor was not actually made out of steel. It was made out of silver. And at that time period, it was very, very common that anything expensive made out of silver, once it was done being used, you just melted it back down and turned it into other stuff. So more than likely if you want to know where Elizabeth I’s armor went off to, talk to Tiffany’s. So there are only two historical examples of female armor, and we don’t know what they look like. Great. That means Hollywood got a bit imaginative with its armor. So now boob armor is everywhere, but would something like this actually do its job? Typical armor around the 1500s was designed with a peascod breastplate. The raised arch in the center puts as much space as possible between blows from a weapon and the sternum. Boob armor … not so much. John Clements is a historical combat instructor. (By the way, this is his garage.) You would never, never wear something like this without one of these. First you would have a shirt, then an arming coat, and pieces of chain mail. The curve of a traditional breastplate forces weapons to bounce off and away from vital organs. Boob armor is not that great at deflecting weapons. If you take a piece of plate metal, iron, steel, and you produce a dip here, this is resting straight over your sternum. Your heart is just off-center of that. If you hit that with any force at all you are now producing an architectural feature in the armor that is going to drive that force directly into your sternum, breaking it, potentially, by blunt force trauma stopping the heart. Though, there is one example that sort of gets it right. Brienne of Tarth from Game of Thrones. Her armor looks like a traditional curved breastplate with the customary gap between the chest and body, and she usually wears the layers. But for the rest of these ladies, their armor might kill them. But, as Clements points out, they’re superheroes. So maybe it doesn’t matter. Wonder Woman, Justice League, Avengers, they’re all modern day mythologies. They can get away with dressing however they want.