The real question for clothes is always: does it allow for freedom of movement?
If the skirt allows for the legs to move freely without tripping you up or trodding on the hem, then that’s fine. Ultimately a loose skirt that comes down to around knee length is going to be better, simply because it allows for a better spread of the legs in order to create a base. If you’re kicking, then the long skirt is going to get in the way or have a greater chance of tangling the legs up in the fabric.
Skinny jeans seem like the obvious choice, but the question lingers on how well they stretch. When you’re fighting, you need a wide range of motion. When you look at most athletes working out, military uniforms, or martial arts’ gi’s, you’ll notice they all have two things in common: heavy duty, loosey goosey.
In the UFC, female fighters often wear tank tops or just bras. This is in comparison to male fighters who fight without shirts. There is a secondary, more practical reason for it, however. Tight sleeves will interfere with their ability to throw punches.
Physical combat like punches or kicks rely on rotation of the body’s joints to achieve momentum. Momentum creates power. You’ve got to turn and pivot, twist your hips in conjunction with your shoulders and achieve a full stretch of the arm.
Tight clothes interfere with that, thus limiting the body’s ability to move and generate power. It’s ultimately self-defeating.
What you see when someone takes a female character and dresses them up all cutesy without regard for the realities of what they’re facing is someone taking a character who is assumed to start at disadvantage and giving them more disadvantages. Then, they tell them to strive to meet the same high standard as those without handicaps.
Nothing is going to stop you from getting creative with your fashion choices, but conventional women’s fashion and a combat lifestyle don’t naturally mix. If you want a female character who dresses fashionably while they kick ass (and don’t mind their properly picked choices getting destroyed in the process), you’ve got to do the legwork.
I’m still wondering why the hell they’d even care, but there’s room to work within the paradigm for character flaws.
Fashion is ultimately what you make of it. Trend setters set trends. Androgynous fashion for women is a thing. If your girly girl character doesn’t mind tears and stretches in her flower print skirts or spending an extra $40 to buy a new blouse when hers gets spattered in blood then what does it matter?
The question is not what your character should or shouldn’t wear. It’s accepting the connotations implied and deciding on how do you want to deal with their lifestyle choices.
The power of knowledge is that it allows you to make choices rather than luck into happy accidents. Those choices are what ultimately give your character personality and depth.
The point of choosing the clothes one does for combat is:
A lot of different kinds of clothing, like leather, can function as makeshift armor. Layering on an outfit like loose fitting jeans, work boots, and a motorcycle jacket works well. All three pieces are designed for active/working roles roughly similar to the damage you can take while in combat.
Women’s clothes are, sadly, by and large not designed with practicality/activity in mind. They tend to be tighter and more form fitting, designed to enhance the figure rather than protect it from general scuffs, friction burns, and bruises. They’re also lighter and made from thinner fabrics.
Men’s jeans, for example, are thicker and denser while women’s jeans are thinner.
2) Freedom of Movement
Power is created via momentum, momentum is created by the body’s motion and rotation of the joints. If any piece of clothing restricts that, then it is hampering a character’s ability to fight.
Sometimes, you’ll see gif sets going around Tumblr of female martial artists doing sidekicks in high heels. They’ll talk about how impressive it is and it is, but then you’ll see someone else talk about how it justifies feminine beauty in conjunction with combat. It doesn’t.
One of the problems with high heels is not just balance but also rotation. When you perform a sidekick or a roundhouse, the foot pivots to either a full 180 or a slightly lesser 90 degree angle. The upper body tilts in relation to the height of the kick to mediate balance, while the hips either turn over or rotate across. For a successful connection, speed is also necessary. Kicks like the roundhouse or the sidekick are a big eye catching motion and fairly easy to avoid if you see them coming. It’s a huge resource commitment and can create a massive defensive opening if you fail.
A kick in high heels is a test of balance but no matter what you do, it will halve the power of the kick and it will be much slower than it might be in flats, sneakers, or barefoot.
You’ll often see this problem with stuntwomen in tight clothes. They don’t move as well as an stuntman or woman in loose clothes. They’re inhibited and it hurts their ability to fight.
This is where some of the jokes about women being magic come from. It’s also where discussions in feminism begin about unrealistic expectations, that women are expected to do more than their male counterparts for similar results.
“I want my character to be feminine and kick ass!” sounds innocuous on the surface but it emphasizes the duality in expectation. A female character who fulfills society’s requirements (which a woman must in order to be considered good) and still be successful enough at fighting while actively choosing to inhibit themselves so as not to die.
Kim Possible was probably a happy enough median, if you ignore the bare midriff.