Tag Archives: clothes

I’ve seen several photos portraying Japanese girl gangs fighting in long pleated skirts. how viable of an outfit is this in terms of combat?

I’m going to avoid talking about the cultural context for the skirts, which there is and just focus on the practicality.

The answer to any question involving combat is “it depends”, and when we talk about an article of clothing that is dependent on that specific article of clothing. It also depends on the kind of combat you plan to have your character engaging in. Street brawls are very different from armored melee. If your character is a female soldier, she’ll be dressing according to whatever regulations her military has (that could involve a skirt for dress uniforms, but battle and dress are different).

There is no “one-size fits all” approach as the field of battle matters, the kind of opponent matters, the skill level of all parties involved matters, context matters. What your intentions are matter.

They all factor into the decision making process. What you need to do when looking at articles of clothing and trying do decide if it’s a yes or no is learn to think from the internal perspective of someone who would actually be engaging in physical conflict. If you’re thinking of someone heading into a dangerous situation where they couldn’t outwardly look like they were expecting trouble then the question is: if you expected to be caught and forced to fight, what kind of clothing would you prefer to be caught in?

It starts with you and we work our way out from there as you learn more about the conditional nature of combat. When it comes to Hollywood, the irony is that most of the clothing male action heroes wear will work for basic street combat whereas the clothing for women won’t. Would you want to be hunting monsters through the sewers in six inch heels? Probably not.

For what the girl gangs are doing, it works. In fact, it works better than a miniskirt or any other tight clothing common for women in the US or the leather bondage outfits you often see women fighting in on television. You’ll still see women in the real world wear those. Not because it works, mind you, but because they’re afraid they won’t be perceived as feminine, sexy, or attractive. They overcompensate in the wrong direction, the same way Hollywood and media do, and for the exact same reasons.

Sometimes, people make choices that have nothing to do with what’s appropriate or what works. Sometimes, they’re trying to balance between societal expectations, cultural mores, gender constraints, and what they’re trying to accomplish. Sometimes they’re trying to be outside the box and inside the box at the same time. And, sometimes, they can get away with it. What they’re doing and who they’re fighting means they’ve a greater margin for error, versus someone faced with an enemy where they need every advantage they can get.

What you want, especially with street fighting, is freedom of movement.

This is why you often see tank tops or very loose fitting shirts on military personnel. If you’ve got a shirt that fits tightly around the shoulders, that’ll impede your movement, restrict the rotation of the shoulder. If you’re pants are too tight or limit flexibility, then that slows you down and will limit how high you can kick, how well your leg moves, etc.

You want durable clothing.

Clothing that protects you in a fall or when you’re rolling around on the ground. If you can’t see it absorbing impact or protecting you from scrapes when you hit the earth, then it isn’t a good pick.

You want clothes that breathe.

Combat is a high energy exercise, it’s frenetic, it’s fast, and it takes a lot of exertion. If you’ve ever brought the wrong kind of clothing when you’re going jogging or watched makeup melt off girls in P.E. class then you know what I’m talking about. Clothes that cause you to overheat, that don’t allow the heat to escape your body, that you can’t run or sprint in, will actively do you harm in a fight. By participating in exercise with a high energy output, you are already heating up your body. (This is part of why we sweat, we’re cooling our body down.) The hotter you get, the faster you burn through your water. The hotter you get, the faster you reach a point of critical exhaustion which will get you killed.

However, “what works” for combat is heavily dependent on the kind of combat your character plans to (or potentially might) engage in. The rules change based on what you’re doing, what you need, what the chances of success are, who the enemy is, the terrain you’re fighting on.

There’s also the other side, beyond practicality, which is you know, cultural expectations and considerations. How your character feels about gender norms, whether they care about being perceived as feminine or masculine, whether they care about expectations, whether they’re vain, or willing to get themselves killed over fashion.

There’s also the part in fiction where how someone is dressed becomes an indicator for how serious the situation is/threat level is. That’s a visual tell you see used often in film and television.

Remember, skill and experience don’t free you from the same constraints that affect other characters. They just mean your character can make more intelligent choices based on what they know. They can get away with more, but it will still catch up to them in the end.

So, be Helen Mirrim in R.E.D. and take out armed gunmen with a reinforced clutch and the element of surprise.

Try thinking about the situation from the perspective of the character involved rather than overall generic rules. Practicality changes on a situational basis, and there are plenty of people who will go Rule of Cool in real life. This is especially true of gangs, where efficacy loses out to intimidation.

People are people. All the factors going into a decision may not be the ones you expect or are looking for.

-Michi

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I have always wondered this. Is it easier to fight in really tight skinny jeans or in a floor length, ridiculously full, flow-y skirt? Or would it depend on training or fighting style or something? What about just in a random brawl? I’m thinking jeans so tight you can’t do splits in them or bend over too far, and the skirt not being tied up out of the way, because that’s the logical thing to do with a skirt like that in a fight. thanks!

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:

1) Protection

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.

Ultimately:

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.

-Michi

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