August 17, 2012

Fighter Pants – Background (Part I)

Oh God I love this pic!
**Warning. This post may have TMI for some.*

Epic two-plus-years of struggle.  That’s how I sum up my battle to design engineer some armour pants for myself.  But I finally got them done right in time for Pennsic.  Achievement unlocked!!!!

It’s sometimes really hard for a girl like me to answer the call of the list field.  Nothing ever fits right.  While most fighters can start with bits and pieces bought off the shelf (Under Armour clothing, hockey/lacrosse gear, padding, etc.) it’s just not an option for a girl of my shape/size. 

Take my jill for example.  When I first started fighting I had to shop for a jill (that’s a jock for ladies…) and it was damn difficult. Even in the biggest size I could find the waist wouldn’t fit me.  So for the last two years I have been improvising with a jill where the straps have been cut away and I pin it to a few layers of long underwear so it stays in place.  It’s warm to wear, and bulky.  It’s also a pain because it means it takes longer for me to get dressed for combat, and if I’m going to practice I have to drive there with it in place.

Knee and elbow pads were similarly difficult.  Even men’s XL didn’t fit me. Or at least, not the way they should.  I’m using men’s XL knee pads on my elbows.  For my knees, I use another set of volleyball pads in that size that I literally have to tape onto me before each session with shin tape.  What a mess.  And I have to have someone help me too, each time, so they are positioned correctly. Basically a HUGE PAIN IN THE ASS.  I really see why squires were so important in the day.  Nothing in my armour I can do myself without difficulty.  It’s so frustrating, and hard when I have to rely on the charity of others to put my stuff on. 

My armour legs are like that too.  Most of the straps I can’t reach myself so someone has to do the lower ones for me.  GRUMBLE.

Well, not being the type of person to take all that without wanting to improve, I set out to design a better system for myself.  And there are so many questions to ask yourself.  Should the pads/armour show or should they go under outer pants?  How to suspend the pieces?  What fabric?  Colour?  What components will I need?  Argh!

I decided to wear only one layer of pants. I also decided the only solution was to create armour pants with built-in pockets to hold the jill and pads.  My original design intended to be hybrid pants-cuisses (armoured legs).  Inspired by a fellow lady fighter, I was going to build in slat pockets to hold strips of armour for my thighs.  The hardened strips could be removed so the pants could be washed.

The first step was doing research and talking to other fighters about the various systems they used.  I was trying to get ideas to build on my original slat-concept. I also spent time online scouring armour archives. But you know, it’s all a very frustrating process because although there are lots of posts out there on different approaches, none of them really worked for my body shape or my skill to make these things.  I hate it when I feel like I’m reinventing the wheel all the time.