Like Valkyrie, Lady Sif (Jaimie Alexander) is as good of a fighter as any man. That's a pretty admirable feat, especially considering her armor also doesn’t make sense. One iteration looks like a metal version of a Renaissance Faire underbust bodice; the metal pushes her chest upward, but doesn’t cover it. The other covers more but features a sculpted chest. But here’s the problem with both of Lady Sif’s armor designs: She would be killed by a fall is she actually wore these into battle, as the metal used to separate her breasts could fracture her breastbone if she fell forward, severely weakening the warrior.
To be clear, this isn’t a call for modesty. This is a call for Hollywood to have more realistic depictions of female warriors. and more creativity in their designs.
To get a better idea of realistic attire for female fighters, let’s look at the women who fight in mixed martial arts. They wear sports bras and shorts. The reason for wearing a sports bra, which keeps a woman’s chest from moving around, is that it allows for faster motion both in striking and defending. A fighter who's more busty, like Miesha Tate, will even double up on sports bras to ensure better movement, and therefore a better chance of winning.
Of course, our Hollywood leading ladies aren’t going to go traipsing around in sports bras, especially if their characters fight opponents with weapons. There will continue to be female fighter characters who need armor for protection. One superhero film has actually found a middle ground between aesthetically pleasing and somewhat realistic: Wonder Woman.
If you look at Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman costume, there is no unnecessary cleavage, which is a plus. Her strapless top is still an issue, because she’s leaving an open target. Of course, it's rare that someone can actually strike Wonder Woman in the first place, so this is forgivable. Robin Wright’s General Antiope costume is what Hollywood should strive for with female armor. The layers that go across the chest, accompanied by the straps over the shoulders, keep everything in place; the armor has functionality, and Wright looks fantastic in it.
What Hollywood needs to learn is that when it comes to armor, you can still play with the female silhouette without being totally unrealistic or exploitative of that woman’s body. It’s not like we're worried about the male heroes being less attractive in armor, so why does female armor have to obviously draw attention to the chest? Surely there's more to a female superhero’s attractiveness than breasts on display.
Audiences came out in record numbers for Wonder Woman because of the hero's message of love, not because of her cup size. Thankfully, Hollywood is finally green-lighting more films with female heroes. Hopefully they will be varied and complex, and able to boost the audience’s way of thinking without the use of lifted-and-separated chest armor. After all, a hero is not defined by her breasts, so her breasts don’t need to be defined.