by Meg Floyd
As my dear readers know, I’ve written before on the subject of chest protection. For many women, all you need to purchase is a cheap plastic chest protector from your local fencing supply vendor. For any athlete sporting something higher than a D-cup who doesn’t want to suffer from the fearful Battleship Breast Syndrome, caused by rigid plastic chest plates or lumpy foam, the situation is a little more bleak.
Read on for a tutorial on how I fabricated my own minimalist chest protection. (Warning, NSFW because it has pictures of a sports bra.)
Materials you’ll need:
1–A no wire bra in your cup size (I used the Cotton No Wire Bra from Lane Bryant.)
2–The candy dish/turtle shell breast protector inserts. You can buy them sans bra on Amazon or various other sites.
3–1 yard of quilted cloth. I chose black to be discreet and match a black bra.
4–Black thread, sharp scissors, and a needle (Pro-tip, if your scissors are dull, you can sharpen the blades on the bottom ceramic edge of a coffee mug the same way you use a whet stone to sharpen a knife.)
5–Tailor’s chalk. Alternately a soft white colored pencil or chalk pencil will do.
Step 1–Fold your quilted cloth in half on a flat table. Smooth it out so there’s no wrinkles.
Step 2–Place your bra on top of the quilted cloth and flatten it out as best you can.
Step 3–Trace the neckline of the bra on the quilted cloth using the chalk pencil.
Step 4–Remove the cloth and sketch another silhouette around your neckline sketch, about 1/2” from the first line. This will be your seam allowance.
Step 5–Cut the quilted cloth out using your scissors around the larger silhouette.
Step 6–Once it’s cut out, stitch the cut edges of the folded cloth together until there’s about 3 inches left unstitched. (You can do this with a sewing machine if you have it, but I did it by hand in about 30 minutes).
Step 7–Turn the fabric inside out through the 3” gap you’ve left open. This will leave only a finished seam exposed on most of it. Finish stitching it together.
Step 8–Anchor the point of the quilted cloth to the center of the neckline of your bra with a few stitches. I did this to make sure that my insert would be centered on the bra’s neckline, then stitched the insert to the bra from the center out first going left, then right.
Step 9–Trim off any lose thread ends. Once your insert’s sewn on, you can just put it on over your regular underwire bra, with the plastic cups inserted between the outer bra and inner bra. The elastic of the outer bra’s cups will keep them put.
Here’s a picture of the finished product:
I fenced rapier with this underneath a jacket last night, and I was happy with it. Everything stayed put, and maintaining the cross-wise flexibility of my chest was very nice. More importantly, it was a low-profile silhouette underneath my jacket, which I appreciate. It’s much easier to move around in than the solid plastic chestguard I’ve been using. While bomb-proof, it restricts my movement to the point that I end up getting hit more from being unable to move around as well.
The breast cups, being rigid plastic, are solid protection. The doubled over quilted cloth on the sternum, the part I was most concerned about, ended up a success as well. While it does not remove all feeling of a hit, it does remove the sting and pain, which is what I wanted, particularly since I suffer costochondritis, and my entire ribcage will get inflamed if I suffer too many direct hits to the chest.
Things I’d do differently:
I’d absolutely sew this with a machine if I had a sewing machine, or knew how to use one. You could actually make one of these look pretty slick with some trim and prettier cloth. Since it lives under my shirt and I know how to do a decent lockstitch by hand, however, I wasn’t too worried about it.
I’d also love it if Turtle Cups came in an H-cup size. Alas, no luck. The martial arts industry doesn’t believe women with boobs as big as mine compete or exercise still. Sad for them.
Things to consider:
This thing is, as the title of the article says, minimalist protection. Not all of your chest and stomach is covered. The parts that are covered are not bomb-proof. This was intended to take some of the pain out of getting hit, not prevent it from hurting at all. Everyone’s pain threshold and protective needs are different, so if you want a bombproof chestguard, this probably isn’t the design for you.
Obviously this was meant for someone with larger breasts and/or a full figure. If you can fit into a regular chest guard, blow the $25 and wear one of those. I’ve heard from many women they don’t feel restricted at all by them. Unfortunately my experience was always different, which led to Brahilda’s creation.
The quilted cloth is a bit slick, and when fencing in a T-shirt I found that it would send the point straight up to my throat. If you’re going to T-shirt fence in this, wear a gorget. You should be wearing a gorget anyway, but know that this design will likely send the point sliding up if you catch a thrust to the chest. Under a jacket this wasn’t particularly a problem.
I hope this has helped some of my fellow curvaceous ladies out there. Let me know if you have any questions or suggestions.