Why It’s So Hard to Find Gear That is Designed Well and Fits
I’m sharing some insights I’ve gained since starting to make motorcycle gear for women. I hope it will help riders understand the challenges and what can be done to address them. I also hope it will help designers who design motorcycle gear for women.
There are two main challenges in designing gear for women: 1) Fit and 2) Feminine Designs that Work with Armor.
The shape of female bodies is more complex than male ones. Women have more curves and those curves come in many different shapes and sizes. There is an enormous selection of styles and sizing in women’s apparel. Every woman knows which styles suit her shape best and which brands’ sizing is most compatible to her proportions. Even with all this variety, it is common to need to alter clothes for a better fit.
The selection of women’s motorcycle gear is limited, so finding something that fits is even more challenging. Motorcycle gear is primarily to protect. Constructing garments for easy alteration is not a priority. For examples of design priorities, see my article on “Designing the Michele”.
Made-to-measure motorcycle gear solves this “fit” challenge. The customer selects a design they like and have it made in their size. If that’s not available, altering garments is possible. Keep in mind there are limitations to alterations. Gear that fits better is ultimately more safe and protective. For more on alterations, see my article on “To Alter or Not To Alter”.
The main design challenge in women’s motorcycle gear is how to design a feminine look while incorporating armor. Most armor gives one a more masculine silhouette: shoulder armor makes shoulders broader, elbow armor makes forearms thicker, back protectors make the butt appear flat. The only armor that enhances the feminine silhouette is hip armor, adding to the hip curve and accentuating the waist.
There are several tactics a designer can employ: 1) Work with the armor, 2) Off-set the armor, 3) Distract the eye.
Working with the Armor
Designs can allow for extra space where the armor is. This way the armor isn’t noticeable, since it’s incorporated in the over-all design. Examples of this are the puffed shoulder of the Elizabeth jacket or the blouson sleeve of the Victoria jacket. Adding space to accommodate the armor creates a new challenge: making sure the armor is in the correct place. To solve this problem, I have designed an Armor Shell that holds the armor independent of the jackets. More on the Armor Shell in my article “About the Armor Shell”.
Off-Set the Armor
Strong design elements can balance out the bulky armor lines. Examples of this are the large lapels of the Victoria jacket as well as the pleats of the Victoria and Elizabeth jackets.
All three jackets (Elizabeth, Emma, and Victoria) have elements that draw in the waist. This serves to hold the armor in place as well as accentuate the waist. This works with the broad shoulders and padded hips to give one a feminine hour-glass shape.
Distract the Eye
Well-placed lines can visually slim by distracting the eye from bulky sections or giving the illusion of curves. The Emma jacket incorporates lines to this effect.