So this has come up around the place and while we covered it in regards to female armour a while ago, I wanted to do a bit more broadly. There are a lot of thoughts about what is good and bad fighting attire, a lot perpetuated by the internet especially in the early days of "badass female character can't be feminine" that have never really got rid of their reputation. So here we go with a few people might not have realised and things to consider when designing a fighter and while this is mostly aimed at female characters, there are some things to think about with male fighters are well.
Please Note! This is all based on research, stunt people putting their opinion on the internet (because they have to work in these crazy outfits we design), martial artists, and long conversations with gymnasts about the how their outfits effect flexibility. Take this all with as much salt as you want, it's simply my observations.
- Loose miniskirt: Practical! Avoiding the obvious issue of pantyshots, there's a reason these are the outfit of choice for cheerleaders to magical girls to tennis players and more. It allows a good range of movement, doesn't restrict your legs and you can stick a pair of shorts under for modesty.
- Large ballgown skirts: Mostly practical! As long as it is not floor length and so cause a trip hazard and as long as you're not in say a woodland where it can snag, these also allow a large range of movement. Underskirts have proven a good defense against daggers and some sword, particularly in thrusting attacks.
- Skirts in general: Loose skirts that allow for moment will not impede you ability to fight. Tight skirts will. Shortness is only a factor to avoid trip hazards or snagging. Unless the skirt is for some reason very tight at the bottom and loose at the top, a horizontal dress rip to shorten is pointless, a vertical rip can be useful to allow more movement.
- Trousers: Highly dependent on fabric and fit. If you think you can do kicks and flips in tight denim jeans you have never met a gymnast in your life. It's one of the worst things to do it in. It has no give. Ideally, looser fitting trousers, in a stretchier fabric will allow the best room for movement. Sweatpants and tracksuits are worn by athletes for a reason. As with skirts, consider length and snagging issues too.
- Leggings/other sports attire: Gold standard! Modesty and room for movement. Elasticated ankles help avoid snagging/trip hazards.
- Poofy shoulders: Great! Allow room for a full range of movement. Looser shoulders are generally better. Sleeveless can have the same effect.
- Off the shoulder: Not great. Seriously restricts arm movement, unless loose enough to be pull up onto the shoulders during action but even them will be highly distracting.
- Loose sleeves: Soso. Can be a snagging risk but as long as the shoulders are ok, not a big deal.
- Tight sleeves: Soso. As long as not too tight as to restrict movement, you're fine.
- Corsets/anything around the middle: Be careful. If you're a fighter who relies heavily on flexibility it can severely decrease your movement. Also, tightness can effect breathing.
- Cloaks/Capes/any extra material: Risky! Major snag risk. Any brief of frabric not attached to the main outfit can move differently to you and can snag or trip you or be caught by the enemy.
For the thread of female armour specifics, it's over here: