Body armor has long been an absolute essential when in combat, but it’s only in recent years that the armor was actually created (and fitted) with a woman’s body in mind. In 2012, the Army began testing body armor that was specifically geared toward a female body. Before then, they’d been using the same armor vests as men, which brings about a seemingly obvious point, made succinctly by Beverly Kimball, “females are not small males.” Women had previously been wearing a men’s vest; and while those technically fit, they do not fit well. In fact, according to Time magazine, the men’s extra small vest is too small for 85% of female soldiers. The advent of this new body armor seems almost obvious, but it was so revolutionary that it was considered one of the top inventions of 2012 according to Time Magazine.
One of the main problems associated with wearing a vest made for males is the lack of support it offers the bust. In an article about women’s body armor, Myke Glaze tells Police Mag that “[when] you put a male vest on a woman with an ample chest, the sides of her breasts are pushed out to the side and she has no coverage on her chest.” The solution to this problem has to do with the darting of the armor. With additional darting shaping the material of the vest, you can ensure that the vest is correctly contoured to a woman’s body, allowing for optimum protection.
In addition to the problem of not being able to fit properly around the chest, there are a multitude of other problems associated with an incorrectly fitted vest. One of these problems is the length of the vest: Interamer’s body armor sizing guide suggests that this is also a problem for men. When sizing for men, two inches should be taken off the measurement of the torso, to account for movement. A vest that is too long will either hit the throat or belt when sitting down. The sizing guide shows that the length of the torso of the vest goes a long way in providing comfort for the wearer. As women have considerably shorter torsos than men, the length of a men’s vest would be too long to provide any such comfort. The vest hitting the hips causes considerable bruising while also raising the vest above the shoulders, meaning that it doesn’t offer the protection that it should at all times.
Body armor has come a long way in a short period of time, and the timing couldn’t be better. Last year, the Pentagon ordered that women should have the same opportunities as men when it comes to combat jobs. Additional jobs should open up by the thousands by 2016. This created a pressing need for women to be adequately protected when defending our country, which the Army is working toward fulfilling.