Regardless of influences and genre references, the breastplate is the most recreated form of armor. The molded torsos of 1969 Yves Saint Laurent, the acrylic busts of Issey Miyake, and the muscled bodices of recent Schiaparelli pay homage to this object. Women’s couture tends to reference the shape of a breastplate and mimic the tradition of an idealized physical—often masculine—form, while menswear and street fashions often take on practicality.
The bulletproof or Kevlar vest directly solves the inefficiencies of plate armor to firearms creating a flexible but impenetrable piece. When worn as fashion pieces by rappers and hype beasts, these pieces are a braggadocio of self-importance or suggestive involvement in illicit dangers that necessitates protection. Designer logomania recalls opulent engravings of French and Italian Renaissance suits of armor that too were worn for ceremony, not battle. The woven material and shape resemble the leather and iron scale-plated chest pieces or Dō of Japanese samurai closer than European plate. The shape of harnesses, trendy in late twenty-teens men’s formal wear, evoked an archer’s chest guard with scabbards and sheaths for blades. Streetwear or techwear versions similarly allow for practical storage of items.
Hannah Militano, “A History of the Breastplate in Fashion,” L’officiel, February 3, 2021. The Yves Saint Laurent 1969 Empreintes collection, Issey Miyake Fall/Winter 1980, and Schiaparelli Spring/Summer 2021 Haute Couture are some of many the showings of the breastplate on women’s runways.
Lemelson Center, “Stephanie Kwolek: Kevlar® Inventor,” Smithsonian National Museum of American History, April 14, 2014. Kevlar, a synthetic fabric invented in 1968 by Stephanie Kwolek while at Dupont has a high tensile strength and heat resistance allowing it to prevent breakage even when shot.