The Shape of a Mans Breast: Breastplate Construction and Fashion in Sixteenth-Century Europe

Changes in the shapes of breastplates in the 16th century

Wade Allen


This presentation will provide a discussion of changes in breastplate shapes during the 16th century. The presentation format will be a series of images of civilian costume and corresponding examples of breastplates that illustrate the parallel development in the shape of armor. This will focus on breastplates designed specifically for military use, not the "costume" armors which could very specifically immitate civilian fashion. Note that in many cases these were also perfectly useful protective armors. The primary sources will be existing breastplates from the Allen Collection and some of these physical items will be made part of the presentation, allowing participants to get a feel for the details of the shapes and the changes illustrated. Since the items in the Allen Collection are representative of armor used by ordinary soldiers or men at arms, the information offered will also allow for comparisons between high end and more typical armors.

The information presented will include detailed discussions of the elements of the design and construction of each of the breastplates.

Presented June 12, 2024 at the 11th Annual Symposium on Medieval and Renaissance Studies hosted by Saint Louis University June 10-12.

The Presentation