The tickle of curiosity. The gasp of discovery. Fingers running across the keyboard.

The tickle of curiosity. The gasp of discovery. Fingers running across the keyboard.

The World of Iniquus - Action Adventure Romance

Saturday, March 1, 2014

What NOT to Wear: Clothing Choices to Save Your Heroine


This week I have a new hairdo. I chopped off about a foot of hair to donate to an organization making wigs for women with cancer. This is Breast Cancer Awareness month - so let's save the tatas, ladies.

The change in my appearance prompted this week's article. Time and time again statistics show that perpetrators look for signs of vulnerability, such as long hair, when choosing their victims. Another thing that can turn your character into a victim is her clothing.

Excerpt from WEAKEST LYNX:

I need to be able to move in my clothes. I did a lot of martial arts training. Master Wang thinks too many women wear clothes that restrict them.” And the hell if I was going to put myself at greater risk being bound up by a pencil skirt. When Stalker showed up, I planned to kick the shit out of him. I smiled ruefully. “I always try to get some Lycra in my pants and jeans. I tend to choose full skirts, so I can defend myself and hide my gun.”
            “You carry a gun?” Celia and Alice asked together.
            I smiled. “Sometimes.” More like, always

Just like Lexi Sobado, I believe careful clothing choices makes for better safety. 

  • For me this means Lycra, Lycra, Lycra and more Lycra - and   maybe a little Spandex. 
  • I have found that wearing conservative clothing styles creates  obstacles to self-defense.

When you are dressing your character, you may want to keep some of these ideas in mind to either help your heroine escape, or, if it's better for your plot line, get her into a real bind by using her clothes against her. 

Link - How a Predator Courts a Victim

Link Aggressive Body Language

Look Of The Day 20100107 - Silk Blouse and Pen...
 (Photo credit: Deirdre Boyer)

  • Skirts should be worn above the knee either an A-line or a shorter  Lycra or Spandex material.
  • Long skirts (below the knee) need to be lifted and held up to fight. This throws off balance and your character cannot use her hands and arms to block, grab, or punch.
  • Pencil skirts prevent a woman from using her best body weapon - her legs. She can't knee, run, kick, or crouch. She is vulnerable.

Video Quick Study (1:10) Look how cute this dress is. It is also easy for this woman to defend herself.

  • Sleeveless for mobility
  • Skirt above the knee and wide enough for high kicks. Bodice tight to the body with give.
  • Wedge shoes that are strapped on offer stability
  • I watched what looked like a cattle call for a martial arts actress. (video removed by YouTube lineup) The women wore skirts of  various lengths. Women wearing short skirts had both hands available. If their skirt came below their knee, they pulled their skirts up and held them out of the way. This leaves them with one less hand to use for balance, blocking and punching.

Video Quick Study (1:02) Woman fighting in a business attire. Her skirt might be a little short for office wear,  a longer (just above the knee) A-line skirt would work as well.

Loon Pants
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  • Wide bottoms can be grabbed during a kick. This would put your character on the ground.
  • Wide legs can get caught on the heel when crouching, tripping your character.

Video Quick Study (:57) Okay, this is not how a real fight works, but I wanted you to see how a good pair of pants help her.

  • They are thick enough to protect her legs.
  • They are form fitting and stretch
  • Held up by a belt. True a belt can be grabbed, but so can the top of pants - and worse if your character is wearing yoga pants or exercise pants the assailant can pull these down quickly and easily to shackle your character. Though this works both ways. If your heroine is facing a gang-banger she can stomp the top of his pants and run.

Video Quick Study (2:50) This is shot at a self-defense seminar.

  •  The girls' jeans are cut in such a way that they cannot get their knees up. This preempts the girl-power numero-uno self-  preservation move: knee-to-the-groin.
  • They can't kick above the knees (though a kick to the knee,   snapping the assailant's leg backward is a great way to escape!)
  • Notice the hoody that one girl is wearing and how it would be   used against her. This guy was being nice. A real villain would yank it backwards and put her on the ground - When she is on the ground, the villain  has the most control.

 Blouses that are classically tailored have some major
 drawbacks in self-defense.

  • The cotton fabric has no give.
  • The cut is loose enough to grab easily.
  • The cut of the fabric does not allow full range of motion - this prevents the character from getting a full-force back-fist or elbow strike, two strikes that are more effective than straight punches for women.

Video Quick Study  (1:28) See how well this woman can fight in her tight turtleneck.

  • This shirt fits tight to the body and is less likely to get    caught on anything or grabbed.
  • The stretchy fabric allows full range of motion.


Stilettos on Figueroa
Stilettos on Figueroa (Photo credit: lostinangeles)

  • Need to be stable or removable.
  • High heeled boots can be a great weapon if your character has the ankle strength to fight in them. Running, though is hard to do.
  • Stilettos can be an asset if they can be removed easily to run away, or used for strikes.
  • The photo to the right shows women dressed to defend    themselves, but the girl on the far right will be the one who   goes down in the final chase because of the ankle straps.
  • Wedge heels add to stability
  • Closed-toe shoes prevent debris from getting jammed into the    shoe and will also work to protect the toes.
  •  Highly pointed shoes works to concentrate force into a very small area, thereby making a front snap kick all the more devastating. Aim a snap kick at the assailant's diaphragm, and your heroine will wind him and have several precious minutes on her head start.
  • Of course, if she could manage to be wearing steel-toed boots, or cross-trainers that would be nice.

English: An A-line skirt, with top.
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
So, I mostly approve of the outfit to the right.

  • Tight fitted shirt with enough give so she has range of motion.
  • Skirt has kicking room and is above her knee for knee raises.
  • Shoes are low heeled. She can use those heels for  grinding toes. They're strapped on for stability. But they are open toed which can cause problems with  gravel and debris. I imagine these have slippery soles. These would be tough to run in.
  • Her hoop earrings are problematic as well. She  needs to lose those earrings.

Just a final thought about ACCESSORIES:


  • You're heroine should always have a weapon, her phone, and her keys on her body when she's walking. If someone makes a grab at her purse, she should just let it go.
  • Big purses are  a bigger target.
  • A big purse can be used to block punches.
  • A small purse is a smaller target and can be used to swing at the assailant.


  • Are chocking hazards and binding hazards.
  • Unless your heroine is trained to get out of choke holds and then use the scarf as a weapon (for trapping strikes or kicks, for example) she should probably just leave the scarf at home.

Earrings, necklaces, and other accessories:

  • Can all be used to grab and control your character
  • Rings can work like brass knuckles especially if they have sharp stones. Also, if your heroine punches the assailant a few times she'll probably have enough DNA caught in the pongs to do a profile.  Link to DNA 101

Please let me know if you have any questions, and I will do my best to help. 

Thank you so much for stopping by. And thank you for your support. When you buy my books, you make it possible for me to continue to bring you helpful articles and keep ThrillWriting free and accessible to all.

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  1. Good one, Fiona,
    and I love the shoulder length hair on you too,

  2. Thanks Eden, and Happy Thanksgiving.
    For those of you who don't know Eden, she is a Canadian author

  3. A few random thoughts:

    -Suddenly the tight skimpy outfits of superheroines make a lot more sense.

    -Wouldn't a long skirt that's very loose still allow for decent movement? Though it would still be a hindrance for running, especially running into the wind, and probably cushion knee strikes just a bit. I don't exactly wear skirts, long or short, being male, but

    -Kind of a dark example to find evidence to support something you wrote with, but I had a friend back in school who dated a girl who used to hit him when she'd get mad, and she sometimes wore rings on her wasn't good for him (luckily she never caused any serious damage). But it does prove the point about rings being useful weapons, just hopefully in self-defense, and not abuse.

    -Scarves would seem to be both good and bad, bad for being useful things for bad guys to grab, but they can also be used by someone who's trained to stop strikes, and either that or a belt could be used to bind an attacker's limbs after the fight. Assuming the heroine wins...

    A lot of what you wrote is common sense, but I guess I never really thought much about how clothes affect self-defense ability. Now when it gets cold and I put on my hoodie for the first time this year I'm probably going to think back to this article.

    1. Hi Randall,

      About the long skirts, If I wore one, It would be a straight skirt that had a very high slit up the middle. And there are occasions when society dictates your clothing choices. The problem with extra material is that it can be grabbed and jerked; since it's attached to your body you go where the fabric goes. A full skirt slows the speed and diminishes the force on a kick. Also, if the heroine goes down, it's an issue to get back up without becoming entangled. Yup, those pesky long skirts can get you into lots of trouble.

      I'm sorry for your friend. I know how damaging prongs can be. I used to fight with my engagement ring turned inward, but it would twist, and if I caught my sparing partner, it drew blood.

      Scarves and belts are weapons that I leave to the professionals. I wouldn't fight with them myself unless, of course, push came to shove, then I'd use anything and everything to make sure I won.

      But you're right this whole article is about common sense when and if you slow down and think about it. I get ticked off when I read articles about girls getting into trouble because they were wearing short skirts. The reality is if a predator is after her, that girl is safest in a short skirt. An attack is not a sexual response it's a dominance/anger response of a sick brain.

      I love it when you stop by and comment!

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. I don't know if my friend ever got cut up by the rings. He got some nasty bruises and talked about it hurting a lot.

    I would guess using a scarf or belt as a weapon wouldn't be a good idea for most people. I did see a video of it being demonstrated before, and with practice it might be a good way to fight, but it would be more of a hindrance than a help. I doubt I'd try it in real life but it might work for a fictional character to be able to use it. But I don't know much about scarves anyway, as it's not often cold enough to need to wear them around here and I don't like them anyway.

    It sounds like the less clothes the better.

  6. Clothing is an important issue in self protection. We cannot always choose what to wear, uniforms, functions that require a dress code and the weather for instance can all dictate what we have to wear. Of course we also have our own choices of clothing during our daily lives.
    The main thing to remember is that if you are going to wear something, whatever it is, then learn how to defend yourself in it, run in it, move around comfortably in it.
    More often than not you do not choose the time or location of combat.

  7. Interesting things to think about. I'm writing a thriller right now and hadn't yet thought much about how her clothing would affect an attack. This is a great post, and your whole website is a fabulous wealth of information!

  8. Thanks, Heather!

    Happy writing,

  9. Interesting... I usually wear long, full skirts because I find them easier to move in, but (thank goodness!) have never had to fight in one. I've done live-action roleplaying battles in skirts, but we weren't actually trying to hurt our opponents! (Got pretty good at dodging and running away, though, as well as getting up quickly after falling down.)
    One of my heroines ended up in a fight wearing flannel PJs with sock monkeys on them. Luckily she had ranged attacks (magic and a gun), because I can't imagine that would work well for hand to hand. No stretch, too much loose fabric.

    1. My characters tied theirs up at their waist one day. They were told it looked silly, but they were safer.

  10. This is such a useful article. I had never really considered the depth you need to think about when dressing your characters for particular scenes. I'll definitely be re-evaluating some of my character's clothing choices. Any thoughts of how to wear hair? Long hair better tried up? Or would that make it easier to grab onto?

    1. Hi there,

      Thank you for your kind words.

      As to the hair, long hair is always a liability.

      PONY TAIL - It is easier to grab and can the be used for leverage in moving the heroine's head. Where the head goes, so goes the body. Pulling the pony tail back will shift her balance and make her go down, holding the pony tail and pushing forward and down will make her drop to her knees. But pulling a pony tail does not hurt badly.

      LOOSE HAIR - Grabbing long hair by the handful will hurt, but the assailant will not have the same control as with a pony tail. If I were the victim, I would prefer to have my hair pulled than to give the villain steering control. A tight bun is probably the safest way to wear long hair. Also if the villain does this he will leave anagen phase ( trace evidence on the scene. Would this help your plot?

      Also, in a fight hair can just get in the way, it can curtain the eyes, get caught in buttons and other closures. So think about the scene and how you want it to play out - hair can add an exciting dynamic but if it clutter and slows your scene, have her wear a bun that day.

      Hope this helps!



  11. Well-trained, you shouldn't have to, but don't kick above your waist. Too unbalancing to risk in real combat. If you want to kick an upper body target, put your opponent down to the right level first ;)

  12. This is a incredible article. To continue the discussion, is it possible that a bra could be a liability and a danger? I'm using them as a metaphor in several books I'm writing. Also, my characters use large handbags, with everything in them including extra cosmetics, pepper spray, GPS, phone charger, but no guns. My two main characters don't like them - then again I am trying to be a bit light and humorous at times. Never thought about ponytails.

    I know rings can be used as a weapon. Many years ago, at my first out of college job, there had been several rapes at the mall where I was working in a department store. The store brought in a cop, who had a class for female employees. He told us about rings, hoop earrings, and how to hold car keys like brass knuckles. He also taught us situational awareness.

  13. My experience is that yoga pants also suck for concealed carry. They look, well, odd combined with a jacket other than a hoodie and most concealed carry holsters that are designed to work with pants just will not work with yoga pants. This commits you to a jacket, which again, looks odd with yoga pants.

    1. Bra holsters are the heroine's friend when it comes to yoga pants but also belly holsters and also clothing specifically designed for concealed carry like tank tops with a cross draw and conceal carry hoodies.

  14. Good helpful article, Fiona. I take care over my heroine's and hero's clothing, as there's always that 'snag law' at play in the real world. Love the title links - I've got something similar going, CATALYST, CATACOMB and CATACLYSM so far!

  15. You've given me a lot to think about for my writing, and for that I'm thankful. I'm sure my female characters will be thankful too. ;-)

  16. Jeans and shoes you can run in are safest. I've read of a girl whose attacker had to let her go because she curled up tight on the ground and he could not get her trousers off. He kicked at her head but she shielded it with her arms.
    In any kind of dressed up situation, still try to wear shoes you can run in, and clothes that let you move, because the fire alarm might go off and you might need to help others.
    Scream 'Fire!' rather than 'help' if attacked.
    Most importantly when you disable or break away from the attacker, run. Just run.