[Note from the author: Please understand this article was written with a slightly tongue-in-cheek approach. Of course we all know females are shaped differently than women. We also understand that there are some options out there for off-rack women's gear. This blog is meant to explain why those options are - comparatively speaking - limited. It was written to celebrate the diversity in female shapes while giving some insight into the thought process of businesses which must weigh the best return on their investments while ordering stock. This blog is not necessarily intended to be an in-depth explanation of every change we make to accommodate every body shape (although we do give some examples).
I am obviously not a woman, and I want to make it clear that in no way do I profess to be the 'end-all-say-all' authority on women's body shapes. What I do know is dimensions, cuts, suit structure and building a suit with an excellent compromise of comfort and safety. We've built dozens of leathers for women who said that they could never find anything else - off-rack nor custom - which fit them properly. That's when I began researching different measurement and construction methods for females. We made some innovative changes, and the response from the female clients who received their resulting Bison leathers was incredibly positive.
At Bison, we take a lot of pride in our approach to helping men and women of all ages and sizes get into gear which fits them perfectly. This blog is meant to help explain the lack of female options out there while emphasizing the benefits of going with a custom kit. My hope is that I answer some of your questions and make you smile along the way.]
I'm not sure if you've noticed this but generally speaking, women are shaped way differently than men! However (if you'll excuse my crude approach) it's not just the breasts and the lack of outdoor plumbing. There are other, less obvious intricacies in the shape of women's bodies which simply don't need to be considered when fitting males.
I've recently come across several posts on social media referencing the lack of selection (both in styles and sizes) when it comes to the female motorcycle suit and jacket market. It's true, there aren't many off-rack options out there, but speaking from a business standpoint there is a simple reason for that: There simply are so many variables to consider when fitting a female for a suit that assembling and stocking for all body shapes would prove overwhelming - and expensive. Fact is, there will almost always be a compromise when a female selects from off-the-rack options. Read on to see why this is the case and how Bison can help.
Why females are different
I am going to use my own body as a male baseline here. As a very average-sized guy who fits like a mannequin in a Size 42 race suit, I can literally pull a 42 off the rack, jump in and I'm ready to ride. For most females however, this simply is not an option. The most obvious reasons: hips and bust.
[Let me pause for a moment here and explain the next paragraph. After posting this blog on social media, I got some much-appreciated constructive criticism from females who did not understand why I used my men's size 42 as a talking point here. The point is to demonstrate how a female of the same height and weight typically won't fit comfortably into a men's suit. With that in mind, it's also important to note that not all females will fit into women's gear of the same size.]
In the words of my own mother, I'm built like a beanpole with the exception of my stomach and waist which just seem to get bigger as I inch towards 40 years old. I'm 5'9" and hover around 165 lbs with a 33 waist. Try and put a female the same height and weight into my size 42 (which we've done a few times), and things can start to go south before the suit is even over her hips! Thighs get snug, hips are uncomfortable, and assuming we can have her hop her way into the lower body portion of the suit, we hike the leathers over her shoulders and try to zip the front. Zipping the torso is met with mixed results depending on the bust. But these are just the most obvious challenges, and the typical workaround of "sizing up" to accommodate these curves is complicated when you take extremities into account.
There may be a cultural feeling that women are more "leggy" than men, but the reality is studies have proved that women have on average proportionally shorter arms and legs than men. This complicates things, as a woman who needs more hip and bust room in the torso might size up only to have unusably-long arms and legs in their leathers which require hundreds of dollars' worth of alterations. I've seen this many many times, yes even with women's suits. The point here? There are a lot more variables to account for when it comes to fitting females, and that simply makes it difficult for suppliers to accommodate in stock orders!
Case-in-point in regards to the previous paragraph: A quick online search for female suits on the market today highlights a very obvious issue: they're displayed on mannequins almost exclusively as hourglass figures. As with the misconception of women having longer legs than men, so too is the public commonly incorrect in thinking all women have an hourglass shape.
In the simplest of classifications, there are four key female body shapes: rectangle, triangle, hourglass, and spoon. In reality there are ten or more, but for simplicities' sake I reckon we'll stick to these four as all the others are essentially variations of these key shapes.
[Another time-out if I may! I simply cannot stress enough that this is a much-simplified explanation of female body shapes. We're not oblivious to that, and we present these four very different body styles simply as examples of how we approach body shapes differently!]
Your waist measurements are the same as your hips and bust, and your shoulders and hips are the same width. Most women with this shape can fit in some off-rack men's suits without too much compromise.
Your shoulders and bust are narrower than your hips. You likely have a defined waist that slopes out to your hips. You're going to have a little trouble finding a stock suit that fits, but it's possible.
Your hips are larger than your bust or the rest of your body. You likely have a defined waist and may carry some weight in your upper arms and upper thighs. You've probably thrown things across the room during your search for an off-the-rack suit because nothing seems to get over your thighs/hips. If you find one that does, it's probably way too long in the sleeves and may be loose in the chest.
Your hips and bust are nearly equal in size, but you have a well-defined waist that's narrower than both. Your legs and upper body are probably pretty proportionate, and you probably have a nicely-rounded buttocks. Stock female suits, generally speaking, may accommodate you with minimal compromise off-the-rack with the exception of some extra material in the lower torso at times.
How body shape plays into the construction of your Bison suit
Body shapes do not apply exclusively to women. Of course men come in all shapes as well, however we weren't graced with as many curves. We're essentially just boring versions of the female shapes. Compromises in off-rack fit come up less likely, and when they do the consequences are far less extreme. This, combined with the number of men riders compared to females, is why there are so few options for women.
When we measure you we ask for an additional three dimensions from your bust area which help us determine not only the size of your chest but the height of your breasts. We then compare all numbers to determine your body shape. Once we have all that information we determine how we will construct the suit. Believe it or not, there are multiple ways for us to build a female suit and that is determined by body shape! Different patterns, different materials in different places... we analyze all your measurements and determine how we are going to construct your leathers.
A "standard" build with added accordion leather panels in the upper torso to allow for comfort in the chest area. Depending on the three bust measurements, Kevlar fabric may be added outlining the breasts.
Accordion leather panels in the hip and lower torso sides increased slightly in size.
Besides making the thighs and hips to measure, the torso zipper may be increased in length to allow for easier ingress and egress over the hips. Lower torso accordion panels increased slightly in size.
Suit cut tapers in at the waist and fits smartly. Kevlar stretch fabric may be applied in the bust area to allow for comfort and mobility in the chest without leather bunching/restriction.
While the above examples are very broad outlines of how we might construct a suit based on your body type, I present them as examples of how we take all dimensions and any of your fitment style requests into account during the design and construction process. Our goal is to make you the best fitting, most stylish, highest-performing motorcycle suit possible!
What should I expect with the fit of my custom suit?
A bespoke suit should fit you very snugly out of the box, while not being uncomfortable. You may find that the suit is restrictive in some areas at first however a solid weekend of riding should break it right in! Let us know right away if you have any discomfort that remains after your first 10 hours of riding.
A common question from female riders is whether the butt should be tight fitting or loose while standing. Despite what you may have seen on Instagram, a proper-fitting track use motorcycle suit should be baggy in the rear. Frankly, it's going to be unflattering. I recommend you sit on your motorcycle and get into a riding tuck position. You'll see that the butt and thighs then fit you snugly and you have plenty of mobility. Keep in mind these leathers are built for riding, not standing!
Comfort fit or race fit?
I've touched on this in other blogs and FAQ's, but it remains one of the most common questions. As I explain each time, "race fit" is most appropriate only if: 1.) you maintain a very consistent weight throughout the season, 2.) you do not plan to layer clothing under your leathers in cooler temps. The truth is, for 80% of people "comfort fit" is the way to go. Almost all of my riding is done in a race setting but even my suit is comfort fit! Select comfort fit and you'll be more... well, comfortable!
How to order and get measured for your bespoke leathers
By this time you may be wondering what the next step is. Simply place your order on our website store! Within 24 hours a female Product Specialist will contact you to begin the design and measurements process. Measurements can be taken in several ways, either in person by an Authorized Measurements Center (AMC) or by a friend/family member using our detailed instructional video on YouTube. Keep in mind if you're measured by an AMC we do guarantee the fitment, whereas if you measure with a third party we can only guarantee that the suit is made to the specs provided to us! Once the design and measurements are final, you'll have your gear in just 6-8 weeks.
We want to thank you for taking the time to read this blog. Hopefully it answered some of your initial questions not only about our suits, but the overall market for female gear. As always, if you have any further questions please don't hesitate to reach out to us!