One could do an entire exhibition on the relationship between contemporary women’s fashion and the medieval coat of armor. Juxtapose a Thierry Mugler metal catsuit (sexy robot chic) with the battle gear of a knight. Throw in a few metal corsets, cuirass bustiers, and chain-mail hoods by Jean Paul Gaultier, John Galliano, Issey Miyake, and the late Alexander McQueen. Top it all off with aggressively spiky jewelry—Vivienne Westwood’s armor rings, a couple Hermès colliers de chien—and voilà: the Warrior Woman.

Even back in the midcentury, sharp eyes caught visual echoes between couture tailoring and knights in their full-metal jackets. Alfred Barr, the first director of MoMA, compared the precision cut and containment of clothes by Charles James to 15th-century armor. And in 1973, when Diana Vreeland mounted her first fashion blockbuster for the Metropolitan Museum of Art—an homage to Cristóbal Balenciaga—she chose as the show’s centerpiece a suit of Spanish armor.