Earlier this year I got an email from a company I’d never heard of: Flying Duchess, a tiny female-owned, Santa Fe, New Mexico-based jacket maker, and they — well, she, Alexis Dudley — wanted to send me a jacket for evaluation and review.
Alexis had come to a realization: there’s not a lot of women’s moto gear out there that’s actually designed and made by and for women, and she figured there’s room out there for her design: a jacket that’s very well-thought-out, that looks fabulous and is also protective. Sure, I said, send it over.
Alexis got feedback from a bunch of ladies as she was designing her jacket (there is but one base style in three flavors: the Plain Jane, the 66 and the Union Jack), including the Motor Maids. One thing she was set on: she wanted her jacket to be made right here in the U.S.A. And she wanted it to look fab.
Now, we’ll address the elephant in the room first. This jacket ain’t cheap. In fact, for most of us it’s an aspirational piece of apparel, the kind we don’t want to crash in just because it’s so darn nice (and again, not inexpensive). But look at it this way: you’re paying for something that’s made here, putting Americans to work for living wages rather than a sweatshop in China or Pakistan. Plus it’s been carefully designed by a fellow woman rider, not a committee or marketing team.
OK good, now that’s out of the way, let’s take a closer look.
I got the 66 style, with buttery-soft leather in a navy blue, with white inner trim accents, a big white circle with 66 in black on the back, and some red and black striped accents at the lower back. It comes with a storage hanger bag for safe keeping, and unzipping that bag releases a luxurious poof of leather-scented air.
The 66 has a hip-length cut, and Alexis did her homework on fitment — as she claims, there isn’t a jacket out there whose collar fits as well as hers — thanks in part to the large-toothed double zipper the allows the rider to unzip from the bottom to open the hips up when in the riding position.
There is a large piece of trim leather that goes on the inside, under the zipper, presumably meant to keep out the wind. It’s also white, which makes a lovely accent when unzipped. But I found it to be just a tad too wide, having to keep it out of the way with my finger as I zipped up the jacket. Not a deal-breaker, just a minor annoyance.
The cuffs have a zip closure as well (yay for no snaps!), also with white accents underneath. The collar, backed once again in white, snaps closed but up there, it’s better than the hook-and-loop closure on a lot of jackets that always seems to catch my hair.
Deep outer and inner pockets zip closed too. All the external zippers have big pulls with the Flying Duchess logo on them, for ease of use with gloves on.
The buttery — seriously buttery — leather has perforations along the sides of the torso, and I found they vent a surprising amount of air. Enough that the optional zip-in quilted liner or your own mid layer will be necessary on chillier days.
This is a really nice jacket, clearly well-designed and well-made, but I have one major nit to pick. The Forcefield armor — quality stuff! — is optional. It irks me anytime an apparel manufacturer offers a jacket — and it often seems to happen with women’s jackets — without armor as the default. It sends the wrong message, that it’s okay to buy and wear a MOTORCYCLE jacket that doesn’t have armor.
In my opinion, armor should ALWAYS be included, and if someone wants to remove it, that’s their business. But as a piece of motorcycle riding apparel, jackets should be armored. Full stop.
Anyway, I ordered mine with the armor because I’ve had an up-close and personal encounter with a vehicle violating my right-of-way, and even though I hit with my right shoulder (and head, thank you Arai) first I didn’t even have a bruise.
And yes, in all these photos the armor is in the jacket.
I thankfully haven’t crashed in the 66, and it’s so gorgeous I really don’t want to. It’s also supremely comfortable and, even with the armor in, hugs my body in all the right ways without binding or making me look like a linebacker. Sizes are limited to S, M and L (I’m 5’9″ and 140 pounds and the S fits me well), but the Plain Jane goes up to XXL. The 66 retails at $850 without armor, while the Plain Jane is $695.
Sizing: Runs just a tad large
Armor: optional CE-approved Forcefield armor in shoulders, elbows and back