The most basic piece of safety gear is the fencing mask. Head injuries are absolutely to be prevented as much as possible, and all contact activities with the sword occur with fencing masks on. When buying a fencing mask, make sure that it is rated for at least 1500 Newtons of force.
The masks provided by the class are the masks on the left. The mask in the center is the mask that I wear. The mask on the right is what my mask looks like without my coat of arms on it.
Besides your head, the next most important thing to protect is your hands. In the medieval fencing academies, they advised people not to strike their opponents' hands because they were mostly craftspeople who needed their hands in order to do their jobs. In my exprience, you will get hit in the hands a lot and you want good protection there.
The picture on the left is a pair of mens' Lacrosse gloves. The picture on the right is a pair of Absolute Force HEMA gloves. The picture in the center is a picture of Renaissance era metal gauntlets.
Do not buy fencing gloves or women's lacrosse gloves; they are too thin for what we do. Men's lacrosse requires similar enough protection to what we do that I will accept it, but I recommend buying the Absolute Force gauntlets which are designed for Historical European Martial Arts.
It should go without saying that a cup is an absolute necessity whenever someone might be trying to hit you, but it is something that people sometimes don't think about. Wear a cup.
The image on the left is chest protector designed for female fencers. The cup in the center is a very basic cup designed for karate. The cup on the right is the Absolute Force cup.
Fencing Jacket and Forearm Protection
The chest is probably the most durable part of your body that is going to get hit regularly, and the easiest to protect. The arms are a bit harder. The jacket on the left is specifically designed for what we do, and provides excellent protection to the forearms and elbows.
The image in the center is an elbow protector, if you already have a jacket with which you are happy. The image on the right is a pair of forearm protectors to wear over another jacket.
Although some throat protection is provided by your fencing mask, it is agreed within the community that this is not sufficient. Also, the gorget is a place where many people make a fashion statement. Just look at that gorgeous leather one on the left!
If you are buying for fashion, then all I will say is to make sure that it is made of steel or hardened leather, and that there is a bib in the front and in the back. If you want something which provides good protection and doesn't cost too much, go with the Absolute Force neck protection.