The Drysuit
According to the maker, its Ladies First systems are designed with consideration for the silhouette differences and elegant details that underline the feminine form.
We tested a front-entry trilaminate drysuit with a BZ400X one-piece Thinsulate undersuit.
The drysuit is constructed in a lightweight but tough 260g/m2 Ripstop Nylon and butylene/polyester mix. The material has a slight stretch and is very flexible.
The suit is designed with a diagonal front entry sealed with a TIZIP MasterSeal zipper that extends from the right shoulder to the left hip. The thermoplastic polyurethane TIZIP is protected by an additional conventionally zipped flap.
The torso is cut long and folds down at the bottom once the suit is on. This fold is held in place with an elasticated crotch-strap and Fastex clip; like generations of suits before it, the torso is free to telescope and extend with body movement, to prevent tightening at the crotch as the arms are raised.
The suit is held in place with internal elastic suspenders, stopping the whole thing from sagging when worn. The suspenders are black with white Santi livery on the outside and the opposite colouring inside, which makes them easy to find inside the black void of the inner suit.
The Ladies First drysuit has three pockets, one of which is internal and fixed across the stomach with a vertical right-hand zip; it forms the base for the suspenders and is useful for car keys, documents or mobile phone.
The other two are external thigh utility pockets. Both have Velcro-fastened flaps, with the right-hand one having a further small zipped pocket on the flap, designed to take a double-ended clip. Both pockets have built-in bungee loops for easy and safe piston-clip attachment of crucial items such as reels, DSMBs, spare masks or goodie bags.
The boots are built from compressed neoprene with hard rubber soles, heels and toe-caps. The heel features a fin-strap keeper and a neat webbing loop to aid donning.
A Velcro ankle-strap keeps it all in place and reduces air-migration when the wearer is inverted under water.
The seals are of latex, with the neck-seal having a 3mm neoprene outer collar for additional insulation, and the wrist-seals are bottle-shaped, using HD latex. The inflation- and dump-valves are high-profile Apeks versions, the dump placed as is standard on the left shoulder.
Kevlar knee-pads and reinforcing pads at the crotch along with a choice of pink, lime or grey and black flashes finish off the suit.

The Undersuit
The Ladies First BZ400X undersuit is the warmest of three in the Santi line-up. It was designed for immersion in water as cool as 7°C so is suitable for long decompression dives.
The suit is built with a polyester-reinforced polymide outer shell with a 140g/sq m micropolar, Thinsulate fleece lining. The neck and yoke areas are covered with softshell fabric for comfort and warmth.
It also features a two-way front zip and elasticated waist-gusset with an adjustable front belt, and a large circular zip at the buttocks allows access for “call of nature” breaks without having to remove the entire suit.
The suit has reinforced areas around the knees and arms and mesh-covered water-resistant cuffs with small thumb tapes to aid donning and, if left in position, allow air transfer to dry-gloves if required.
The undersuit has the same style of suspenders as the drysuit and three more pockets, including one on the inside plus cable outlets for Santi’s own battery-powered heating systems.
The undersuit can be matched to the drysuit, with the same choice of coloured accents.

Test results
Yvonne Tatchley has been a BSAC and PADI instructor for seven years, and is also a rebreather diver who dives regularly off the UK coast as well as overseas.
Yvonne chose a suit to fit her from Santi’s comprehensive size chart. She opted for a “large”, which initially surprised her, as with other makes of suit her usual choice would be medium.
The decision proved to be spot-on, however, as the suit fitted her perfectly. “The sizing of the Ladies First range seems to be slightly smaller than the standard UK sizes so I’m glad I took the time to actually measure myself and get it right,” she told me. Both garments are also available as made-to-measure items.
Yvonne took the drysuit system on numerous teaching sessions at Wraysbury as well as on boat charters from Weymouth. Early-season water temperatures were between 8° and 12°C but the undersuit was as warm as she could have wished for, keeping her toasty without adding too much bulk – although she did need to add an extra 4kg of lead to her usual weights to achieve neutral buoyancy.
She found the collar quite high and had to pull it down from the inside of the suit to prevent it from compromising the drysuit’s neck-seal. “The undersuit was supremely comfortable in use,“ she reported, “with the mesh sections at the cuffs reducing bulk at the wrist-seals, adding to the comfort levels.”
Yvonne told me that the convenience flap at the rear was “an absolute godsend”, especially
in the confines of a dive-boat head, and on those crisp early-spring days when removing the whole undersuit temporarily wasn’t a desirable option.
The drysuit was very easy to get in and out of, she said. The front zipper was positioned perfectly on the right shoulder and slid smoothly, so she could don and doff the suit without assistance. The telescoping torso worked very well and the Y-shaped crotch-strap kept everything in place.
Under water the air migrated around the suit, enabling perfect trim; it was easy to dump during the ascent phase too.
Yvonne had nothing but praise for this suit system: “I liked lots of the little features, such as the supremely comfortable boots and especially the pull-loops at the heels, the zip position
and, of course, the convenience flap at the rear of the undersuit.
“The bungee loops in the pockets are a nice touch and proved to be practical. The zipped pocket inside the drysuit was particularly useful for keeping my keys and valuables safe and dry.
“What I liked the most was the satisfactory cut of both suits. They were flattering and made me feel feminine and smart, something my own and other drysuit systems lack.
“Under water the Ladies First products were
a joy to use. The system proved to be flexible and non-restricting in all aspects, allowing me to perform all the skills I needed with ease.
“The undersuit was very warm – maybe a little too warm as the spring temperatures started to increase, but on long sessions under water it was invaluable”.
Yvonne added that: “On a negative note, the high-profile shoulder dump-valve seemed a bit 1980s – it felt big, bulky and cumbersome, getting caught on my BC straps every time I put my scuba unit on.
“A low-profile valve would have made the suit perfect in all aspects, but instead it became an annoyance. If the suit were mine I’d have changed it at the outset.”

Santi is carving out an enviable reputation in the European diving community, and certainly the products I've seen are all very well made, using high-end materials and top-notch workmanship.
The combination we tested was no different, and the drysuit and undersuit look and feel like the quality garments they are; built for purpose, and with a design and cut that really does enhance the femininity of the wearer.
The maker has also gone that extra mile, with little additions that help to make this system feature-rich and very practical.
My thanks to Yvonne for taking the time and effort in getting this product under water and reporting her findings for diver.

PRICE £1500. Made to measure, £1699
MATERIALS 260g/m2 Ripstop Nylon/butylene/polyester trilaminate
COLOURS Black, with pink, lime or grey accents
ENTRY Front diagonal TiZip
POCKETS Three, one internal
WEIGHT (Size L) 3.2kg
EXTRAS Supplied with 7/9mm hood, mp hose, travel bag and afterdive beanie hat

PRICE £289. Made to measure, £339
SIZES 12, as drysuit
POCKETS Three, one internal
INSULATION Thinsulate 420g/m2
COLOURS Black, with pink, lime or grey accents