Inasmuch as the term "Martial Arts" literally means "the art of Mars" (Mars being the god of war in Roman mythology), you should be prepared to invest in martial arts equipment to train for highly combative situations. Though some cultures frown upon women taking part in martial arts, there are other cultures that expect women to learn martial arts too - like in ancient Japan, wives of samurai warriors were expected to defend the home if attacked in the absence of their husbands.
Martial arts can be subdivided as to what skills they seem to prioritize - this will tell you what types of martial arts equipment you need to use. For striking, you may need the "wooden dummy" that is used as Chinese martial arts equipment - this type of Chinese martial arts equipment tries to train your mind to anticipate where angles of attack would come from. For kicking sports like Taekwondo, the necessary martial arts equipment to use would be a mouth-guard and a head-guard (for both male and female jins or fighters.) Male jins need other martial arts equipment like a crotch guard or sport cup so that their groin is not exposed to injury. Chest protectors are standard martial arts equipment for amateur matches and Olympic-level matches. However, in real life you should expect such protective martial arts equipment to be absent so some sparring matches involve absence of any protective gear, so you get used to being in real-life combat situations.
Uniforms are standard martial arts equipment for nearly all martial arts nowadays. Often, you can distinguish what type of martial arts is being done based on what the fighters are wearing. But uniforms are not just pleasant to look at - since they are made of thick material, they are pretty durable so that they can withstand constant strikes and friction during combat situations. Uniforms nowadays are also made of breathable material like thick cotton so that fighters don't overheat or feel too uncomfortable in the heat of a match.
Since martial arts were developed for combat, often fighters or martial artists might be members of the military. In the Western context then, it may be necessary to have access to important martial arts equipment such as strength training equipment. Though in the past, the weight of your opponent may have been enough to workout with, nowadays many martial arts recognize that strength training is quite important too. So if you can find a way to buy your own gym equipment (as your investment into necessary martial arts equipment) or at least rent them by the hour, that would help you develop strength and power for your matches.
In many Chinese martial arts, there are other forms of martial arts equipment that Western martial arts do not require. Some Chinese disciplines will require you to break wooden blocks or planks with your fist. This simple yet staple among Chinese martial arts equipment tests your power, focus, and ability to marshal your chi (energy) into your fist where it meets the wood. Another type of necessary martial arts equipment for the Chinese martial arts would be concrete blocks. Some instructors may ask you to break these concrete blocks with your fist, feet, or even your head.
As you can see, the Chinese martial arts require a different set of martial arts equipment compared to the Western type of martial arts. Do invest in the type of martial arts equipment appropriate for your discipline. Martial arts equipment will help you be a stronger, better and more confident fighter in the end.