Sarah Dolan

The Fashion of the Force: “Star Wars” Costumes on Display

Sarah Dolan

It’s impossible to write about the costumes of the Star Wars series without a rambling opening paragraph about Padmé (a.k.a Queen/Senator Amidala). The oft-debated prequels, are—in my opinion, at least—salvageable by one thing: Padmé. Besides the fact that she’s a peacekeeping galactic senator and very handy in battle, she rules the fashion world in literally every scene (like this one and this one and this one . . . and this one). Even when she’s on the run and disguised as a refugee she dresses like she’s ready for the runway. However, in the Star Wars films, Padmé is not the only character who is consistently dressed to impress.

The Denver Art Museum will be displaying over 70 original costumes from the Star Wars movies. The costumes on display are the actual costumes that were used during filming. The exhibit was developed by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service in collaboration with the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art and Lucasfilm Ltd. It will “closely examine the captivating process of costume design for iconic outfits featured in all seven films of the Star Wars series.” The exhibit will focus on the creative process and the “challenge of translating [Lucas’s] iconic characters into a dynamic reality.”

The traveling showcase started in January of 2015 at Seattle’s EMP Museum (now the Museum of Pop Culture, or MoPOP) before moving in late 2015 to New York City’s Discovery Times Square museum. The New York exhibition ended in September of 2016, and moved on to the Denver Art Museum. The exhibition will continue to travel until 2019.

Even those who aren’t Star Wars fans will find something of interest in this exhibit. Visitors who appreciate fashion will be able to see the intricacy of the costume designs up close. A lot of the detail in these elaborate costumes can be lost onscreen in scenes with poor lighting or too much fast-paced action. This exhibition gives an opportunity to see these costumes up close and in person, allowing for a deeper appreciation of the design and craft of characters’ apparel that doesn’t get enough screen time in the films.

Costumes ranging from Princess Leia’s simple white robe to Darth Vader’s imposing body armor are on display. Seeing all of these pieces together in one place really brings out the scope and scale of the Star Wars films. It displays how the franchise has grown over the years, with costumes evolving from simple, minimalistic looks to grander, more elaborate attire. Just thinking about it is almost too much for my Star Wars–loving heart to bear.

Did You Know?

The cloak worn by actor Alec Guinness (a.k.a. Obi-Wan Kenobi) in Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope was thought to be lost until it turned up in a costume warehouse in 2005. The article had been returned there after filming ended and was thrown in with a collection of monks’ robes. It was unknowingly rented out to customers and at one point worn by an extra in The Mummy. The cloak was unearthed during a routine stock check when an employee noticed the oddly shaped hood and put it on.

Photo credit: Sam Howzit

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