Core Worlds Couture With Jay Krebs
This week features a special edition of Core Worlds Couture – full coverage of Star Wars and the Power of Costume Exhibition at Discovery Times Square, New York City. Read on to learn about the exhibit and experience my adventures!
Whether interested in the fashion/cosplay aspect or not, costumes tell a tale and set a stage like nothing else in a story. “Craftsmanship and artistry in costume design are valued creative components in the Star Wars saga,” said George Lucas. “The detailed precision of a design can be as bold a measure of storytelling as words on a page, leading to the truths at the core of a character, situation or shared history.”
I have previously seen most of these costumes at one time or another, be it at exhibits featured at Star Wars Celebrations, Star Wars in Concert or Star Wars: Where Science Meets Imagination. The thrill never gets old, however, and getting to experience these amazingly intricate works of art first-hand is something every Star Wars fan should try to experience if you can!
Overall, this exhibit is different from others, in that it has very little glass or barriers that separate you from the pieces. You really do get a first-hand look at the detail and artistry that were put into each piece. But be careful – there are proximity/motion alarms that will alert the staff to anyone trying to get too close! The only thing I wish were different was just a bit more lighting in some of the rooms – it was difficult at times to really see the details of each piece. I think the rooms/galleries were set to create a mood, though, and they certainly delivered in that aspect. There was also Star Wars music playing throughout the exhibition, setting the background feel of each and every step taken.
As George Lucas once said: “The costumes have a tendency to appear on the screen in a very short amount of time. It's very hard to see the detail and the thousands of hours of work that go into each (one).”
The adventure starts with a small group of people admitted at a time, and a short video introduction is shown to the audience. It ends with a fun holograph of Princess Leia delivering her famous “Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi” plea. Then, the huge starship door opens, and visitors are treated to 13 different galleries of amazing, exquisite Star Wars costumes.
Each gallery has some background information and insight into the costume itself, the inspiration behind it, and/or some fun trivia about each one. For example: According to one of the exhibit placards, every principle Jedi needed multiple versions of their costume, due to not only wear and tear, but also shrinkage. When the vintage wool cloaks would get wet, they would quickly shrink and would require a new one for each take.
The Jedi cloaks and costumes in general were intriguing because each one had a specific character detail: whether it be the intricate wrist gauntlets and headdress of Luminara Unduli, the utility belt of Obi-Wan, or the variations of boots (I’m a footwear girl), the attention to detail was impressive.
Some of the most interesting things for me were learning how some of the costumes were inspired. For example, I learned that Leia’s Slave Bikini was modeled after several feminine, yet vampy characters such as Myrna Loy as a native dancing girl in “The Desert Song” from 1929, Yvonne De Carlo in “Slave Girl”, 1947, and the Maria Montez adventure films from the 1940’s.
Other inspirations for costumes were taken from art and history. Many of Padmé’s royal gowns and headdresses were modeled after cultures all over the world, including Mongolian, Chinese and Korean designs. Many of the dresses were replicas of wedding or other ceremonial gowns.
The gowns worn by Padmé’s handmaidens drew inspiration from art: La Bella Mano, 1875, by Dante Gabriel Rosetti. The painting represents a personification of love—Venus assisted by her winged attendants (Delaware Art Museum). So much thought went into these seemingly simple gowns. Even the way the fabric was ombré-dyed was in direct relation to making sure the depths of color aligned and complimented Queen Amidala herself. The Yellow Throne Room handmaiden gown hoods were constructed to extend out, creating deep shadows; were used to give a sense of mystery, and to allow Padmé to travel in disguise as one of the group.
According to one of the placards in the exhibit, Tricia Biggar, senior costume designer for the Prequel Trilogy said that well over a thousand costumes were made for Episode I: The Phantom Menace alone: “Couture-level cutters, sewers, dyers, printers, embrioderers, beaders, milliners, leatherworkers, mold-makers, sculptors and jewelers used a multitude of techniques to create articles of beauty, or ceremony, or authority, as the occasion demanded.”
In some of the areas, there were samples of fabric to touch. I appreciated that so much, because I’m all about the tactile texture — called the “hand” — of fabric. My husband makes fun of me when we go clothes shopping, saying “do you have to touch everything?” Yes…yes, I do!
One of my favorite galleries was titled “After the Throne: Padme’s Journey,” which included pieces from Episodes II and III, and were inspired once again by cultures such as Russia (Padmé’s refugee gown).
For Episode II: Attack of the Clones, Padmés costume designs grew from an originally projected four or five costumes to 18! The designers worked to create costumes that not only served as a fashion statement, but as a biographical moment in Padmé’s life. Concept Artist Dermot Power said “When I drew her for Episode II, she was much more aware of her beauty and sexuality, which was fortunate because I just couldn’t draw her any differently.”
All of the iconic costumes from Episodes II and III were on display, and the two sub-galleries that took my breath away were the wedding scene on Naboo with Anakin and Padmé, and Padmé’s funeral.
The funeral room was laid out with dozens of mirrors and soft lighting, and made you feel like you were giving your last respects to this amazing woman. The only thing missing was the Japor Snippet in her hand. The design and color of the funeral dress itself was a careful choice. As Tricia Biggar explained: “…the color – this beautiful azure blue – and the rippled fabric matched the ethereal and melancholy landscape of the Naboo lake retreat at Lake Como, where Padmé and Anakin fell in love. This is where Padmé had wanted to escape with Anakin, and the funeral gown symbolizes her spiritual return to that lake.”
On the utilitarian and military side of things, there was a fun hall of mirrors, featuring the helmets and armor of Stormtroopers. Although there were only about a dozen or so helmets, it made you feel like you were amidst a garrison of hundreds of Stormtroopers!
There was also a great display of Imperial uniforms, flight suits and weaponry, and the gallery featured “Empire propaganda” artwork by Joe Corroney, which added a great touch to the display.
According to John Mollo, Military Historian and Costume Designer for Episodes IV and V, George Lucas “wanted the Imperial people to look efficient, totalitarian, fascist; and the Rebels, the goodies, to look something like out of a Western or the U.S. Marines.”
All of these costumes are rich in symbolism, and have definitely become iconic in film history.
The weapons were fun for me to look at up-close, because like other aspects of costumes, you see them for only a split-second. The artistry and finesse that went into Count Dooku’s lightsaber hilt, for example, was very impressive. I was surprised, however, at Darth Maul’s double-bladed hilt. It must have been constructed for practical use, and later enhanced in the final edits, because honestly, it looked like something you would buy at Wal-Mart!!
The case of other weaponry was pretty amazing. When I got home, I showed my youngest son some of the pictures, and he pointed to each, easily naming off what they were, and who used them. To me, that’s a tribute to the way these items aren’t just props, but pieces that bring the story to life.
Another collection that really stood out for me was the progression of costume design for Sheev Palpatine. Tricia Biggar was the principal designer for Palpatine, and according to one of the placards, “through ornament, color, and texture, the costumes reflect Palpatine’s metamorphosis…as Palpatine’s plans evolve, his robes become darker. The intricacy of his costumes grow as his strength and influence grow. We used texture to show the deterioration of his moral fiber.”
One of the embroidered designs in particlular on a robe of Palpatine’s reminded me of two snakes facing off. The first thing I thought of was the symbolism of snakes…sneaky, venomous…I don’t know if that is what was trying to be conveyed, but that was my interpretation!
The last stop in the exhibit featured three costumes from The Force Awakens: Finn, Rey and Jessika Pava’s X-Wing costume. I didn’t even expect to see these, as I know most of the costumes from TFA are on currently on display in various venues around the world. I would love to have seen Kylo Ren, Maz Kanata, Bazine Natal and Captain Phasma (among others), but perhaps another time, at another exhibit!
There is SO much more I would love to discuss in detail, such as Zam Wesell’s Samurai-inspired skirt and multi-component costume, Bail Organa’s beautiful velvet senate robes with his belt featuring the Alderaan insignia, and the intricate detail of the flowing fabric of Mon Mothma’s gown. Mas Amedda, holding the ceremonial staff of his homeworld Champala, was a sight to behold. Sly Moore’s feathery blue “Shadowcloak” evening gown was gorgeous. Just a bit of trivia: the actress who portrayed Sly Moore, Sandi Finlay, had to have her head shaved every day in prep for her role and costume.
Of course, there are the iconic costumes of Princess Leia's A New Hope dress, Han Solo's unmistakable costume, Chewbacca, and a whole room dedicated to Yoda and Darth Vader respectively. I would also be remiss not to mention our three favorite droids of the saga! I'm not saying I wasn't as impressed with these rooms, but quite honestly, it was the other galleries from which I learned the most on this journey!
It took a total of about 2 hours to go through the exhibit, and I’m sure I could have taken longer. Please enjoy the close to 200 pictures I have included in the slide show. I know these don’t do the costumes justice – not like being there in person – but I hope you will gain more up-close knowledge and appreciation for these works of art. If you want any specific pics, contact me using my info below!
You can check on the exhibition's calendar times, rates and other info here.
I hope you enjoyed this insight into Star Wars and the Power of Costume Exhibition!
HUGE thanks and shout-out to fellow blogger and friend Pam Bruchwalski, for taking me on my first voyage to NYC!!
Have you ever been to this exhibit? Do you have a question for me about the exhibit? Let me know what you think! Leave your comments below, or you can contact me directly! My favorite social media vice is Twitter, just so you know!Powered by Sidelines