My friend Hannah isn’t super into Star Wars but she is super into Padmé’s costumes in the prequel films. Like, I think they’re beautiful and amazing … but she thinks they’re life. So when Star Wars and the Power of Costume Exhibition came to New York City, she, Dan and I made plans to head into the mouth of the beast (also known as Times Square) on a Saturday morning to check it out.
Some quick details: Tickets cost $27.50 for adults, $20 for kids (4-12) and $24 for senior citizens. The exhibit is open from 10 a.m. until 7 p.m. Sunday – Tuesday, but it stays open an extra hour on Wednesdays and Thursdays, and an extra two hours on Friday and Saturday. You can also add a parking pass at a very nearby lot for $25.
When you reserve a ticket, you’ll also reserve a day and time (in half-hour intervals)—but rest assured that this doesn’t mean you have to get through the whole exhibit in 30 minutes. We spent at least that long in the room dedicated to Padmé’s costumes and just over two hours in the exhibit as a whole. Unless you have a camera and are planning to take 800 photos, it probably won’t take you more than an hour.
Tickets are available through September 5. After that, the exhibit will be moving to the Denver Museum of Art (also in New York City) for a 5-month run. Beyond that, I don’t know, but the exhibit was designed to tour—created by a team from the Smithsonian and the still-in-development Lucas Museum as it was—so I wouldn’t be surprised if it popped up somewhere else.
And now … the costumes …
Actually, before we get to that, I want to make sure you know that there are literally 318 photos of the nearly 80 costumes in the exhibit over on Dan’s site At Disney Again. He and I were shooting like mad, trying to capture every last beautiful detail of the place. I am sure we failed. Anyway, I’ll only be showing about four costumes from each section of the exhibit in this review, but there’s lots, lots, lots more where these came from on At Disney Again.
Jedi versus Sith
Obi-Wan’s monochromatic, medieval-style robes seem almost monk-like, highlighting the spirituality of the Jedi order. Though they’re made of rough-hewn fabric, his underrobes are reminiscent of elegant Samurai robes. According to the exhibit, Alec Guinness was reluctant to take the part until he saw the costume designs.
Another fun fact: Every Jedi—even mini Jedi, like young Anakin—needed multiple versions of their costume. That’s not unusual in the movies, but here’s an unusual reason: Whenever the robes got wet, the vintage wool would shrink considerably.
The robes of Jedi Master Luminara Unduli (who, if we’re being honest, terrifies me) include hand-tooled and -painted leather skirt panel and arm cuffs. They are beautiful up close.
I learned something really cool about C3PO: His costume is actually loosely based on the robot Maria from the 1926 film Metropolis, which I love.
BB8 makes his first appearance here. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much info in the exhibit about the droid because he had only recently been added. Cute bugger, though.
Character sketches of R2D2 show how the engineers and designers worked to make the costume wearable.
The Galactic Senate, Royalty and Beyond
This beautifully detailed gown was worn by one of Queen Amidala’s handmaidens. The intricate pleating and embroidery barely even show up on the movie screen, but in person, they’re amazing.
Senator Palpatine’s robes are one of my all-time favorite Star Wars costumes—and it was so much cooler in person!! It has a very Tom Baker/Doctor Who vibe. The fun colors and interesting textures make this one for me.
Senator Amidala’s Loyalist Dress: The headdress kills me! One cosplay website describes it as a, “warm antiqued brass … covered in micro braids wrapped in a cage of square-stamped and plain brass strips.” Whoa
Also above is Queen Amidala’s Naboo Escape Gown. I’m including it here because it’s incredibly visually interesting but also because there’s an amazing story behind it: When designing the queen’s gowns, Iain McCaig got very frustrated and scribbled all over one drawing. Looking at it, he found the scribbles made an interesting pattern, and the Escape from Naboo gown was born. It took one person working ten hours a day, five days a week over a month to make. And (spoiler alert?) Padmé never even wears it!
Darth Sidious Red Senate Robes are made of rich, embroidered velvet.
Outlaws and Outsiders
After seeing the intricately-designed Senate robes, Leia’s “slave” costume is bananas. There’s—honest to goodness—absolutely nothing to it. It looks like it’s made of metal. And it sure as the sun’s shining doesn’t look comfortable. That said, the accompanying boots, which I’ve never noticed before on screen, are fabulous.
The assassin Zam Wesell is amazing. And her costume is simple and utilitarian but also really quite detailed, from the pointy tips on her boots to her leather-woven Samurai-inspired skirt. It tells her story without being overly showy. And, fun fact: Her weapons were held onto the costume with magnets!
These two. The Western-inspired details on Han’s ensemble and the yak hair and mohair costume of the towering Chewbacca—they look so good together.
This is the dress—the one that Hannah and I were hell-bent on seeing in person: The Meadow Picnic Dress, worn on her bucolic outing with Anakin in the hills. Fun fact: The delicate silk and tulle dress was so fragile that Natalie Portman had to be carried up the meadow so it wouldn’t be harmed!
On Naboo, Padmé’s simple white nightgown is topped with a gorgeous thick woven robe. The kicker: A long tassel of five large beaded balls and strands of beads in iridescent blue, red and green. So simple, so breathtaking.
While visiting Tatooine, Padmé wears a midriff-baring top that sort of resembles Jedi underrobes. The matching cape is covered in silver embroidery. The wide-legged pants were closed with a sash-like belt that’s decorated with silver beads.
The wedding dress. Arguably the worst scene in the dumb prequel trilogy. But easily one of the most beautiful dressed ever in the whole world. The dress is simultaneously opulent but relatively simple—upcycled, you could say, from an antique Italian lace bedspread. Fun fact: The night before the wedding scene was filmed, one of the costume designers pulled an all-nighter adding pearls to the dress by hand. And the skullcap veil. Exquisite.
Finally, shots from the room where Padmé’s funeral scene is displayed. There are so many little details about this one, not the least of which is how the dress and hair are inspired by flowing water. Another fun bit: A fake baby bump was woven into the dress and prominently displayed during the ceremony to hide the fact that her newborn twins, Luke and Leia, were alive and safe. And even though the dress was meant to hide his children from him, there’s still a loving nod to Anakin: In her hands, Padmé cluteches the japor snippet that he’d given to her for luck.
If you can even believe it, there are actually three sections of the exhibit that I haven’t covered yet … but, frankly, it’s getting late and I think we can wait and visit those costumes next week. (Hope you don’t mind!) Until then, you can see all 300+ photos from our visit on At Disney Again.
How much do you love these costumes? Let me know your favorite in the comments below.