Star Wars Smithsonian Exhibition Delves Into The Costumes Of Far, Far Away

By David Wharton | Published

This article is more than 2 years old

SW1With new Star Wars movies on their way to theaters beginning later this year, many fans are diving back into their love of a franchise the prequels may have tarnished, or just embracing it with even more excitement and enthusiasm. Well, in between Rebels marathons and reading the comics and novels, now you can explore Star Wars’ history courtesy of a new traveling Smithsonian show focused on the franchise’s amazing costumes.

From Darth Vader’s imposing silhouette to the Rebel pilots’ orange jumpsuits or the elaborate garb of Queen Amidala, Star Wars’ costume design has been an integral part of making George Lucas’ galaxy far, far away feel rich and detailed and real. An exhibition entitled “Rebel, Jedi, Princess, Queen: Star Wars and the Power of Costume” opened in Seattle on January 31 and will remain on display at the EMP Museum through October 4, 2015, after which it will travel to 11 more as-yet-unannounced cities. The show is a collaboration between Lucasfilm, the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, and the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES).


We’ll be trusting in the Force that the exhibition will eventually make its way to a city near us, but if you’re in the Seattle area now you’ve got a perfect addition to your to-do list. The show features 60 costumes on display, as well as concept art and other behind-the-scenes material focused on the fashion of the Star Wars universe. Naturally, the costumes on display will include Darth Vader’s armor, Jedi robes, Leia’s gold bikini, Chewbacca’s “walking carpet,” and naturally a stormtrooper or two. As the Smithsonian site puts it, the exhibition “goes beyond the chronological, literary, or filmic order often used to chronicle Star Wars” and “focuses instead on the creative process, encompassing the essence of George Lucas’ vision and the exciting challenge of translating his iconic characters into a dynamic reality.”


The results are a chronicle of three decades spent evolving the visual signature of an expansive science fiction universe, from the early days when budget was still an issue and George Lucas was not yet a household name, to the prequel era where Lucas could pretty much get anything he wanted (on all fronts, for good or ill). In addition to the ever-expanding budget, the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art’s Laela French adds that the costuming reflected the narrative, from the “ad hoc” look of the ragtag Rebel Alliance in the original trilogy to the “height of their culture” in the prequels, for which the designers drew inspiration from cultures including Japan, Mongolia and China.


We’ll keep you posted when we hear any news about which cities the exhibit will be visiting after it leaves Seattle.