Thursday, 6 November 2014


The clothes that defined a universe. The superb STAR WARS COSTUMES: THE ORIGINAL TRILOGY. Images: TITAN BOOKS/LUCASFILM. 


Written by Brandon Alinger

Forewords by John Mollo, Nilo Rodis-Jamero and Aggie Rodgers

Published in the UK by TITAN BOOKS

Reviewed by Scott Weller

Back in 2005, Prequel Costume Designer Trisha Biggar compiled one of the most lavish coffee table books yet on the huge range of incredible costumes created for the STAR WARS saga: Dressing a Galaxy, yet its section devoted to the Original Trilogy was by no means as detailed and complete as it could have been-with plenty of potential possibilities for a separate, future title of its own. Such a project has been a long time coming, but now die-hard prop collector/film-buff Brandon Alinger, surely the envy of STAR WARS fans and rivals everywhere, has put together (with support and encouragement from LUCASFILM’s J.W. Rinzer) the ultimate book charting the many varied, beautiful, functional and stylish costumes present within A NEW HOPE to RETURN OF THE JEDI, as STAR WARS COSTUMES: THE ORIGINAL TRILOGY, published by franchise stalwarts TITAN BOOKS, arrives just in time to fill some very big Christmas stockings this holiday season.

▶ Star Wars Costumes: The Original Trilogy - Book Trailer - YouTube
A 1976 Mark Hamill poses for an image now specially adapted for the new book.

Truly the most meticulously researched look at the largest archive of costumes taken out of storage since their original filming, their presentation in this 200 page plus tome comes via stunning, newly shot photography showcasing them at their very best quality possible outside of physically looking at them at exhibitions, additionally providing us with a unique and rare window into the world of costume creation and production for a series of films that set the standard for so much that would follow in its wake in the sci-fi and fantasy genres. And for inspired and inspiring Cosplayers it’s surely a dream come true to finally be able to create/reproduce work to similar standards!
A specially shot image of the surviving Chewbacca costume, presumably from RETURN OF THE JEDI.

STAR WARS COSTUMES also gives us the lowdown on, and celebrates, the work of the many people and companies involved behind the scenes, and reveals more about the little details that would make the big picture seem that little bit bigger- items created and captured on celluloid that we may have missed previously, despite umpteen viewings, now ripe for exploration, alongside some known and not so well known anecdotes on how and why certain things were made (like how Lando’s JEDI guard helmet was amusingly inspired from a pair of baseball gloves!). There are a few unavoidable blanks in the origins here and there that, which, with the long passing of time, will likely never be truly solved, but this book is nonetheless full to the brim with behind the scenes info to be relished.

So, one film at a time, here’s AFICIONADO’s guide to the books highlights…
John Mollo's original 1976 design for the Jawas of Tatooine...
... and as photographed for the STAR WARS COSTUMES book.


Not wanting to get caught in the trap that so many sci-fi films, then and now, fall into when it comes to futuristic wardrobes: over the top designs that soon look dated or feel more in the style of the era they were originally made, STAR WARS creator George Lucas wanted a wardrobe for his new space fantasy adventure that didn’t stand out yet had to be futuristic, whilst also feeling recognisable and accepting to the audience. No mean feat, requiring someone with extraordinary insight into the world of costuming and practical realization.

Early Ralph McQuarrie costume concepts for Han Solo and Chewbacca from 1975.

Used to a more earthbound military history in film-making, John Mollo’s attention to detail and believability made him the perfect choice in bringing life to the Rebels and Imperials waging intergalactic civil war in the original first film, of which he’d later win a well deserved OSCAR- the only time a sci-fi film has won such a distinction for Costume Design from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. And for STAR WARS COSTUMES, he gives his most detailed behind the scenes contributions yet regarding their genesis and making: from oft-experimenting with fabrics- sometimes a case of using only what was available to them on a tiny budget, the vital importance of conceptual designer Ralph McQuarrie at the films early stage of pre-production, the many conversations and experimentation ideas Mollo conceived with George Lucas (including some never before seen art pieces), and numerous trips to the prestigious London Bermans and Nathans costume makers/hirer's to create concept- working pieces that could then be later built and tailored for use imagineering the film’s diverse characters and creatures. All of this gives us a unique flavour of the original film’s making- a creatively intense experience of the kind that would later be similarly felt by Mollo’s successors during RETURN OF THE JEDI.

The evolving faces and costumes for C-3PO.

Mollo also gives Alinger access to sections of his costume notes/production diary (including EMPIRE), alongside dips into of their time interviews with key production personnel (presumably Charles Lippincott’s original BTS interviews, parts of which were also used in J.W. Rinzler’s THE MAKING OF STAR WARS, back in 2007). Alinger, a massive STAR WARS original prop collector known for buying up many rare treasures from the likes of Alan Tomkins and the late Stuart Freeborn, has also surely brought his own items for inclusion, not just costumes but precious art and reference polaroids.
On the Death Star hangar set, Dave Prowse is costumed as Darth Vader by Wardrobe Supervisor Ron Beck.

Further on, there’s important sections on how the various departments would often interact and join forces, especially on the droid and creature costumes, and key boxes on other top contributors: sculptor Brian Muir and his creation of the mask for the distinctive, bulky first Vader costume (with additional sections for the cosmetic changes later made to the Dark Lord by other talents for EMPIRE and JEDI), the late Liz Moore’s remarkable work in creating the numerous face and plating’s of C-3PO (with a selection of evolving "faces" specially assembled), and Stuart Freeborn’s innovative work in creating the mask for Chewbacca the Wookiee, an evolution on his previous engineering of the ape creatures for Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY. Plus a wide variety of pattern changing Rebel pilots helmets and the challenges of the early Stormtroopers (still the best of the three films, in my opinion) that were tough to make yet ultimately proved flimsy and breakable over the duration of their filming time.

It’s a shame that so few of the original costumes for the first film survive to hold court at LUCASFILM- some have disintegrated beyond use, whilst others would disappear years ago, before the company began a proper archiving/inventory of its materials (from 1980 onwards). Other costumes built specially for the film by Bermans and Nathans, then returned back to them afterwards in a prior arrangement, have since been lost or acquired by rival collectors. With LUCASFILM wanting to keep the book strictly within their own official remit, I'm assuming Alinger was probably unable to contact some of these very well known "outside" fans and ask for their additional help/contributions. Fortunately, there’s enough good use of rare imagery, conceptual art and other items to supplement what is available, and fill in most of the missing history pieces.
Ralph McQuarrie's early design for the "Superstormtrooper".


With STAR WARS a bona fide world hit, a sequel was swiftly inevitable. At first, the producers thought they could re-use existing costumes and save money, but, thankfully for everyone, THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK became bigger, bolder and more expansive in its costume requirements and variety than anything seen previously, solidifying the fact that this was not going to be a quick and dirty cash-in to the impressive adventure that came before. More challenges would come for the returned John Mollo, but this was ultimately to be his final work for the series, an overall experience that didn’t prove to be quite as an enjoyable now that George Lucas was no longer director and instead an Executive Producer. The pressure of delivering a first sequel that could live up to audience’s expectations was firmly grasping everyone’s mindset, especially the intelligent, thoughtful and more slow in deliberation new director in Irvin Kershner. Mollo’s relationship with Kershner ultimately proved less efficient and slower-moving than it had been with Lucas, as, alongside producer Gary Kurtz, every costume detail/iteration was pondered to the last possible minute. But the ultimate results more than paid off for any stresses incurred over the long seven month shooting schedule.
John Mollo and Irvin Kershner inspect a Snowtrooper costume in its near final stages.
The vast costume wardrobe for THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK at Elstree Studios, 1979.

Unlike EPISODE IV, the photo records and majority of costumes from EPISODE V onwards would thankfully be retained and catalogued by LUCASFILM. The new environs of the ice planet Hoth would see some superb designs and final creations, including Samurai-style Imperial Snowtroopers, and rough and ready Rebel opponents. Then there’d be the key emergence of shadowy predator Boba Fett, whose detailed origins from “Superstormtrooper” concept to eventual bounty hunter are finally, exhaustively revealed, alongside a wealth of new studio photography, particularly showing us the many variations of helmet used both in EMPIRE and the second sequel– this is the book that finally presents the exhaustive history of the character’s costume creation.

Anthony Daniels suits up again for C-3PO, in an easier to wear costume.
On set polaroid costume test for Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker- April 1979.

In the film’s final third, the cloud city of Bespin and its costumed populace would need to convey the Art Deco sense that Lucas specifically wanted, whilst the creation of tiny Minch Yoda sets a future precedent, its wearing of clothes following in the tradition of Ben Kenobi, but, by the time of the Prequels making, ultimately becoming synonymous with all of the Jedi Order.
John Mollo's 1978 costume concept art for Leia's Hoth wardrobe.
The final realisation, as specially photographed for the book.

Behind the scenes, EMPIRE is also the film where “greeblies” - a term used by Lucas for STAR WARS to describe pieces of junk used to add costume and character effect- would come into their own!

John Mollo's superb costume rendering for Darth Vader from THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK.


By 1982, past the tense filming and almost crippling schedule overrun costs of EMPIRE, Lucas would decide to do as much of RETURN OF THE JEDI’s pre-production as possible in the US. Enter resident ILM talent Nilo Rodis-Jamero as the film’s new costume designer, under recommendation from new director Richard Marquand to Lucas, alongside practical realization via the equally dedicated and enthused Aggie-Guerard Rodgers, both of whom would, where possible, wisely keep to the original continuity for the previous films created by Mollo in between concocting a diverse new range of stunning pieces that would forever cement the final film into fans and cinemagoers imaginations.
Howard Kazanjian, Richard Marquand and George Lucas go through Nilo Rodis-Jamero's expansive costume portfolio for RETURN OF THE JEDI in late 1981.
Watched by Aggie-Guerard Rodgers, Mark Hamill and Lucas discuss Luke's darker new look in 1981.

Speaking of their time on JEDI with affection and detail, backed up with key interviews from wardrobe assistants (who’d be on set daily to assist in the practical wear of the costumes by the actors), cutters, specialist plastics manufacturers and jewelry makers, innovation and collaboration would be the key words for their time on the movie, which would ultimately need more costumes devised and created than ever before- the emphasis on durability and comfort in order to face even more wear and tear in studios and on location, especially with the film’s many new action sequences and increased use of stunt actors.

Leia's Bounty Hunter disguise in Jabba's Palace.
Lucas supervises the costume test for Carrie Fisher's wearing of Leia's Rebel Commando outfit.
She may have hated every minute wearing it, but there's no denying that Carrie looks terrific in her Slave Girl costume!

JEDI was a ground-breaker in so many ways, especially generating a further strong union between costume design and the newly formed ILM creature shop then building the many animatronic heads and body parts to which the costumes would be applied with, and which had to be specially constructed for easy access in wearing. This same kind of close communication would also apply to what was being built in the UK with the love ‘em or hate ‘em Ewoks, and the way they developed in practical form via Stuart Freeborn. Such intense lengthy periods of costume use would go on to generate unique problems needing unique solutions, like finding ways of keeping all the alien costumes clean and hygienic- no mean feat, especially for our teddy bear heroes in the ever-changing weather of the Californian Redwoods during April/May 1982!

Darth Vader- updated.

Boba Fett goes green for Jedi.
Costume reference polaroid for Michael Carter as Bib Fortuna- January 1982.
At Elstree, the many created Ewok heads are kept in special bags to keep them clean.

The end of an era, until our classic heroes return with EPISODE VII, its JEDI’s costumes that standout the most within the book. Colour depth and detail on the newly photographed clothes is especially superb. Highlights include Princess Leia’s Boushh disguise, with its intriguing layerings, Jabba the Hutt’s major domo alien, Bib Fortuna, select key aliens from Jabba’s Palace and the Skiff battle, and the popular biker scouts of Endor. Going back to the Princess, there’s more on the creation of her infamous “Slave Bikini” (including an interview with its original co-creator/sculptor Richard Miller). It’s also nice to see the deleted sandstorm scene costumes getting an airing, too.

The revised blue-shirted Han Solo costume for JEDI that Harrison Ford ultimately gave a thumbs-down to!

Rounding off the book, more rare goodies include a set of ultimately unused, adapted TESB Hoth Rebel trooper costumes for Endor scene filming, an intriguing test photo of an early, more primitive looking Ewok from Stuart Freeborn, and some costume ideas for Han Solo (including a specially created and fabricated new brown waistcoat) that Harrison Ford didn’t want to wear! And, last but not least, and because you surely demanded it, that charismatic caped wonder Prune Face finally gets his time in the limelight!

AFICIONADO RATING: A prestige collection and celebration, and an essential purchase. 8.5 out of 10

Please note: Certain archive images presented in this feature are not in the book.

With thanks to TITAN BOOKS for all their assistance with the compiling of this feature.

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