BooksStar Wars

Star Wars Costumes: The Original Trilogy by Brandon Alinger (book review).

Just when you think that all the ‘Star Wars’ books that could be covered have been covered, along comes ‘Star Wars: Costumes’, looking at the original trilogy and the creation of all of attire worn as created by designers John Mollo, Aggie Rodgers and Nilo Rodis-Jamero, as well as some mechanical help from Stuart Freeborn. Added to this are conversation pieces from various other production staff. Keeping with director George Lucas’ desire to have a worn-in look and not Science Fictiony. As it turns out, there is more of a mix of samurai and spaghetti westerns, only no zippers and buttons to be on show.


As the budget had also to be controlled, so much of the costume accessories were scratch-built and some of these got the nickname of greeblies. The information for this and the fabrics used will make this book very much a bible for those who want to dress in ‘Star Wars’ regalia. Not only do you see the designs and final costume but also a littering of behind and in front of the camera stills, satisfying your every demand.

Seeing the costumes spread out is quite an eye-opener. The likes of CP-30 and how the gloves and shoes were based on normal clothes is quite revealing. More so and I’m sure that ‘Star Wars’ fans know, Anthony Daniels also played another droid in ‘A New Hope’.

The budgets for costumes seems a lot even now but when you consider how many people were dressed also seems modest. As with all futuristic films, a lot of the time you have to create from scratch and improvise when you had to. John Mollo was also working on ‘Alien’ while designing for ‘The Empire Strikes Back’. One can only hope a similar book to this is done for the ‘Alien’ franchise. An odd fact that directors and producers are loathe to make decisions does make me wonder how anything is ever done. Although anything from George Lucas is from crew remembrances, one can get some insights into how his choices were made, often going for the simplest choice but, as with the biker scouts in the third film, not seeing making the front flip up as a means to save time and expense.

Just in case you thought only the humanoid based costumes are covered, you get a serious look inside the R2-D2 suit that Kenny Baker wore and the designs for Yoda.


(c) Disney
(c) Disney


It’s rather odd hearing that George Lucas ordered many of the costumes destroyed after use so they weren’t re-used. When you consider that many of them started off in other films, this does seem a little crazy as surely their look would have been changed had they been used elsewhere.

It’s hardly surprising that ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ has the fewest pages and, after completing it, I realised that Lando Calrissian’s major-domo and computer expert, Lobot, wasn’t included. Technically, he’s a silent role but so are many others here and it seems an odd omission unless his costume was destroyed. Speaking of Calrissian, with his cloak, he’s probably the one character that would look more at home in ‘Flash Gordon’.

More interesting is Lucas moving costume design to America so he could work from home, even if the costumes then had to be sent to the UK. It is a bit worrying that costumers were told that they were dispensable and makes me wonder why they don’t appear to have a union. I bet looking back that Lucas wished there was a SKYPE system back then. Mollo’s successors, Aggie Rodgers and Nilo Rodis-Jamero, did look to his designs to keep in step with them.

Something I hadn’t realised was Bib Fortuna’s name comes from ‘bib for tuna’ when Lucas was feeding his young daughter. Then again, when you have characters named after Klaatu’s famous words from ‘The Day The Earth Stood Still’, one can’t help wonder if it was less for homage and more a need for names.

SWC-Leiah-2      SWC-Leiah-1

Usually for actors, having a change of costume over the films seems to be a delight but Harrison Ford wanted to stay mostly the same throughout. Oh, is it me or do the Rebel Prune Faces look a lot like E.T.? Seeing the early designs for the Ewoks, I couldn’t help wonder how they looked like H.Beam Piper’s ‘Little Fuzzy’ characters. Finally, lest we forget, even the Seth Lord Darth Vader himself had some modifications over the films.

One thing to be careful of, there are three entries that have pages that open up and you’ll have to remember to check when notation is give to apparently missing photos. I’ll let you guess which ones until you buy the book.

As you can tell from my reaction this is a great book. If you’re into costume design or just want to make good ‘Star Wars’ costumes, the guidance from this book will help no end. It might even change your colour choice for Han Solo’s clothes because the colour changed in camera. In fact, this book will also give you insight into the problems with filming, catering for the stuntmen’s demands and requirements and how things work so much better by getting the right feel. I doubt if it will break the illusion of the films but I bet you’ll be watching more intently to the efforts made by these incredible design people.

GF Willmetts

October 2014

(pub: Titan Books. 225 page large hardback. Price: £34.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-78329-366-7)

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Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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