Natalie Portman cogently expresses the power behind her costume for Padme Amidala: ‘When you feel like a different person, it’s easier to act like another person.’ The fabric reinforced by crinoline steel conjures strong images and references to Asiatic couture and tradition. The pervasive crimson garment is a rudimentary reference to her character’s social status and royal blood. The costume comes across as elegant and graceful, yet cumbersome. Her surreptitious marital status to the future of evil is a clear example of form following function.
Anakin Skywalker and Padme Amidala exchange nuptials in a grand allusion to Shakespearean tragedy. Skywalker is draped in a threatening dark robe foreshadowing his destiny as the force and figurehead of an evil empire. Amidala is adorned and embroidered in Western and Jedi tradition: a conception of enveloping purity. Her matching headdress symbolizes the secret nature of their ritual. Her sleeves are an accoutrement to the philosophy of modesty represented by the Jedi.
One of the philosophical inquiries of Star Wars explores the relationship between good and evil, and at the same time the costumes explore the visual presence of good and evil. The most fluid narrative is provided by the costumes of the Sith and the Jedi. According to the exhibit, the Sith was established by a rogue Jedi. This really convolutes any basic notions of good and evil between Sith and Jedi. So the costumes aren’t necessarily a commentary on good and evil as much as it is a representation of light and dark forces. Both costumes express muted colorways. The Jedi is cloaked in a brown robe over an off-white garment. The costume evinces the rigid nature of purity in a very Western sense. The Sith costume represents the opposite, a nod to the associations of the dark with power and even the homogeneity that comes with thoughts of purity.
No extrapolation of Star Wars culture and mythology is complete without the inclusion of the infamous Stormtrooper. There are children and young adults at this very moment playing Halo while unaware of the aesthetic inspiration. Whether they are indeed a reference to the Nazi Party or not, the very costume elucidates the same level of inhumane fascism. The white metallic skeleton interrupted by fissures of blackness brings a new meaning to the term tabula rasa. Henry David Thoreau once described soldiers as an entity, which is one with his gun. This foreshadowed the highly controlled look given off by the Stormtrooper.
The force always has two sides, polarized by droids such as C-3PO. According to the exhibit, the droids are a nod to the classic movie Metropolis. Bringing inanimate objects sentience is a philosophical problem that has long occupied the thoughts of humanity. Often the media embraces the darker side of the debate, but even the monster in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein had a very tender and eclectic emotional palette that was dulled in time. C-3PO represents the human side, especially with it’s slight frame mimicking the physique of a young boy and it’s gold visage that gives it a sense of regal sophistication. The turgid appearance of R2-D2 even gives the droid a sense of humor, which is utilized throughout the film.
The Star Wars Costume Exhibition at Discovery Times Square is definitely a worthy destination for a New York City tourist as well as a seasoned New Yorker. Be sure to make a stop, and see how the underpinning influences of the city become tangible.
Discovery Times Square, 266 West 44th Street, New York, NY, USA +1 866 987 9692
By Ryan Parkes