Dressing A Galaxy: Star Wars Costumes Exhibition
The Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising Museum & Galleries, Los Angeles, CA
PadawanRose, JediJen, Diana
In addition, the budget was so paltry and the limitations so high that "costume design" in the GFFA consisted of whatever they could get cheaply. Even Princess Leia's dress was not "designed" for the film it looks like a Halston-style knock-off, based on the wedding dress of Princess Anne of Great Britain (and her hair, too!) which had been designed by Maureen Baker. (The real princess's dress had influenced wedding dresses for the 1970s; the timing is right Anne was married in 1973. Not a coincidence!) The X-Wing pilots wore orange jumpsuits because that was the cheapest, most plentifully available jumpsuit, and it was a high contrast to the black Imperial pilot costumes (notice there were only two Imperial pilots in the original film? Probably couldn't get more costumes!).
But with the debut of the prequels, suddenly the GFFA became ... different! The Old Republic was a rich, diverse place. Digital effects technology ensured that anything could be created almost directly from a designer's imagination. There would be many world's visited and shown, making the starkness of the original trilogy an even more shocking contrast. The difference would beg the question, "What happened here??" And of course, therein lies the tale of the rise and fall of Anakin Skywalker and Darth Vader.
Designers like Ian McCaig filled the galaxy's cultures with visual brilliance. And then it fell to craftsmen and artisans and specialists to translate and adapt those drawings.
As for costuming, that task was headed by Trisha Biggar, who seems to have been overlooked by the Academy of Motion Pictures & Sciences for her prowess and hard work. She was in charge of not only making sure the designers' designs could be worn, but also for filling in the designs for extras and others to fit in with the worlds and events they occupied. Biggar purchased the fabrics, commissioned the crafting, oversaw all fittings, made decisions on the hows and whys, was in direct communication with George Lucas as well as the designers, and produced thousands of costumes for myriad actors of all shapes and sizes and prosthetics.
So, when an exhibition for the costuming work of Trisha Biggar and others was announced by Lucasfilm, us Hutties clamored for information! Alas, because of commitments to see other exhibitions, not all of us managed to see the short-lived "Dressing A Galaxy" show, held in Los Angeles at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising Museum and Galleries. But some of us did!
Unlike other motion picture-based exhibitions, non-flash photography was allowed in the galleries. And unlike another exhibition, a book with details of this show was published: Dressing A Galaxy: The Costumes of Star Wars by Trisha Biggar! It's a lush book with beautiful photographs of the costumes on display, as well as digitally rendered costumes, notes from actors and animators, and details and close-ups of the costumes themselves. The work needed to create these costumes in the lived-in galaxy of George Lucas's visions not only required globe-trotting to acquire fabrics and details, but many of the costumes required custom-woven fabrics, custom-cast metal and resin work, revision of existing fabric, and constant adaptation to suit the vagaries of the filmmaking process. There are stills from the movie, but these seem freshly viewed here from a costuming perspective. What a treat!
Note that this is a hard cover book and thus is not cheap; there is an even less cheap version of the book out too, a limited edition which includes a slipcover, fabric swatches, a cast replica of a Wookiee belt buckle, a DVD, extra pages and booklets, Trisha's costume "archeology" notes and passport stamps for her travels to find all the fabrics and notions ... well worth the $300 price tag for serious costuming students and geeks! Get the book if you can, or hope that the paperback version will come out soon!
There was a big line to get into the exhibit at the FIDM, populated with people of all ages and some big fans you know, geeks like us! But I think we were the only ones who were there for over three hours at a time, looking at our copy of the book and comparing the costumes to the photos. To make it simpler (and undoubtedly to promote sales) they had Trish Biggar's book in each room. There was also a guard in each room, who were really serious about not reaching over the glass to touch the costumes. They had sensors that went off if one got too close. And they were serious about no flash pictures if your flash went off, they descended on you immediately, and out you went, and you weren't let back in. But at least we could backtrack from room to room. However, once you left for the giftshop, that was the end of your stay in the galleries.
I think by the time we left we were practically on first name basis with the guards! They noticed us coming back repeatedly, and THEY asked US questions about the costumes and the movies, and we told them all we knew! Apparently, they weren't Star War fans, but they really enjoyed our geeky passion for the GFFA and got a big chuckle over it. We just plainly told them we were big geeks. (Better to admit the obvious, eh?)
We spent an hour in the shop, too, and got to meet with the students of FIDM we told them how lucky they were! Some of them put the costumes on display, but most were not fans of the GFFA (although they admired and respected the costuming displayed here). One guy was a big fan, thought, and actually went to C3 in Indianapolis, costumed as a fighter pilot. Too bad he didn't meet Jedi Jen there with her Padmé costume.
For those of us who made the trek, going to Los Angeles was a dream, and the exhibition itself was breathtaking! We took so many pictures, and not all of them made it to this report, only the ones which "came out" best not being able to use a flash in the darkened rooms is very limiting, but here are some of our photos and notes from our wanderings through the galleries:
In the weeks leading up to this exhibition, the costumes made a big, big splash at the start of New York City's "Fashion Week," the annual event that kicks off the fashion "season" for models and merchandisers. George Lucas himself attended the catwalk-centered display of Biggar's costumery at the Ziegfield Theater in NYC's theatre district. Models walked, swirled, posed ... and yet these models were no Padmé Amidala. For those fans who attended, it was all about the costumes, so the lack of Natalie Portman in those dresses was forgiven. But for those fans were are pure GFFA wonks, it was kind of poignant; the fanfic-wise among us started thinking ... is this a show that Vader would have viewed privately, from his many trunks of his former wife's finery? (See, anything turns into fanfic!)
We had so much fun going to L.A. every aspect of it and we wish we could go back again. The FIDM was the highlight of the trip, but we tried to do the tourist thing too. We walked everywhere we could, took a bus tour, and we even took the subway to Hollywood and walked around on Hollywood Boulevard.
We really didn't stay in the best part of town (big cities are expensive!) but the hotel we stayed in was nice, but there were no places to eat close-by. We stayed in the fashion district to be close to the FIDM, of course, and were able to walk to it and the fashion district to shop. Next time, we will rent a car, now that we have a sense of this big, big town!
It was a splendid exhibition, and kudos to FIDM for doing such a good job with the displays. And many, many thanks to George Lucas for pushing forward the idea of honoring the costuming crews for these wonderful movies! Trisha Biggar may not have won any Oscars, and shame on them for overlooking her skill and genius. In our galaxy here at home, Biggar rocks!
Website images (left column) from starwars.fidm.edu
Book image from amazon.com
Photos of Princess Anne's wedding dress from theroyalforum.com
Photo of Princess Leia Organa from starwars.com
All other images, PadawanRose & JediJen
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