Review: Star Wars Costumes: The Original Trilogy

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Star Wars Costumes: The Original Trilogy

Written by: Brandon Alinger
Photos by: Joseph McDonald

Brandon Alinger’s Star Wars Costumes: The Original Trilogy is about more than just what costumes were worn in the original Star Wars movies.  Included are stories about the making of the film, the design process, the art direction, the people who worked on the film and the history behind these iconic costumes.  These are the untold stories of the original trilogy.

It’s hard to discuss this book without first acknowledging J.W. Rinzler’s Making of books and Trisha Biggar’s Dressing a Galaxy, which focused on the costumes of the prequel trilogy.  Alinger’s book compliments and adds to the knowledge of those books.

The book opens with forewords by John Mollo, costume designer for A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back, Aggie Rodgers and Nilo Rodis-Jamero, co-credited costume designers for Return of the Jedi.  Each one tells an interesting story of how they first met George Lucas and became part of the crew building the galaxy far, far away.  It’s interesting to read their stories of Lucas’ vision for the movies, and how his vision changed over time, especially during the production of A New Hope.  Each one of them played a crucial role in refining his vision and making it a reality.

The book is broken up into three sections, one for each film.  The costumes are presented in an approximation of when the costumes and characters first appeared on screen.  The costumes are detailed with a full page photograph of the costume modeled on a mannequin, and a written description going into the design process, construction, behind the scenes anecdotes, and how the character’s costume evolved over the course of the trilogy.

As a costumer myself, I was immediately studying the photographs for details and spent the better part of an evening just going through the book page by page looking at the gorgeous layouts for each costume.

Nearly every costume that had any kind of significant screen time is presented here, from the major heroes like Han, Luke and Leia to the various costumes of the Empire to the denizens of Jabba’s Palace.  Special gatefolds give more detail on Darth Vader, Boba Fett and Princess Leia’s slave outfit.  It’s interesting that there is almost no mention of the Special Edition or any of the later changes to the films.  The book’s focus is primarily on the original production for the films from 1975-1983.

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Between the costumes there are spotlights on particular crew members.  This sheds even more light on the behind the scenes production and crew, showcasing those members who normally are just another name in a long list of credits.  It’s nice to see those individuals get the recognition for their contributions.

The book is a large coffee table sized book with a heavy paper weight that works well with the large photographs.  The photos are all well shot on a neutral background with good lighting for seeing all the details.  Along with the new photographs are publicity stills and production photos to show them as they were on set.  I did have two pages stick together, but it was minor and did not appear to be a printing error.

This book is a must buy for anyone interested in Star Wars costuming, as well as those interested in the making of the saga.  As a 501st member and costumer I’ve studied many of the costumes of the Star Wars saga in detail, I found new details here and learned new things about the history behind the costumes.

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