“Star Wars” fans can fuel their building excitement for the next film in the epic series, due out in December, by checking out some of costumes used in the previous films now on display at Experience Music Project in Seattle.
The exhibit, “Rebel, Jedi, Princess, Queen: Star Wars and the Power of the Costume,” features almost 60 hand-crafted costumes used in the first six “Star Wars” films. Using nine “chapters,” the exhibit unveils the creative process that led from conceptual drawings to the final creations worn in the iconic films.
“It spans all the films, new to old,” said Jacob McMurray, senior curator at EMP. “Looking at the costumes, it takes you back to when you saw that film, and weaving that into my memories of the films.”
The displays include two dresses worn by Natalie Portman in “Attack of the Clones” that have never been shown publicly before this exhibit. There also is the armor worn by Boba and Jango Fett, the towering Chewbacca (the fur is part yak and part mohair), a stormtrooper and Jedi robes worn by characters Qui-Gon Jinn, Mace Windu and Obi-Wan Kenobi.
A fun touch is the Yoda puppet, the first thing you see as you climb the steps to the exhibit. On loan from Seattle collector Gus Lopez, the somewhat crude puppet used by Frank Oz and Mark Hamill to rehearse lines from “The Empire Strikes Back” and practice the characters’ interactions.
The costume exhibit is a joint effort between the museum, the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service and Lucasfilm.
“Lucasfilm Archives was so diligent in saving and preserving the legacy of ‘Star Wars,’ ” McMurray said.
In addition to the costumes, visitors also can use tablets filled with sketches, photographs, original notes, and audio and video interviews that detail how each costume came to be. Flat-screen televisions display videos of actors, designers and Lucas talking about all that goes into creating movie costumes.
The orange costume Hamill wore as an X-wing fighter pilot in “Return of the Jedi,” as an example, was based on the flight suits worn by U.S. Navy pilots from 1957-69. A number of costumes wore by Portman were influenced by African and Asian cultures. The Jedi robes worn by Anakin Skywalker get darker as he grows older and closer to becoming Darth Vader.
An information panel explains how not every idea was a success. The original shirt to be worn by Harrison Ford as Han Solo had a Peter Pan-style shawl collar. “I said, ‘No, no no. That’s wrong. Can’t wear that,’ ” Ford is quoted as saying. The collar was promptly removed.
The Seattle museum is the first on what is to be a 12-stop tour that will run through 2020. The exhibit will be in Seattle through early October.
McMurray said the museum jumped at the opportunity to host the exhibit. He said the Puget Sound’s “nerdy culture,” fueled by the tech and gaming industries, helps create a large pool of “Star Wars” fans.
He compared the costume contest to the white Stratocaster guitar used by Jimi Hendrix at Woodstock. Instead of an art museum telling visitors that a piece is important, items like the guitar and the “Star Wars” costumes are well known to their respective fans.
“It has its own mojo. Just like that guitar, the exhibit is celebrating what people already love,” McMurray said.
“We’re so psyched to be the inaugural venue, especially with the new movie coming out later this year,” McMurray said. “The ‘Star Wars’ influence over multiple generations will continue for years to come.”