Textile History Geekery: Historical Inspiration for Amidala

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The new Star Wars Episode VII trailer got me thinking back to the prequels and their costuming. I remember being initially impressed by Queen/Senator Amidala’s garb. Especially after Leia’s rather Spartan wardrobe, the lavish fabrics and colors on Padmé were a joy to watch.

Several Amidala’s outfits have historical inspiration, but two such forebears stand out. Other people have made the connection between Mongolian Khalkha people’s traditional wear and Queen Amidala’s Episode I Senate gown before me, but finding a gorgeous museum-preserved historical exemplar reminded me of it. In the comparison below, on the left is the museum piece and on the right Amidala’s gown, complete with headdress.

Khalkh Amidala Collage

Left: Khalkha (or Halh) garb from Mongolia; National Museum of Mongolia. Right: Queen Amidala’s Senate dress, Star Wars Episode I; Scott Shingler Photography. Collage by Eppu Jensen.

These outfits are very similar indeed. Details vary, but the general shape is the same, as is the hairdo, the braid sheaths, the chains hanging from the skull cap flanking the face, even down to the two makeup dots on the cheeks under Amidala’s eyes (not visible on the doll), and the concept of wide robe sleeve cuffs. (Rebels Haven has a side-by-side comparison of a historical photo and concept art that makes the similarities even clearer.)

The Wikipedia article on Padmé lists another historical model, this one from Episode II. A costume ball dress for Russian Grand Duchess Xenia Alexandrovna with a kokoshnik headdress is said to have inspired Padmé’s refugee dress.

Alexandrovna Amidala Collage

Left: Grand Duchess Xenia Alexandrovna of Russia in a 1903 costume ball outfit; Wikimedia. Right: Queen Amidala’s refugee dress, Star Wars Episode II; via Rebels Haven. Collage by Eppu Jensen.

I thought I also noticed that, in The Phantom Menace, Amidala’s costumes predicted reasonably accurately what kind of a scene she was to be in: complicated and layered meant talk, relatively pared-down and pragmatic meant action. It turned out I was wrong, but not entirely. While the two most comfortable-looking costumes – the blue and grey Tatooine outfit and the maroon battle uniform – get the most screen time and the most vigorous activity (and most pants), Padmé does do a lot of static activities (standing around and talking) in both. The elaborate, courtly dresses are reserved exclusively for scenes with discussion, or, at most, stately walk. There are fewer outfits that dominate in terms of screen time in both Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith; the closest match is the Geonosis arena suit.

Other Amidala outfits from Episodes II and III that make my historical-dress-Spidey-sense tingle include the blue embroidered Tatooine dress plus several of her Senatorial dresses with their corset-like bodices and wide hems and sleeves. My favorite is probably this:

Rebels Haven Amidala loyalist

Senator Amidala’s loyalist committee dress, Star Wars Episode II; via Rebels Haven.

The deep purplish-blue loyalist committee dress is seriously gorgeous. The streamlined Tudor profile is elegant, the robe sleeves nod to medieval sleeves (perhaps there’s even a hint of kimono sleeve design?) and the embellishments add to, not overwhelm, the whole.

Any favorites you’d like to mention?

Collected source info:

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