'The Phantom Menace' fails the fashion test
Don't expect to see style-conscious women lining up to get the Natalie Portman look -- it's old news, fashionistas tell EW Online
Comparing the fashions of ”The Phantom Menace” with the costumes from the first ”Star Wars” episodes, it looks like George Lucas has embraced his inner Mizrahi. While Princess Leia had to shlump around in a drab robe for three movies (pausing briefly to shake her Force-maker in a bikini from Swimwear by Jabba), ”Menace”’s Princess Amidala gets at least four costume changes in one film, donning handwoven dresses that combine 17th-century European elements with a Far East look and topping it off with intricate and precarious headgear. But as visionary as Lucas may be with his spaceship designs, many fashion insiders say that they’ve already seen his fashions a long, long time ago in a galaxy that’s right, right here. ”There’s nothing there that I haven’t seen on a Givenchy or Vivienne Westwood runway,” says Jeanne Beker, host of Fashion Television.
With her floor-length gowns, gold-topped headgear, and white face makeup, Natalie Portman is going for a Geisha look — an approach that’s been popping up over the past two years, highlighted by Madonna in her ”Nothing Really Matters” video. The English designer Westwood also had a Geisha in her runway show last winter, and even had her models wear a thin strip of lipstick, similar to the way Portman has her top lip entirely covered in red, but only a tiny vertical slash of color across the bottom.
But there’s more than just Geisha in Lucas’ princess. ”It’s this combination of part Geisha, part ‘Blade Runner,’ and part club kid,” says Hal Rubenstein, fashion director for InStyle magazine. ”It’s a clever amalgam, it’s like Jello 1, 2, 3. Put it together and have an instant fashion take.”
Lucas’s costume designer, Trisha Biggar, may not surprise any of the runway veterans, but her final products are probably unique to many people. Yet even with the endless popularity of all things ”Star Wars,” women aren’t likely to be heading to Bloomingdale’s demanding the Amidala Look. ”No woman who works or has to clean up baby spittle is ever gonna put this stuff on, because it just ain’t happening,” says Rubenstein about the elaborate outfits. ”It’s an incredibly aseptic and asexual look. We’re entering this whole time of clothes being cushy, feely, smoothy, and everyone wanting to be warm, happy, and fuzzy. These clothes are absolutely antithetical to that idea.”
Putting the space duds aside, Portman’s makeup approach doesn’t fare much better. ”I don’t think teenagers in malls across America are going to start powdering their faces white and wearing red lipstick,” says Katherine Betts, fashion news director for Vogue, which featured Amidala’s look in a spread last month called ”Star Wars Couture.” ”But that’s kind of a Goth thing anyway, isn’t it?”
Still, the delicate albino look does have its supporters. ”I’ve got a 12-year-old daughter, and I can see her going to that movie and thinking that was cool,” says Beker, adding with a laugh, ”I just hope my mother doesn’t start wearing it.” Would she rather see Mom paint her face like Darth Maul?
Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace