As shown in Brandon Alinger’s new book Star Wars Costumes: The Original Trilogy (out Oct. 28), the characters of Star Wars are as memorable for their personalities and one-liners as they are for their looks. But even among the sterling costume work in the original trilogy, Darth Vader’s imposing figures stands out among the rest. His all-black and silver suit, cloak, and helmet from A New Hope combine to create one of the most formidable foes in film history. Original concept artist Ralph McQuarrie based Vader’s helmet on those of samurai warriors, though Lucas’s original explanation to McQuarrie was that Vader needed a dramatic hat of some sort. Interestingly, only one helmet was made for the filming process, even though normally several versions of costumes are kept on hand in such a production.
Costume designer John Mollo took the Empire Strikes Back screenplay’s description of Yoda to design a character who wore a ”heavily broken-down version of Ben Kenobi’s costume.” An outfit was created for each of the multiple Yoda puppets used on set, with shirts attached by Velcro and snaps to prevent them from falling off. One oversized costume was made for 4’4” actor Deep Roy, who appears in the only scene where Yoda is shown walking.
Simple yet memorable, Obi-wan ”Ben” Kenobi’s costume from A New Hope was originally meant to be a cross between the garb of samurai warriors and monks. The original designs, with many more accessories, were scaled back when Alec Guinness signed on for the role. Lucas wanted Kenobi’s costume to look owned and used, so the designers undertook the process of making the suit look lived in, with one final touch from the actor—Guinness would roll around in the desert sand before a day of shooting to give the costume authentic grime. The final look for his character would become the template for all future Jedi designs.
Leia wore a number of iconic outfits throughout the original trilogy—her original white robes, her outfit as a slave in Jabba the Hutt’s palace—but one of her most interesting is one in which you can’t see her face. Her bounty hunter disguise from Return of the Jedi, known as Boussh, came from the design of director Joe Johnston. The most difficult piece to bring to life was the helmet, with its strange shape, so it remained open in the back with a leather enclosing to make sure Carrie Fisher could easily remove it.
The Chewie suit Peter Mayhew wore in A New Hope came in three general pieces—the face, the feet, and a full body suit. Complete with its signature bandolier, the wookiee suit was created by the film’s costume department while the face actually came from the creature shop. It was designed to translate Mayhew’s mouth movements into realistic expressions. And that face’s inspiration? A mixture of a dog and a cat, of course.
Originally referred to as ”Calamari man” in the creature shop, Ackbar has become an online phenomenon. Two versions of the costume had to be created for Return of the Jedi to accurately capture the character. The first was a full-body costume worn when Ackbar needs to stand or walk around. The second employed a puppet head for close-up shots so it could be more easily manipulated, and its jumpsuit cut off at the waist with extra openings for puppeteers to control his webbed hands.
The bounty hunter Boba Fett had four lines of dialogue in his initial appearance, but he became a fan favorite character in no small part thanks to his iconic look. The Fett costume went through an elongated production process, with several iterations leading to the formidable figure fans know and love. But before it could be complete, George Lucas felt it was missing something, so he tied a Star Wars beach towel around Fett’s shoulders. It would later be replaced with the character’s familiar green cape.
The most striking aspect of the Jawas is their shrouded faces. Covering the faces of the actors—who were mostly children of the production staff—with a black stocking, light bulbs were wired on in place of eyes to give the little guys their mysterious look in A New Hope. The Jawas don’t appear too often in the original trilogy, but their simple yet effective design makes for one of the more memorable alien species who pop up in a galaxy far, far away.