Saturday, September 4, 2010

The Phantom Menace

I'm going to start a three part series on Padmé's clothes in Star Wars. Who knows? I might branch out to include Leia's as well, based on readers' interest.
We'll begin where we should all the beginning. The Phantom Menace.


The Throne Room Gown~"I will not condone a course of action that will lead us to war."

The Phantom Menace: As a young monarch, Amidala often finds others underestimating her abilities. As a sign of her commitment to her people and her capacity to rule Naboo, she wears extremely formal, regal robes. The size of her gowns make her appear larger and the make-up hides her youth. While sitting in state, Amidala wears a magnificent crimson dress, a color which is a traditional symbol of royal authority. The gown is accented with gold embroidery and shed potolli fur cuffs, and seven sein jewels illuminated by plasma gas circle the hem. The escoffiate headpiece provides gold faceframes to border Amidala's face, and the famous Jewel of Zenda rests on her forehead to complete her traditional Naboo look. In this striking gown, Amidala is an image of majesty, strength, and honesty.
Design: For all of the Queen's gowns, Iain McCaig designed costumes with the ability to disguise Natalie Portman. "Because we were going to have one actress playing a duel role in the film, we had to design costumes for her as the Queen that would serve to hide her identity." The complexity and size of the dress, however, lead to a difficult, involved construction. McCaig suggested to George Lucas that they design a dress with 'lanterns' in it, and while Lucas responded skeptically, he allowed the dress to be attempted. Consequently, for eight weeks and for a cost of $60,000 the costuming department strived to make this dress work. Construction began with an undergarment shaped like an ice-cream cone that was fitted perfectly to Natalie Portman. Several layers of canvas were needed to not only maintain the bell shape, but to support the weight of the wires and lights connected to the batteries necessary to light-up the dress. And while the costume was originally going to be velvet, lighting issues mandated a change to silk. The headdress was a complex construction as well. Intricate gold work covered the headdress while vintage red lace was used as an overlay on the blade-shaped side panels. Similar to the Eastern influence of many of the other TPM gowns, Trisha Biggar felt this ensemble had a "a sort of Chinese Imperial feel."
My Thoughts: This is my personal favorite Queen Amidala gown. I love the deep red color, and the headdress is also very queenly and regal.

Escape From Naboo~"I will plead our case before the Senate."

The Phantom Menace: When the Trade Federation invades Naboo, Queen Amidala disguises herself as the handmaiden Padmé and her brave decoy Sabé plays the role of queen. To be convincing in her role, Sabé imitates the queen's speech and bearing, as well as donning Amidala's complex wardrobe and make-up. On Naboo, clothing is a form of subtle expression, and each of the Queen's symbolic gowns conveys a message about the state of Naboo and its people. Therefore, for her capture and subsequent escape, Sabé wears a somber travel robe of intricate lace accented with the symbol of Naboo royalty. It is a rainment of protest, showing Naboo's opposition to the invasion. The immense feather headress, complete with filigree and gemstone ear coverings, helps to make the petite handmaiden seem more imposing and formidable.
Design: When designing the queen's gowns, Iain McCaig got very frustrated and scribbled all over one drawing. Looking at it, he found the scribbles made an interesting pattern, and the Escape from Naboo gown was born. And while this dress is incredibly impressive, it was also incredibly time-consuming. It was constructed from a "spider-web" fabric that took one person working ten hours a day, five days a week over a month to make. The lace pattern was first hand-embroidered onto a thin piece of special fabric that was then submerged. The fabric dissolved in water, leaving only the extraordinary stitching. Each panel of the gown was then sewn onto another panel leaving no seams. The back panel was decorated with vintage jet black beading as well. All this amazing dedication and attention to detail is apparent when one sees this gorgeous dress, and any of Amidala's other gowns, come alive on screen.
My Thoughts: This dress is a bit over the top in its headdress. :) But I do love the jewel chain across the Queen's forehead.

Flame Gown~"We are brave, Your Highness."

The Phantom Menace: When her life is threatened, Amidala becomes Padmé, the handmaiden. With the ability to remove the Queen's identifying make-up and extravagant gowns, Padmé can easily and discretly complete her transformation from Queen to vigilant bodyguard and blend in with the other handmaidens. The five handmaidens don robes of soft trevella cloth colored with vibrant spectra-fade dye. The oversleeves of the gown are done in classic Naboo style and the hood masks the identities of the handmaidens, so Padmé can travel incognito. With the Queen in a sobre black dress, the handmaidens in their flame gowns provide a startling and beautiful contrast.
Design: While the Queen wore amazinginly complex costumes, the handmaidens' costumes were kept relatively simple. As Trisha Biggar explains: "We tried to keep the handmaidens in vertical costumes, with the Queen wearing all kinds of big diagonals and drapery to make her seem bigger than life -- and her handmaidens small and petite." What the Queen was wearing was always kept in mind while designing the handmaiden's gowns, so they would accentuate, not dominate, the Queen.
The Flame Gown was one of the more time-intensive handmaiden costumes. The gowns were originally constructed from while silk and vicose velvet, and each had to be fitted multiple times to the actresses. They were worked on till they were nearly complete, and then taken apart completely. The costumes were then dyed in small pieces, so when the handmaidens stood together, the color levels aligned; this also regulated the amount of dye used throughout the costumes. The gowns were dyed using a technique called ombré dyeing, meaning they were dyed from dark to light, from deep orange to pale yellow. The sleeves, hoods, and sashes were made from a bias-cut red silk crepe. The sleeves were trimmed with antique guipure lace designs dyed to match.
My Thoughts: This is my favorite handmaiden gown. My future bridesmaids (or handmaidens) will be wearing dresses inspired by these. Without the hoods. ;)

Tatooine Peasant

The Phantom Menace: When Qui-Gon Jinn goes to Mos Espa, he is accompanied by Queen Amidala, disguised as Padmé, who wants to keep an eye on the notoriously unorthodox Jedi. To remain inconspicuous, Padmé wears a typcial Tatooine peasant outfit of rough-spun cloth with leg and arm bindings to keep out the sand. To complete her disguise, she wears her hair in plain braids and as her only ornament, she wears a red glass jewel of no value on her belt.
Design: In contrast to the rich and vibrant fabrics used for Amidala's royal gowns, Padmé's peasant disguise was made from more basic, earthy materials, such as the hemp-and-linen-mix fabric used for the tunic.
My Thoughts: I love her hair like this. So beautiful, yet simple at the same time. It brings out Padmé's true beauty.

The Pre-Senate Gown~"We must do something quickly to stop the Federation."

The Phantom Menace: After a period disguised as a handmaiden, Queen Amidala resumes her normal status and dress to meet with Senator Palpatine. She wears an elegant gown set off by an intricate Shiraya headress of Veda pearl beading and glass filaments designed especially for her.
Design: The beautiful pearls and blown-glass beads of the headress was originally from the skirt of a 1920's exotic dancer. For the gown itself, Biggar used the design of a typical Japanese kimono, though she significantly accentuated the sleeves. Due to their roundness and resemblance to the artic animal, she began calling them "penguin sleeves." For the complex stiching on these sleeves, both hand embroidery and machine embroidery were utilized.
My Thoughts: My sister and I call this the "Broom Dress". I love the colors, the style, and the beads on the headdress.

The Senate Gown~"I was not elected to watch my people suffer and die."

The Phantom Menace: The appeal to the Senate is the last orthodox action Amidala can take to save her people. Consequently, she appears in all her glory to address the august body of delegates and plead for their help. Her magnificent gown is designed to showcase the majesty of Naboo, as well as to help Amidala remain courageous when faced with the most trying and most important speech of her career. Her gown is a thick red velvet with embossed rosettes on the body of the dress and golden, triple-braided soutache on the cuffs of the sleeves and on the collar. The imposing headdress binds her hair into a severe form with golden hairbands, while finial hairtip ornaments balance the headpiece. Intricate suspenas of orichalc finework parallel the ornaments and border Amidala's face. Directly on top of the Queen's head rests the Royal Sovereign of Naboo medal, a constant reminder of who she is and the power she wields. When she addresses the Senate, Amidala chooses to wear a large black cloak over the gown.
Design: "She lives on a beautiful, lush planet; so we looked at flowers for inspiration. But because she is a queen, we wanted costumes that would also be imposing. We researched Mongolain and Tibetan costumes, styles that aggrandize the person- and I found the more outrageous it got, the better." No other gown demonstrates Iain McCaig's principle behind the Queen's gowns better than this one.
The gown was incredibly expensive and time-consuming, made up of three complex layers. The underdress was made from a seventy year-old vintage orange-shot-gold silk taffeta with a green weave. It was constructed with layers of sharply sunray-pleated panels. The pleats were designed to catch the light whenever Amidala moved, an effect enhanced by antique beaded lace pieces. The most beautiful and most visible layer, the middle red robe, was made of red and green shot silk velvet with bronze metallic embroidery and ruched yoke and hem panels. A special technique added depth and texture to the robe. The lining of the robe was orange silk taffeta overlaid with gold metallic organza. At the cuffs and collar, this lining is visible and it was further decorated with seed pearls and gold braid made from a stitching process known as trapunto. Small tubes were stitched into a design, and then thread was injected into the tubes to create a padded effect. A time-consuming project, it took one person a week to do the trapunto. The final layer, the outer robe, was faux fur with shoulders padded into a pyramid shape and lined with red silk.
Though magnificent on its own, the gown would be incomplete without the unbelievable headdress. Its base was a close-fitting metallic gold cap; using an electo-forming technique, it was constructed from copper and then plated in real gold. Petite colored jewels and filigree details completed the incredibly heavy, expensive, uncomfortable - and yet stunning - headdress.
My Thoughts: It's big. :) This is also the perfect gown for this scene. It shows off Naboo's power, and it is very easy for Padmé to hide her true self, which was scared to death at the moment.

The Post-Senate Gown~"My fate will be no different than that of our people."

The Phantom Menace: After her discouraging meeting with the Senate, Queen Amidala wears a dark gown symbolizing not only the gravity of her current situation on Coruscant, but also her seperation from Naboo and the perils facing her planet. The gown is made of Cyrene silk, and the beaded motifs are antiques, taken from the an earlier queen's gown from 240 years prior. For grandeur, the gown sweeps past Amidala's feet and has large oversleeves in the Naboo fashion. Her hairstyle is less formal than that of other gowns, however, consisting of merely a foreknot and two suspensas draping her face. Amidala also wears this dress a second time, when meeting the new Supreme Chancellor.
Design: Originally in TPM, the Queen was only supposed to have three dresses, until George Lucas increased the number so that Amidala would be seen in a new gown in nearly every scene. For some of the shorter scenes, however, one of her previous dresses was utilized again. This costume is one of them. Made of black fringed silk and cut chenille with panne velvet rouleau and lined in gray shot-silk taffeta, this gown was seen in both the Post-Senate scene and Palpatine's arrival on Naboo. And as in the Star Wars universe, the beadwork on this gown is antique, dating back to the 1910s. However, Trisha Biggar was unsure exactly what the beadwork was from, whether is be a dress or something else. "We think it was a dress, but it was in so many pieces we weren't sure what it was." Regardless of where they got the beads from, Biggar's team was able to transform them into beautiful embroidered designs.
My Thoughts: This dress is beautiful in itself. My only question is, "Why didn't they finish putting the makeup on?"

Return to Naboo~"I will take back what's ours."

The Phantom Menace: While traveling back to Naboo, Amidala wears this purple mutlilayered gown, complete with full cerlin sleeves. The golden tiara she wears is an antique adorned with the royal emblem, and her veil is made of mauve chersilk with Drapa bindings. Amidala also wears this subdued gown for Qui-Gon Jinn's funeral.
Design: This beautiful gown consists of two layers. The first is a purple paneled velvet overdress, with a discharge-printed allover Naboo pattern. The second layer is a pleated silk undress, which was worn over layered, stiffened petticoats. The sleeves of the gown also consist of two layers. The inner sleeves are finger-length and corded, while the outer sleeves are petal-shaped and made from shot-silk chiffon satin. Chiffon was also utilized for the veils.
My Thoughts: I really like purple, and the purple on the headdress is just beautiful.

Battle Dress~"Now, Viceroy, we'll discuss a new treaty."

The Phantom Menace: The handmaidens' battle ensemble possesses not only the elegence and beauty of all the Queen's gowns, but also the functionality required for battle. The outfit is made of a heavy woven cloth with special energy-absorbing fibers that act as protection against blaster fire. The high collar hides a blast-absorbing pad, and the calf-length coat protects the legs while permitting easy motion. The leather boots provide high-traction and the hair is pulled back securely to prevent distractions. The Naboo royal emblem decorates the belt.
My Thoughts: I love seeing a girl in a dress or skirt whenever I can. I think it's wonderful that the handmaidens are dressed in a skirt for battle.

The Parade Gown

The Phantom Menace: For the celebration following the defeat of the Trade Federation, Queen Amidala is able to wear a less formal gown than her normal robes of office. The simple white dress is symbolic of the peace that has been found and it is adorned only by Naboo royal emblems down the front. The silk petals of the cape are made to resemble large flowers grown near Amidala's home village. These special flowers blossom only once in 88 years, so their appearance marks a special occasion. The impressive fan behind the dress is an acknowledegment of the past, as the ancient royal fashion represents continuity among the Naboo. For simplicity, Amidala wears minimal jewelry, as only the Royal Diadem hangs on her forehead.
Design: For the film's finale, George Lucas wanted a dress that would represent the celebration occuring around the Queen. According to Trisha Biggar, "It had to be very light and beautfiul with the feeling of a wedding dress. George also liked a drawing Iain McCaig had done that showed a very large, unusual collar at the back of the dress." Iain McCaig would say of this dress, "For that purpose, I designed a parasol-like collar that almost makes her look like an angel." The Parade Gown was sewn and dyed completely by hand, including all the approximately 250 petals of the cape, though the dress was only used for two days of filming. The delicate headdress was a vintage latticework with multi-faceted jewels suspended on silver chains.
My Thoughts: This is another one of my favorite gowns. I LOVE it! The silver filigree work for the forehead decoration is what I want for my wedding to hold my veil on. If you would like to see a picture, let me know and I'll get it on here.


  1. I love the parade gown. :3
    Another thing I think we'll see will be how her outfits change as the movies go on. They look even more mature in the next, and not to mention we start getting into the parts where she gets a tad bit immodest.


  2. Good Idea! I love the parade gown, and also the peasant outfit. I'd love to see the Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith outfits too. Well written!

  3. Good to "see" you, Jedi~Chick! :D

    I have FINALLY decided that my favorite Phantom Menace dresses are The Throne Room, The Peaseant Outfit, and The Parade Gown.
    I'm going to choose three from each movie. :D


  4. Not the Peasant. I couldn't even spell last night, either. **rolls eyes**
    My favorites are Throne Room, Flame Handmaiden, and Parade Gown.


  5. My favorites! It's so hard to decide! She just looks beautiful and regal no matter what she wears. But my favorites would have to be the the Flame Gown, the Battle Dress, and the Parade Gown.


  6. I agree with what you said about the battle dress, Padme.


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