Empire’s new clothes link ‘Sith’ to original ‘Star Wars’

Designer Biggar appreciates technology's impact on costuming

A long time ago, the “Star Wars” galaxy was a far simpler place. With “Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith,” costume designer Trisha Biggar faced the unique task of bridging George Lucas’ three prequels to the landmark 1977 film — a transition that came down to the moment Anakin Skywalker becomes black-helmeted Darth Vader.

Biggar remembers the filming of Vader’s sleek black costume and iconic mask. “Even for the crew it was a big moment,” she says. “The set was swarming with people who’d sneaked inside.”

Whereas Vader’s original helmet had to be hand-sculpted and was therefore never perfectly symmetrical, Biggar’s team used computers to design — and modify — the version that appears in “Sith.”

“Everybody thinks Darth hasn’t changed over the years, but distinct variations have been made to the costume,” she says. “I wanted Darth to have a newly ‘machined’ look because this is the first time Anakin is embodied in this costume.”

Having worked on all three prequels, Biggar appreciates technology’s impact on costuming. The textures of her fabrics became especially evident when Lucas shot them in hi-def.

She also faced the challenges of creating costumes that ILM could approximate for CG characters. “We’d provide fabric, and ILM would gamely replicate things like fringing. But then they got so good at cloth simulation they didn’t need references!”

In another nod to the original trilogy, “Sith” features a cameo by one of the series’ most popular alien races. “We’d never been to the Wookie planet before,” says Biggar, who designed their armor and bandoliers. “I sourced various synthetic fur samples, and we designed a color palette for the Wookies.”

Throughout “Sith,” Biggar took pains to presage Luke Skywalker’s and Princess Leia’s comparatively modest fashions from “Episode IV.” “We tried to visually link the costumes, using similar types of fabrics and leg wraps,” she says. “We even had Leia’s ‘doughnut’ hairdo on Padme when she tells Anakin she’s pregnant. It was great fun to add details that ‘Star Wars’ fans would notice!”

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