Clothing a Galactic Senator

NOV / DEC 2016: BY SCARLETT GRANT

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The Era of the Old Republic was a time of opulence and decadence before the Clone Wars and the beginning of the Galactic Empire. The prequels displayed a galaxy of amazing fashion choices and options. So who else better to pick than Padme Amidala? The former Princess of Theed and Queen of Naboo, who later became the Senator for Naboo. If magazines like Vogue, i-D, and Dazed & Confused existed on Coruscant, Senator Amidala would have always made the cover of them. So this article is going to honor some of her most famous outfits and the possible inspirations behind them.

geisha1Trisha Biggar was the costume designer on all three prequel films and responsible for creating the visual presentation of Padme. The first time we see Padme is in her traditional Nabooian Queen attire. With her large elaborate hairstyle, heavy makeup and cumbersome dress, Padme comes off as cold and distant. Although it is obvious that the inspirations for the Queen’s came from the east, as evidenced by her use of the color red. In Chinese culture the color symbolizes luck and happiness, whereas in Japan it is used traditionally to symbolize a heroic figure, and in India is the traditional color of a wedding dress (or sari). Also, the previously mentioned heavy makeup would most likely be inspired by the Japanese Geisha.

But another less obvious influence for Amidala is the Nepalese Kumari. The Kumari (also known as living goddesses) are part of a Hindu tradition in which a young girl is worshiped as an embodiment of the divine female energy. In the expanded canon it is revealed that the Naboo often elected young girls as Monarchs, as they believed they imparted wisdom adults could not. This could be another reason why Amidala in her traditional royal clothing looks so distant and almost supernatural. Another dress depicting a clear Asian influence is the outfit Padme wears when she is addressing the Senate. In this scene the clothing she is wearing is similar to what was worn by the Mongolian Empress Dondogdulam (1876 – 1923) and other women at the Mongolian Imperial Court.

When Amidala leaves her position as Queen and becomes a Senator, her clothing becomes far less rigid and adopts a more Western or European appearance. As she and Anakin are traveling to Naboo in Episode II, the disguise Padme is wearing was modelling off of a picture taken of Grand Duchess Xenia Alexandrovna of Russia (1875 – 1960) dressed in a traditional 17th Century Russian outfit at the 1903 Romanov Imperial Ball. After arriving on Naboo and entering her seclusion, Padme changes into an Grecian inspired yellow to lilac ombre halterneck. Even though this dress still looks obviously science fiction it still wouldn’t look out of place in contemporary fashion.

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Later on when Padme and Anakin are having a picnic, Padme wears a dress which I see as an Art Nouveau interpretation of an Italian Renaissance woman. Although the bright golden colours, delicate flower decoration and long flowing hair can be found on any Art Nouveau poster, when looking at the outfit in detail the Renaissance aspects seem to appear. For example, although Padme’s hair is generally loose it is tied up with ribbon at the back as well as being in small buns on the side. During the Renaissance many married women discarded veils and began to wear their hair in elaborate braids and styles whilst unmarried women still wore their hair loose. Likewise, the shape of Padme’s dress is also important, although she is shoulderless, she still has full sleeves and whilst there is a clear sign of a corset bodice, it is still loose fitting and not restrictive like many later European fashions.

Also the wardrobe was meant to reflective key elements of the films, so while in Episode II we see Padme in bright and light colored outfits. By the time we get to Episode III, Padme and reveals she is pregnant she begins to wear dark, heavy long robes with an empire line cut. Though these clothing choices are necessary to hide her pregnancy from the public, the outfits also again reflect the atmosphere and impending events to happen in the film.

amidala3The very last time we see Padme is in her own funeral dress. The blue color, needlework and fabric make it seems as though Padme is merely floating in a stream. With her hair loose and floating too, there are many similarities between Padme’s funeral scene and the death of Ophelia in Hamlet. In particular with the famous painting by John Everett Millais, simply entitled Ophelia (1852). Even with regards to her death and last few moments with Anakin have similarities with Ophelia and her relationship with Hamlet. As throughout the film, although initially happy in her forbidden relationship with Anakin, Padme becomes increasingly concerned and alienated by the person Anakin is becoming. As she attempts to cope with Anakin’s change in personality this ultimately destroys her so badly emotionally that it results in her death.

Whereas, in the original trilogy the characters barely change clothes – and in the case of Han Solo never, Padme changes clothing almost every scene. Biggar stated that originally Padme was only going to have a few changes but that “(George) Lucas decided that every time we saw her (Padme) she was going to have a different costume.” Lucas also explains that naturally “Someone of that stature would automatically be changing their costumes to fit the occasion”. Senator Amidala with her elegance and refinement not only constantly defended the Old Republic, but she also personified it too. Which, somewhat fittingly and saddening was destined to crumble after her death.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Scarlett Grant is a young graduate trying to step into the real world. When she’s not writing for Femnista, she’s focusing on her own blog: Thoughts in 500 Words. She is also an amateur history buff, with other interests in art, film, languages, music and writing.

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2 Replies to “Clothing a Galactic Senator”

  1. Wow, fascinating! When I was a kid and “Phantom Menace” had only just come out, I thought Padme’s costumes (especially her red robes) were the strangest thing I had ever, EVER seen–but after reading this, it all makes more sense.

    Like

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