Our little journey through Padme's many dresses will continue with the "Purple Senate" Gown from Episode II.
Amidala wears this dress in Chancellor Palpatine's officer in the scene after there's been the attempt on her life. And again in a session of the Senate later in the movie.
The gown consists of a dark indigo bodice with a low-cut neck and skirt under a dark purple overcoat. The bodice is studded with beads and pearls along the neckline, and the front panel of the skirt and the sleeves are decorated with dark, beaded, scrollwork. The overcoat is decorated with intricate swirls and its shoulders are flared and decorated with beads.
The sleeves of the overcoat are long and have a slit through which the sleeves of the bodice show. The long ends of the sleeves are joined at the back with a metal circle decorated with pearls.
This design takes much from the same sources that the "packing gown" did. It's very western oriented, but it spices things a little bit more than the previous designs. The main structure of the dress takes again from 16th century European fashion. But this time, it's not English fashion, but Spanish Fashion.
|Portrait of Isabel of Valois, |
Queen of Spain (1565)
From the layering of the dress to the slit sleeves this type of dress is a clear inspiration for the design. Look at this historical gown dated 1598 and then look at Padme's gown.
The similarities are there, undoubtedly. The underdress-overdress structure, the long, open sleeves... The use of heavy fabric is also taken from this historical fashion trend, even though the patterns used on Amidala's dress have more in common with Art-Noveau than they do with 16th Century Spain.
|Amidala's gown pattern|
But the design isn't exclusively 16th century Spain. The neckline is too low, and the waistline is softer, less angular. This softer, less severe shapes are taken from the late 19th century Imperial Russia.
|Russian court dress (ca. 1900)|
Here, the over dress never really closes, allowing you to see perfectly the bodice beneath and the underskirt, just as in Padme's design. And the type of embroidery is more similar to this style than to baroque fashion.
But the influences in this specific design are much more integrated than in other designs we've seen before. The neckline in the design is actually a mix between these two styles. The bodice's neckline is taken from the Russian dress, whilst the neck of the overdress is taken from the Spanish dress.
The hairstyle for this design is one of the most remembered in the second movie. For this look, they chose to style her hair in the shape of a cone, held in place with a golden headpiece. It's a severe look, yet regal.
The main influence behind the style is not European, but African. It's directly inspired by the Mangbetu tribe's practice of the Lipombo. The Lipombo is the custom of skull elongation, which was a status symbol among the ruling classes of the Mangbetu (an African tribe from the Congo).
The Mangbetu shaped their heads by wrapping tightly with cloth the heads of the babies. This created a distinctive appearance. The practice began dying out in the 1950's with the massive arrival of European settlers.
For Padme's design, they took the basic cone-like shape and turned it into the shape of the hairstyle, which in turn was encased by a golden cage-like structure inspired in the clothes used by the Mangbetu women.
The finishing touch on the design, though, is not the hairstyle this time; it's the wooden chocker she wears around her neck.
It's also African inspired, but it takes the basic structure from European pearl chokers. The only difference is the material and height, which is taken from African culture; mixing European jewelry with African textures.
This accessory wraps the design with a neat little bow, finishing one of the most interesting, cohesive and well-integrated design of the movie. This is the one I had the hardest time breaking apart its influences; that's because it manages to take from radically different sources and yet blend them into a unique design that stands on its own. Alien enough to belong to the Star Wars universe, but grounded enough to feel real.
The design is, for me, the definitive Senate Gown. It's very stern-looking and it brings to the character a certain gravitas that other dresses don't manage to bring in. It's rich, yet simple and graceful.
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