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Some Honest thoughts: Padmé Amidala's Costumes

As I suppose you are all aware, I've written extensively about the costumes for Padmé Amidala in the Star Wars Prequels in this blog. It seems only logical, this is, after all, a blog dedicated to Costume Design, and hers is pretty iconic and vast.

You can find all my articles dedicated to her here.

Unfortunately, it seems my thoughts and opinions on the matter have not been welcomed by some, as I've gotten a lot of messages violently asking me why I hate Padmé Amidala's costume design, and even, sometimes, going as far as to accuse me of hating the character itself. This has left me a bit worried, and I thought it was time for sharing some honest thoughts on the matter.


EPISODE I: I'M NOT PARTICULARLY FOND OF THESE MOVIES

I've certainly claimed this a lot. And it's true. It is a true statement not only for me but for a lot of people as well if the internet is to be believed.

Still, somehow, some people have taken this claim to mean that as I do not like the movies, I must hate the costumes. Funny because as much as I've claimed to dislike the films, I've also heaped praise towards the creative effort made by the costume department and the creative talent poured behind Amidala's designs. More often than not I've also underlined just how iconic her wardrobe is. I have the receipts to prove it.


So what I gather from this, is that the fact that I do not enjoy the movies themselves means I am not able to honestly appreciate if there's something good in them?

I like to think it is possible to separate these two things.

Also, would I have bothered writing up to 14 full articles about her costumes if I didn't think there was any merit in them? Of course not! I've been forced to dedicate an article to things I don't like and it's painfully to work on them. I simply would not undergo that pain 14 times if I hated her costumes.


EPISODE II: WHY ARE YOU ALWAYS COMPLAINING?

So, long story short, the fact that I do not enjoy the Star Wars Prequels does not mean that I hate the Costume Design for the movies, particularly the spectacularly beautiful Costume Design for Padmé Amidala. That's a fact.

So, why are you always complaining?????

Well, children, liking something doesn't mean that you shouldn't apply some critical thinking to it. It's a good habit to have.

But, as I have often stated, good costume design is more than just a collection of good looking dresses. Great costume design has to be more than a fashion line collection. It has to function as a piece of the narrative. And there's where Amidala's costume design tends to not pull through.

I am particularly critical of certain designs for Amidala, where the narrative circumstances in which the character was supposed to wear them hadn't really been taken into account for the design. Like, dressing her in heavy velvet for a battle, dressing her in wool for her first visit to Tatooine (a planet dessert), or dressing her in the sexiest and most sexual costume in the whole trilogy for a scene in which she is trying to convince Anakin to stop pursuing her romantically. 


I know that a fantasy film doesn't have to be realistic, that it has certain leeway with reality. But it has to be consistent and it has to be believable. The audience needs to believe it's real within the world it takes place and therefore it needs to follow a certain logic.

Heavy, bothersome clothing for a battle or thick, warm clothing for a desert goes against any logic.

I don't think that pointing these inconsistencies out makes me a "hater". You can absolutely disagree with me. You can think it makes absolute sense. And that would be quite alright. Just don't mistake criticism with hate.

Being critical doesn't mean I don't like the designs or that I think there wasn't a real effort put on them, it just means that I think they lack a clear direction, which should have been provided by THE DIRECTOR. And we all know that Lucas was more interested in created nice visuals than telling a cohesive story.

EPISODE III: FOR THE SAKE OF EYE CANDY

That lack of direction translates into a general feeling of lack of cohesion between the different costumes. It feels like when the costume designer presented different options and approaches to the costumes to Lucas, he gave a long look at them and proclaimed: " I want all of them".

And that's how we ended up with costumes with heavy Asian influences, costumes with heavy European influences,... fire motifs here, water motifs there... all for the same character.


For me, this creates a rather blurry sense of Naboo's culture, Padmé's cultural background, and Padmé's personality, all of which take a backseat to the proliferation of Eye Candy. Looking at the whole of the Costume design for her character, it feels like it was more important to look pretty than to make sense. It certainly reads as if the only character note the director gave the costume department was that Padmé was a Queen and that she was beautiful (and sometimes hot).

And the pieces they crafted certainly do look regal, and beautiful. But hardly anything else.

Sure, this makes real fun looking at promotional pictures of her character, but a true nightmare when trying to make sense of the whole as a storytelling device.

EPISODE IV: THOSE THAT I SIMPLY DID NOT LIKE

But you said that you "totally and deeply loathe it"...

That splendid quote was said by me in regards to one specific costume: the Smouldering Corset Gown (as I've come to call it) from Attack of the Clones and I absolutely stand by it.


It is so clearly designed with the sole directive of making her look sexy and to do so it strays so far away from the already incohesive design ideas that have been established that it feels totally out of place in the Star Wars Universe. That's why I can't stand to look at it.

But that statement was, under no circumstance, directed at the whole costume design for the character or the trilogy.

Truth be told, I don't like some of the designs of the trilogy for Padmé. I like most of them, but there are the select few which I, unfortunately, don't. She has so many, that it shouldn't surprise anyone.

But I don't think that is reason to scream at me through the internet that then "You don't really like Padmé and her stunning costumes".

The fact that I like a Film's Costume Design as a whole doesn't mean I can't dislike some individual design or apply critical thinking to it.

EPISODE V: THEY DESERVED BETTER

I am not sure how to underline this, but critical thinking doesn't equal hate. I absolutely do not hate the character of Padmé nor her Costume Design even if I am vocal and passionate about the things I think don't work about them.

She's a good character and she had a lot of potential for being iconic, but bad storytelling and bad writing have encased her in a not very good, rather bad, film trilogy. That's the most honest opinion about Padmé that I'll be able to give you.

True that she is an intelligent, politically active, decisive woman in film, but it is also true that the movie gives her almost nothing to do past the first film and is quickly relegated to love interest. She certainly deserved a better movie to be in.

Her costume design finds itself in a similar position. As it is, it's pretty but falls short on a narrative level. Seeing the eye for detail, level of creativity, and incredible craftmanship at the movie's disposal in regards to costume, it's a shame that a bad script cut short the opportunities of the designs to rise to their full potential.

And those are my honest thoughts.

WRAPPING UP

And most importantly, if you disagree with me in any of my articles, you are more than welcome to let me know! I enjoy discussing different points of view and sometimes, I find myself to be actually in the wrong. So please, let me know what you think whether you agree with me or not! Just don't yell at me for it.

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Comments

  1. Here's the thing: whether you meant to do this or not, I think every single one of your Padme articles ends on a negative note. Literally every one. It didn't matter whether you liked the outfit or not. If it wasn't a jab at the movies or George Lucas (which... go for it, many people have made an Olympic sport of the same), you were criticizing the costuming team for jarring you out of the movie or using too many varietal influences (or not using them appropriately) or not using those influences correctly. You use the word 'loathe' a lot. It's your blog and your opinions - more power to you. But that final conclusive statement is what the reader leaves with, and I did not find myself contemplating the fascinating historical influences that you had beautifully researched, as I should have, but mulling over these negative final statements.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi! I'm aware that I tend to be very vocally negative about things, and your assessment is pretty accurate and fair. I'm sorry if the negativity puts anyone off. At the end of the day, I think the designs are beautiful but do a rather poor narrative job, which to me, means they fail as narrative devices, which is the main purpose of a costume design. I don't think it's the designer's fault as much as the fault of an unfocused director.
      And I understand people who don't agree with me. Sometimes you just want to look at pretty dresses. That's also understandable.
      The thing is, I wrote this article both to sort of wrap up this series of articles that had been going on for so long and to address the fact that I had a lot of people leaving me rather nasty private messages on Tumblr mainly regarding my opinions on Padme's costumes. Those messages weren't telling me they disagreed with my views or that they didn't understand where I was coming from. Those were really vitriolic and violent, and I really don't appreciate them.
      I honestly like people coming to the blog (be it here or any of my social media) to let me know what they think or how they feel about my articles and I appreciate thoughtful comments that give inside on how an article reads, such as you did yourself.
      But I don't like hate comments, like at all, and those were the kind of comments I had been getting for a long time.
      Thanks for reading and thank you for taking the time to comment. Lots of love!

      Delete
  2. I agree with all what you said here. Being honest i dislike her character , snd no comments with the bad script desicions, most of the time makes no sense, and as you said, at the end she was just the love interest.
    We can appreciate the work in design, but the prequels are badly written and thats a fact.

    ReplyDelete

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