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.
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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