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Book Review

Star Wars Costumes - The Original Trilogy
 

The easiest way to start of this review is to say Star Wars Costumes - The Original Trilogy is like prop porn - its the book Star Wars helmets and costume fans have always wanted. It reads like the 'Deep Throat' of Star Wars costuming, full of lavish and intimate detail.

Written by long-time StarWarsHelmets contributor Brandon Alinger, its clearly written for the fans, by a fan; taking us on an eight year journey through the design and then production of the costumes right from Star Wars - A New Hope back in 1975, right up to the release of Return of the Jedi in 1983.

Mercifully avoiding any mention of the Prequel Trilogy, it's 227 pages are solely devoted to OT costumes - so there's room for enough photos and facts on just about every helmet, armour and costume from those movies. Including the various iterations of Darth Vader, Stormtroopers, Rebel Pilots and so on. Each character is covered in a rich and anally-retentive detail that real enthusiasts come to expect.

As you would expect the book is packed with photos, taken from a number of sources, the vast majority of which were not in the public domain before. The quality of the photography is excellent - especially those taken at the Lucasfilm archive, which make up a large percentage of the overall number. A huge big up goes to Joe McDonald on that, the photos really are wonderful.

However there's also a lot of written detail, with interviews and diary notes taken from all the key costuming talent involved in the films,  including those at the very top of the Art Department ladder like Oscar-winner John Mollo (ANH and ESB), Nilo Rodis-Jamero (ESB and RotJ) and Aggie Rodgers (RotJ). Likewise with some great detail from the archives of Ralph McQuarrie and Stuart Freeborn. Alinger's clearly done his homework here as there's also a lot of supplemental detail from (and on) the lesser-known, but still hugely influential artisans including Liz Moore, Brian Muir, Ron Beck and Colin Wilson.

The book is at pains to describe the costume design processes  that went into each iconic character. There are sections on costumers Bermans & Nathans - who provided many of the ANH and ESB costumes (of the shelf as well as made to measure), as well as call-out's on Greeblies and the "Plastic Boys" - the team assembled to deliver on the hard costumes for RotJ.

We'd expect a lot of detail in a book like this and we're glad to say it certainly delivers; there's some wonderful detail on the work done on the Darth Vader costume, including the early design by Ralph McQuarrie through its physical incarnation at the hands of John Mollo and Brian Muir.  Alinger interesting confirms that for ANH there was only one Darth Vader costume (including helmet), but two Chewbacca's!

There are separate forwards from the original trilogy's costume designers John Mollo, Nilo Rodis-Jamero and Aggie Rodgers  - which further underline the credibility of both the book and its author. Alinger has clearly made huge efforts in researching the book and having come from the 'fan' background himself, has engaged with the community  (including StarWarsHelmets.com) in order to ensure the book is as detailed and accurate as possible. Bravo to him for that. Above and below a couple of example illustrations from the book including the original ANH Vader Costume above - and Luke's Stormtrooper armour torso below.
 

Before delving into the detail for each of the three OT films' costumes, Alinger sets the scene with an interesting and informative overview of each films costuming needs, right from Lucas' original Cowboys Vs Nazi's conception in the early days of production in 1975. Following this we have the all-important detail that does well to reveal interesting facts on each of the individual costumes - and they are all pretty much covered here.

Onto ESB and more interesting facts emerge, such as the small tailors near Boreham Wood who were used for some of the costume manufacture - trips to which had the added bonus of an excellent Greek Restaurant next door, frequented by cast and crew. So if by chance you were in a Greek Diner in 1979 and thought you were sitting across from Han Solo then you were probably right!

It's interesting to also read that the public's (and toy manufacturers) misconceptions over costume colours were not just with the AT-AT (which was grey in reality but appeared white on-screen and in toys). In a similar vein Han Solo's snow jacket was actually a dark brown - yet on-film and action figure it was perceived as dark blue.

So in summary, for the first time in hard-copy we have a thoroughly detailed book on ALL OT costumes, one that is able to spend adequate time and page-space to delve deeply into the subject. Written by someone who has a real knowledge and interest in the area its able to, for example properly describe the intricate differences between ANH, ESB and ROTJ Stormtroopers. Sure, you've been reading about that kind of stuff here for years - but what we have here is a sumptuous coffee table book that lays it all out in a crisp high-end package.

It really is fantastic. Buy it. In fact buy yourself a coffee table so you can place this book on it when you have guests come to visit. I absolutely 100% guarantee that no one will fail to pick it up.

 
"Star Wars Costumes - The Original Trilogy" is written by Brandon Alinger and published by Titan Books in the UK. It' will be available from Oct 28th from all good book retailers and can be pre-ordered now from Amazon US (UK coming soon I am sure)  Many thanks to Chloe at Titan Books for the advance copy and her help. We will hopefully be able to load up additional photographs over the coming weeks.