How long does it take to put together an exhibit that encompasses more than 30 years of movie magic, more than 70 costumes, and an entire galaxy far, far away? Five years. Well, 10, if you start counting from the moment the Lucas Archives wanted to work with the Smithsonian.
New York’s Discovery Times Square, which housed Avengers- and Hunger Games-themed exhibits, offers guests a similar deep dive into the world of Star Wars. Rather than explore the deserts of Tatooine or Jakku (something you’ll be able to do virtually in the Battlefront video game), fans can get up close with the most iconic costumes from the franchise.
After a short video introduction, a spaceship door hatch opens to welcome you through the fashions of all seven films, beginning with a comparison between the prequels and the originals. Highlighted with commentary from George Lucas, early concept designs from Ralph McQuarrie, and interactive displays, the exhibit features Ewoks, Wookies, Boba Fett, a battle-scarred Stormtrooper, Queen Amidala’s couture-clad entourage, and even a peek at Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
EW was able to tour Star Wars and the Power of Costume ahead of the Nov. 14 opening, and here are some things you won’t want to miss.
1. Working Around Spoilers
The Force Awakens is so secretive, even when it comes to the Star Wars exhibit. Laela French from Lucas Museum of Narrative Art had a difficult time curating costumes and props from the J.J. Abrams film because no one could give her details on the characters or story. Shooting in the dark, she asked for main characters and iconic costumes, and from there received potential options. Sadly, there won’t be any new Force Awakens reveals in the exhibit; the only costumes you’ll see are ones that have been featured in the already-released trailers.
2. The Most Laborious Costume on Display Was…
…Natalie Portman’s Lake House robes from Attack of the Clones. Although the display says it took one month to create, French said she met the designer, who spent six months using smocking technique by hand and 20 yards of velvet. By the time she was done, she didn’t want to look at another smock again.
3. The Most Delicate Costume on Display Was…
The dress worn by Portman during Padmé’s funeral scene in Revenge of the Sith is probably the most fragile costume in the exhibit. Made from crepe silk, the dress itself is incredibly thin, while the sequined robe is vintage from the turn of the century — the other century.
4. Learn the Origins of the Lightsaber
As French pointed out, the exhibit celebrates some of the “happy accidents” that went into the making of Star Wars. An interactive iPad display tells of the most famous one, the lightsaber. Set decorator Roger Christian went into a prop shop looking for extra “things or bits” and he found, among a box of discarded materials, Graflexes collecting dust. “He knew the minute he saw them, that was it,” French said. Some of the sabers in the exhibit are set to a timer, while others ignite when fans interact with the displays.
5. Digging for a Stormtrooper
“We’ve never toured an original Stormtrooper before,” French said. “They are hard to come by.” She estimated 50 suits were created for the first film, and a striking crack through the codpiece on the display indicated the fragility of the armor. Some were so beaten up and destroyed by the end of production, while others might have been taken home by some of the actors back in the early days. Though all the props were in the archives, it proved trying to find all the pieces for one suit. By the time Return of the Jedi came around, the crew had to produce all new molds.
6. Only In New York
While the exhibit was featured in Seattle, there are some pieces you’ll only see at Discovery Times Square, such as all the guns and weapons in the military display, the setup for Padmé’s funeral, and the peek into The Force Awakens. Of course, Discovery Times Square couldn’t have a Star Wars exhibit without Yoda, so the character will be on display behind a glass case as his famous lines are projected onto the back wall.