Each costume is a Story…a story that tells about Who wears it. Recreating them, we try not to miss the slightest detail.
Today let’s fly to a galaxy far, far away… to the 8th chapter of the Star Wars saga…to tell you about the legendary Luke Skywalker.
“Fulfilling Master Yoda’s last will, Skywalker has begun training the new generation of Jedi, passing on to them all that he learned during his own training. He had several beginner Jedi in training, including his own nephew Ben, son of Organa and Solo. Ben’s parents knew about his craving for the dark side of the Force and were afraid that he was too much like his grandfather, so they sent him for training to Skywalker, hoping to rectify the situation. However, Solo the Younger was nevertheless subject to the corrupting influence of Snoke, who controlled the Dark Force and led the First Order, being its Supreme Leader and believing that a new generation of Jedi would be able to destroy the war machine reborn from the ashes of the Empire. Ben took the name Kylo Ren, killed all the new Jedi, destroying everything that Skywalker built and all his work in training them. Feeling responsible for what had happened, Luke disappeared without a trace, leaving for exile. No one knew exactly where Luke was headed, but those closest to him believed that he had gone in search of the First Jedi Temple. In the end, the hermit Jedi found himself on the water planet Ahch-To, where he remained in austerity.”
From space, Ahch-To appeared to be a world of nothing but deep blue oceans orbiting twin stars. Dotting the oceans, however, were rocky island archipelagos covered with green trees and grass.
…A stone world, scattered with sharp rocks; mountains, stairs engraved in bare stone, cliffs, stacks, fjords and stone walls to be climbed. Sharp wind, saltiness, harsh weather, biting cold, sand, dust, mud and persistent rain…
All these elements paid a crucial role on the choice for Luke Skywalker costumes.
In the official movie guides, where all the sketches are collected, the costume designers stated they designed Luke’s clothes as working outfit.
First of all, in order to not impede Mark Hamill while climbing the steep stairs of the Skelig-Michael Monastery, they decided to equip him with short and practical vests, very different from the long, uncomfortable Jedi robes.
Secondly, Luke’s clothes were supposed to personify his solitary life on the island, keeping traces of all his adventures: climbing mountains, jumping from one side of the fjord to the other, milking thala-sirens, fishing, hunting…
All these factors determined not only the choice of clothing style, but also the choice of materials, methods of aging, impregnation and dyeing.
Costume designers had to use:
- heavy cotton fabrics soaked in oil or wax to ensure water resistance;
- thick woolen fabrics of coarse hand knitting;
- oil-soaked skin;
- and even a tree aged by the sea.
Luke’s costume was definitely inspired by the fishing clothes worn by Norwegian and Icelandic men and women from the Viking era until the 1930s.
Such clothes were made mainly from the hides of various animals (horses, cows or sheep). The hides were prepared by rubbing cod liver oil in them. Then they were soaked in fish oil from time to time so that they remained soft, supple and waterproof. Warm woolen clothes were usually worn under them, since the main fishing season was in winter and spring.
But lets go back to Luke … The most noticeable and characteristic item of his clothes in this episode, of course, is an aged and worn leather jacket. Costume makers from Star Wars called him the “poncho.” Luke wears it over a warm, hand-knitted wool sweater.
In accordance with the mythology of the film, the poncho was sewn by the Caretakers, aliens belonging to the Lanai race.
Lanais were an avian sentient species who lived on temple island on the ocean planet of Ahch-To for thousands of years. The females of the species took on the role of Caretakers and attended to the ancient structures on the sacred island, while the males were known as the Visitors.
Centuries later, the Visitors still continued to assist the Jedi in hard work, such as fishing and hunting. While the Caretakers are cleaning, making clothes and cooking for the Jedi.
The Caretakers probably used pieces of the hides of a sea creature as the main material (this can be guessed by looking at some illustrations from the official artbook). Some parts of the jacket really look a bit like the skin of marine mammals.
When we just started working with this jacket and faced with the question of choosing a leather, we were going to pick up “ready-made” leather for factory dyeing and then work on aging.
But the longer we searched, the more we became convinced that we were unlikely to find something similar.
At first glance, it seems that any of these samples could be used… But in fact, the material had to satisfy a fairly large number of criteria:
- be thin enough, but durable at the same time;
- have good elasticity and drape well;
- the coloring of the outer and inner sides should be approximately the same (a bright inner side is not permissible, since the cape is unlined);
- the front side should have a slight sheen.
And this is not to mention the fact that you need to get into the right color…
And there was a slight technical complication: our customer’s growth (195 cm) was very different from Mark (175 cm). And this, given the features of the patterns, did not allow us to consider sheepskin as a material (the length of the hides would simply not be enough for some details).
So in the end we had to make a non-standard decision. We chose the undyeing cowhide…in the hope of dyeing it the way we need.
So, no matter how we tried to avoid this, we had to repeat the technology that Star Wars costume makers used.
Honestly, we did it for the first time…so we decided to start with experiments…
We mixed paints in different proportions and painted the probes for 5 hours in order to finally get the most suitable recipe.
The dyeing process itself took us a little more than 4 hours. Already cut parts were painted on both sides. Moreover, each side had its own individual composition. When wet, the colors were mixed and as a result the same spots formed that we can see on the original jacket.
And since we decided to repeat the technology from the movie, we had to process parts from the outside with synthetic oil, and some (for example, a collar) even inside to create a worn effect.
As for the cut of the jacket, the designers as always were inspired by elements of Japanese costumes (in this case, “kimono”), paying tribute to the traditions of the saga, but slightly modifying them to their plans.
The jackert is just below the knees; double-breasted, both sides are asymmetrical. The collar is quite wide. A characteristic feature of this cape is the wide 3/4 bat sleeves.
Each part of the jacket is sewn from several pieces with a simple stitch. The allowances are left in the inside, where they are turned, glued and pressed to the inside of the leather, in order to obtaining flat finishing.
The patches create the feeling that the jacket is quite old and has been repaired several times. We found three patches: below on the front part, on the inside of the collar and on the shoulder. Silk fabric was chosen for the patch on the shoulder.
Working with this project from scratch took us about 80 hours, not counting the time of choosing the leather. Due to the urgency of the order, all these 80 hours went almost in a row… Something (for example, a collar that turned out to be too tight and draped poorly) had to be redone. After the main assembly, we several times added the dyes, aged jacket and soaked in oil.
It was a whole new experience for us! But in the end…we made a thing that can tell its own story…
Special thanks to our customer – Luca Bergamaschi – for help in finding references and additional materials. Without your support, this project would not have been a success! May the force be with you…
If you want us to make such a costume for you – contact us firstname.lastname@example.org
P.S. If you liked our story – share it, like it or leave a comment – so we can see that you are interested. And we will try to write articles more often and better 🙂
Alex & Anastasia
Svetliy Sudar Leather Arts Workshop
Star Wars, its characters, costumes, and all associated items are the intellectual property of Lucasfilm. © & ™ Lucasfilm Ltd. & © Disney