Concept art of Chewbacca

7 Secrets of Star Wars™ and the Power of Costume

In the course of preparing for Star Wars™ and the Power of Costume, a traveling exhibition from the Smithsonian and the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, we discovered some fun (and funny) facts about Star Wars™. Here are only a few of our favorites, plus a sneak peek of what you’ll learn in the exhibition.

  1. The DAM’s presentation of this traveling exhibition features almost 300 drawings, models, photos, costumes, and other objects not on view elsewhere, including the comfortable size-17 custom shoes inside the “feet” for Chewbacca’s costume.
  2. Chewbacca was conceived to share attributes with dogs, cats, and monkeys. His identity as a loyal copilot was inspired by Lucas’ beloved dog, Indiana, an Alaskan malamute, who was the filmmaker’s companion as he wrote the Star Wars script.
  3. In the 2005 prequel, Revenge of the Sith, costume designers developed a special cooling suit for Chewbacca’s wookiee compatriots to wear underneath their cumbersome costumes. You’ll see this inventive contraption in the exhibition.
  4. Darth Vader’s costume was created to look like a “dark lord riding on the wind.” In the original trilogy, getting the bodybuilder David Prowse, who provided Vader's imposing figure, into his costume was no easy feat. Dressers had to follow a step-by-step guide to get him ready for filming each day.
  5. The look of many of the characters evolved from how they first appeared in conceptual drawings. Perhaps Yoda changed the most. It might be old news to some die-hard Star Wars fans, but we were astonished—and, honestly, a little delighted—to learn that the wisest Jedi Master of all, Yoda, was originally going to be a monkey in a mask.
  6. George Lucas had a literal stamp of approval he used for conceptual drawings. If he liked the direction an artist was going, he stamped the drawing with an “OK.” If the artist really nailed a concept, Lucas branded the paper with “FABULOSO” in red ink—signaling a go-ahead to move on to the next phase of development. Look for the stamp on drawings in the Art Studio section of the exhibition.
  7. “Greeblies” is the term Lucas and his team coined for the bits and pieces of plumbing, hardware, and appliances that added the finishing futuristic touches on many of the costumes—particularly those that needed to seem functional, like pilots, officers, and Jedi. For example, pen caps clipped neatly on belts served as Jedi food capsules.

Stefania Van Dyke is the interpretive specialist, textile art and special projects. Her favorite email subject line during the course of planning Star Wars and the Power of Costume was “Missing Dianoga.”