We are now in the thick of summer, and if you’re not covered up properly, you’re not going to enjoy the record heat in some areas of the sector. One can imagine that a hard lesson learned by cast and crew on the set of Star Wars movies must be that, at least once, you’ll have to prepare yourself for a desert scene (or five). Under the blistering heat of the Tunisian sun in A New Hope, crew members often took to wrapping shirts around their heads to block the sun and cool down. But for the actors and those who would follow in their footsteps, being on set was something of a different story. That story happened to be one told, in part, by the costumes they wore.
While the Outer Rim is littered with various planets of varying climates, the two that standout as the most miserable are Tatooine and Jakku. Their deserts differ in small ways, but for the most part, there are only so many ways one can look at a miserable hotspot in a nearly forgotten, lawless area. Both trilogies and The Force Awakens have taken us to these planets to witness what the heat can do to the minds of a bunch of lawless, rowdy settlers. For the heroes of Star Wars, surviving these climates — regardless of shelter type — requires carefully selected clothing and fabric so that (both in world and out) the actors can remain as cool as possible.
In an interview with Clothes on Film, Star Wars: The Force Awakens costume designer Michael Kaplan discussed what was on his mind with Rey, taking her heat-ridden situation and how she handles it, into serious consideration. “My job is to delineate characters based on information in the script … I took all the clues of her character (she is poor, she works as a scavenger, her work requires agility, climbing, she lives in a hot and bright desert climate, where the nights are probably cool, there are possibly sand storms, she rides a speeder),” said Kaplan. “The light colors are appropriate for the desert heat.” Needless to say, the sandy tones, off-whites and light greys that Luke, Anakin, and Rey all sport at the beginning of their journeys is there to protect them from the sun’s unforgiving heat as they all do the same exact thing: work to live, and live to work. It goes without saying that if you can bear to deal with light colors, mixing them up in a manner that reminds you of these three characters might help keep you cooler.
What’s more, soft materials — such as Viyella and brushed denim — were used to bring Luke Skywalker’s outfit to life in A New Hope. This light color pattern and soft fabric combination is reflected in the prequels by both Shmi Skywalker and the young Owen Lars. According to Trisha Biggar’s Dressing a Galaxy, Shmi’s tunic was inspired by Luke’s and Owen’s leg-wraps, as well as his pouches and belt. A similar belt and wrap scheme can be seen on Anakin in The Phantom Menace, whose clothes as a slave were a bit heavier and more coarse than Luke’s, and an under-tunic similar to Shmi’s. Needless to say, the Skywalker family has perfected Tatooine survival fashion because they figured out what works and subconsciously stuck with it.
The protection doesn’t end with fancy footwear and layered tunics, of course: Rey’s headwear is a prime example of desert survival at its top form. Remember how I mentioned crew members wrapping shirts around their head? Rey’s headpiece, according to Kaplan, is pretty close to that idea. “Her head wrap keeps her hair out of her face while working, and keeps the dust out of her hair,” he told Tyranny of Style last year. “It’s actually a tunic, with the sleeves tied around her head. This tunic can be worn on chilly desert nights.”
(Okay, so maybe it is all about tunics.)
Rey’s multi-functional costume is actually one of the most impressive out of the bunch, in my opinion, because it tells tells a story of lone survival. Everything Rey wears has a purpose, right down to the gauze fabric that she wears; during a sandstorm, she can wrap the gauze around her face to protect herself. Her daily wear is mostly light, with a blend of silk trousers, cotton jersey, hemp, and canvas keeping her covered and cool under the Jakku skyline.
It’s worth noting that even though aliens come in all sort of forms, most locals from planets like Tatooine and Jakku wear pretty similar outfits. Jakku scavenger Teedo, who famously scuttled off on his mount after being reprimanded by Rey for trying to sell BB-8, is wrapped in gauze as well, with a particularly uncomfortable rusty metal helmet covering his face.
One last thing to note is that throughout the saga (and in one particular deleted scene), poncho-style garments are a major component to costumes in the Outer Rim. Even in the diverse sea of cantina patrons, Tatooine’s standard cream and tan colors shine through, with ponchos and partial capes covering them. Luke Skywalker didn’t wear his Tatooine cape for very long, and according to costume designer John Mollo, it was just a straight blanket “with some edging to it.” Later in the saga, though, our heroes’ escape from Jabba’s sail barge included a deleted scene that showed off a collection of presumably stolen capes, blankets and ponchos. Like Rey, both Luke and Leia’s outfits featured goggles and head wraps, while Han sacrificed convenience by effectively wearing the least possible helpful thing he could: wrapping a torn up piece of canvas fabric around his head.
If you’re getting ready for a pilgrimage out to a sandy filming location like Abu Dhabi (Jakku), or even just planning to go out on a particularly hot day, these surprisingly elaborate and practical costumes might be worth thinking of when you’re considering what to wear. The basic principles? Wear light colors, bring some protective eye wear or head gear, and be prepared for a sudden change in the weather.
Catrina Dennis is a writer and Star Wars die-hard. In her spare time, she tells stories, yells very loudly about soccer, and hosts a few very cool podcasts. Catch up with her on Twitter @ohcatrina.