The Mystery of the Princess Leia Costume

The classic Return of the Jedi outfit finds a new home.

If you’re an avid Star Wars fan, you probably read about the Princess Leia “Slave Bikini” costume sold at auction by Profiles in History auction house in early October. This costume was put up for sale by Richard Miller, a modelmaker who sculpted the Leia costume pieces for Return of the Jedi and continued to work on other Star Wars films as a sculptor and modelmaker. The story was covered extensively in People, Entertainment Weekly, The New York Daily News, CNN, Reuters, CBS News, Huffington Post, CNBC, Yahoo, Fox News, CNET, BBC, and of course, StarWars.com. All of these stories described the significant of the piece in Star Wars history and also reported that the identity of the winning bidder remains a mystery… until now.

Last week, a large crate arrived at our house shipped from the Profiles in History offices via a delivery company that specializes in transporting fragile movie art pieces and props. The wooden crate was half the size of my car and took up a large section of our garage. After removing the large panel that was the top portion of the crate, the contents were revealed as multiple large boxes with markings such as “wax masters,” “skirt,” “wax prototypes,” “legs,” etc. It took me hours to unpack these boxes as each item was carefully wrapped.

While the stories covering this auction mentioned the complete Slave Leia costume used on set for Return of the Jedi, what was not widely covered was the vast amount of concept and design material included in this lot. These concept pieces and sculpts are what convinced me to bid on this lot in the first place. After unpacking, I counted 49 different costume pieces, including master sculpts, concept sculpts, and the full production costume. The lot also contained design sketches of the costume, the sculptor’s notes, slides of a model wearing the costume, previously unseen photos of Carrie Fisher for setting the hair style, and a sheet Fisher’s measurements for the costume fitting. The entire history of this iconic Star Wars costume was contained in a single crate and spread out all over my floor during the great unpacking!

After opening all of the boxes, I cleared shelves of one of the display cases in our living room to make room for the wax master sculpts and early concept pieces. With so many Slave Leia items to put on display it was mind boggling to find room where all of the these pieces could fit together in an elegant arrangement, which I was eventually able to do. The photos, sketches, and paperwork will soon be on display in our house after taking them to my local framing shop. But the piece that I eagerly planned to display in a prominent location in our home was the Slave Leia production costume on the mannequin that was featured in all the auction photos.

Realizing it would take several people to lift and position the case, I asked some friends to come over to help with, literally, the heavy lifting. I told my friends that I had a large new item I wanted to display, but kept the piece a surprise. As they walked into our house this surprised was revealed as they were greeted by the Slave Leia costume on a mannequin facing the front door. To make room for Princess Leia’s costume, the original Rebel technician costume from the Yavin ceremony from A New Hope was demoted from our living room to another location to give the spot to Leia. My friends who are skilled at touching up costumes for display and styling the hair just right put the finishing touches on the costumed mannequin before placing it into the plexiglass case. Then eight of us worked carefully to lift the large plexiglass case to place on top of the mannequin and slide it into position. After some slight adjustments, Slave Leia was now on display in our living room!

All photos by Gus Lopez. Additional display case setup photos by Krister Persson.

 

Gus Lopez is a Star Wars collector based in Seattle who specializes in rare and obscure Star Wars collectibles. Gus created The Star Wars Collectors Archive (theswca.com) in 1994, the first Star Wars collecting website on the Internet.

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