Many categories of film memorabilia such as toys, replica props, statues, posters, and trading cards act as a stand-in to bring home the adventures. Collecting original props and costumes takes this to a whole new level, as the collectible is literally the item we saw on the screen.
Many Star Wars collectors shy away from original movie props and costumes since they’re hard to find, difficult to authenticate, and can sometimes be very expensive. But there are also some common misconceptions about costume and prop-collecting. You might be surprised to learn that prop collectors frequently spend about the same annually as collectors in other categories. However, instead of buying a lot of items every week, the typical Star Wars prop collector makes one or two big purchases a year. It’s also common for collectors to raise funds by selling one great piece to finance another. Trades occur often, and costume and prop collectors frequently help each other out in their search for a particular item.
In keeping with the spirit of this collecting subculture, a friend of mine contacted me six months ago to let me know the timing wasn’t right for him to buy a really interesting costume piece he had been chasing. He thought it would fit well in my collection and reached out to see if I was interested. I was thrilled to discover that the item he unveiled was a quilted Hoth Rebel vest from The Empire Strikes Back. Costume pieces from that film are so limited that you could count known pieces in private collections with your hands. Needless to say, I was delighted and tremendously grateful to have this opportunity.
There are two kinds of vests worn by the male and female Rebels at Hoth. The vests look similar, except the male version is connected in the front while the female version I purchased is worn open. While they closely resemble down vests sold at retail, all the Rebel vests were custom made for the film just like many original Star Wars costumes
The vest Princess Leia is seen wearing in the film differs from this standard issue Rebel vest. The color is lighter, almost a bleached, off-white tone. The collar and pockets have a different style, and the upper-body portion follows a completely different pattern. This version was also worn by characters like Toryn Farr (or as I like to call her, “Stand by ion control Rebel”), who led communications at the Hoth Rebel base. But is this the Toryn Farr vest from Empire? It could very well be, but until I find a better photo reference from the movie there’s still hope that someday I’ll be able to match this to a particular Rebel character. Regardless, it is amazing that we are still discovering previously unknown costumes from the Star Wars films 35 years later.
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.