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Book Review: Star Wars Costumes by Brandon Alinger

Book Review: Star Wars Costumes by Brandon Alinger

SWCostumes

This review is for Star Wars Costumes by Brandon Alinger.

I’m not a cosplayer, designer, filmmaker, or artist, but I am able to appreciate the work that goes into the art of costume design. Star Wars Costumes is a celebration of that art – Every page a tribute to those responsible, in large part, for the look of the original Star Wars trilogy.

The importance of the costumes in the Star Wars Saga (not just the original trilogy, although that is the focus of this book) cannot be understated. How we perceive the characters is largely formed by how they appear on-screen. We often see them in costume before we ever hear them speak, and that first impression is crucial (Remember how that first glimpse of Darth Vader took your breath away?). Granted, a particular character may turn out to be something altogether different – Such as Luke Skywalker in his black Jedi garb in Return of the Jedi. George Lucas wanted the costume designers to go dark with Luke so we, the audience, would question which side claimed young Skywalker since we last saw him at the end of The Empire Strikes Back. While it became clear that Luke embraced the light side of the Force, the secondary purpose of his dark clothing came into play – Namely by showing that Luke had matured.

The use of color when designing the costumes is just one of many things explored in Star Wars Costumes. Divided into three sections – one for each film in the original trilogy – this book shines a light on what was going on during the concept and design phases. Many were things I had never even heard of before, which is always a treat! I’ve been a fan of Star Wars since I was eight years old, way back in May of 1977, and I own numerous books about the production process – including costume design – so I thought I knew everything. Star Wars Costumes showed me otherwise, and I couldn’t be more pleased.

There are three forwards, each one written by one of the three costume designers that helped develop the overall look of the original trilogy – Academy Award-winning John Mollo, Nilo Rodis-Jamero, and Aggie Rodgers. Not only did they provide insight into the films in their respective forwards, but they also contributed greatly to the text of Star Wars Costumes by way of anecdotes and recollections.

The lavish illustrations – featuring concept art by Ralph McQuarrie and full-color photographs of the costumes – are one of the great strengths of this book. Not one image is wasted, and each one furthers the narrative of the text. Several of the more detailed costumes have dedicated gatefolds that further illustrate the complete attention to detail. Even the captions contain a wealth of information. Some of the more interesting tidbits I picked up were found in the captions. Don’t skip the captions!

A few highlights from Star Wars Costumes.

A few highlights from Star Wars Costumes.

Speaking of the text, Star Wars Costumes is a great read. Author Brandon Alinger presents the information in an insightful and entertaining way. You never feel as though you’re slogging through a dry assemblage of facts – He keeps the narrative moving forward at a comfortable pace. Nothing is rushed, although some costumes do get more attention than others. That is to be expected, however. Han Solo’s costume is very simple, and remains largely unchanged through all three films, whereas Darth Vader’s costume is much more complex and demands more in-depth analysis. Rest assured that each costume has a story, and each one receives its due.

There are a few very minor typos, but nothing at all that detracts from the overall excellence of this book. From the gorgeous cover showcasing the lovely Princess Leia, to the back cover featuring costumes from Return of the Jedi – and every page in between –Star Wars Costumes is a feast for the eyes and the mind.

Whether you’re a cosplayer, burgeoning costume designer, aspiring filmmaker, concept artist – or just a regular fan like me – Star Wars Costumes is a must-have addition to your book collection.

My rating: A solid 5 out of 5

You can purchase Star Wars Costumes via Amazon.com

Thank you to Chronicle Books for providing this copy for review.

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6 Comments

  1. Rob Wainfur
    February 1, 2015 at 17:18 Reply

    Awesome review. The book has just gone on my Amazon wishlist as a result of this review.

    1. Lisa
      February 1, 2015 at 18:01 Reply

      Thank you, Rob! 🙂

  2. Melinda
    February 2, 2015 at 07:02 Reply

    This was an awesome review! 🙂 Thank you so much for sharing it. I cannot wait to give this tome a read and gander. 🙂

    I love your insistence that we should not miss the captions! I’m glad to hear they don’t always (or never in this book?) rehash information already shared in the main copy of the book. Captions always are an opportunity to share some new tidbit — a treat both for the reader and the writer. 🙂

    I look forward to more book reviews from you. 🙂

    1. Lisa
      February 2, 2015 at 22:38 Reply

      Thanks you. 🙂 And, yes, the captions contain additional info!

  3. Pam Bruchwalski
    February 2, 2015 at 17:32 Reply

    This book sounds like a trip through a costume exhibit! Very cool.

    1. Lisa
      February 2, 2015 at 22:38 Reply

      Thanks, Pam. 🙂

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