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You probably didn’t trust Han Solo when he first appeared in “Star Wars.” Yes, he was armed and sitting in the back booth of a seedy cantina, but that’s not why. It was the vest.
Han’s outfit of leather boots, a black vest and hip holster belong less in a galaxy far, far away than a John Wayne movie; his space cowboy costume echoes the lawless rogues who settled their differences at the O.K. Corral. Through the subtle magic of costuming, you knew him before he said a single word.
How clothes make the franchise is the focus of Star Wars and the Power of Costume, opening at Discovery Times Square on Saturday. Through 60 costumes, including seven from the forthcoming “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” and dozens of artifacts, visitors can see how the myth of King Arthur, Mongolian royal culture and World War II history contributed as much to the story as George Lucas’ words.
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The items, on loan from the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, speak not just to who the characters are but who they were and, especially in the case of Anakin Skywalker’s darkening Jedi robes, who they’re becoming. French haute couture (what’s less forgiving?) inspired the new Stormtrooper armor in "The Force Awakens."
There were practical considerations, too. Under the monk-like robes of Obi-Wan Kenobi was a touch of luxury: a tunic that looks like linen but is made of silk to breathe better in the Tunisian desert heat.
Padme Amidala’s outfits get their own room — find out which outfit Lucas designed himself — from the elaborate gowns she wore as a member of the Galactic Senate (including one that required wearing a car battery under the skirt to power it) to the sportier field gear of a Clone Wars fighter. The message, as Natalie Portman sums up in a video: “She can wear beautiful clothes, but it doesn’t contradict her strength.”
But the character in the least comfortable outfit remains Anthony Daniels, who reprises his role as C-3PO for a seventh time, the only actor to appear in all of the films. Speaking at the exhibit during Thursday’s press preview, he recalled that when director JJ Abrams spoke to him about the role, he offered Daniels an out.
“He asked, ‘Do you just want to do the voice this time? I said no, and he said, ‘Quite right.’ But I said I would like a new costume,” Daniels said.
This time around, instead of the foot-crushing armor that he could not sit down in, Daniels got a new but, he assures fans, meticulously identical 3D-printed suit.
In a way, he never takes the costume off: At 69 years old, he looks the same as he did when the first “Star Wars” film came out in 1979, a product of going to the gym most days and moderating his foodie tendencies to reprise the role even between movies. He affectionately likens his routine to permanently getting ready to fit into a wedding dress.
Daniels was also an early convert to the power of a costume.
“I used to long for a costume made of fabric that I could sit down in,” Daniels recalled. “But the first time I came out into the desert sand as C-3PO, I could see everybody [mimes gaping]. They thought I was a total phenomenon.”
Star Wars and the Power of Costume
Nov. 14 to Sept. 5, 2016
Discovery Times Square 226 W. 44th St.