“You’re going to talk about Leia? Weren’t you a Padmé girl?”.
This is probably what you’re asking yourself.
Well, it’s quite impossible to give such advice for complex costumes like Padmé’s. Moreover, Leia’s ANH costume is usually seen as a starting place, and as a costume for kids, it’s still very iconic and popular after more than thirty years.
The fact that something can look simple, doesn’t mean it is. With this post I am listing some things about the costume that always highlight the beginner to the eyes of those who have done it the accurate way. Reading this, you can hopefully avoid them, and upgrade your costume to the next level, if you already have one.
The very first thing you want to think about is fabric.
Fabric has to drape like water. It has to be soft and almost sheer. in the original they used nylon jersey. I have a negligée from the 70s in the same material, and it is very flowy. You need to avoid any stiffness. So I suggest a synthetic thin jersey. And you may want to line it with more jersey, or stretch lining (just don’t line it with fabric that has no stretch or is crisp).
In episode IV the underwear was visible under the dress, and Carrie was asked to take it off because “there’s no underwear in space”. So you can see her skin under the dress when we first see her, and you can get very well where her nipples are in some parts of the movie.
The gown we see in exhibits is more opaque, so it’s probably the one from episode V.
No matter if you use two or three layers of jersey, to get the coverage you want, the thing has to be extremely soft, and you want some bust support that looks very natural (if you don’t feel like going out with no bra at all). As I don’t think she’s wearing any kind of bra. Using a push-up bra with this is good for the version of the costume you keep in your sexy lingerie drawer, like making the side slits higher than the knee or the bodice part tight to the body.
Concerning the cut, you want the sleeves to be long, reach the knuckles. You want the skirt to reach the ankles, the side slits to reach the knee and the hood reach the waist when worn down. Remember that the hood is not a hood, it’s a rectangle gathered from the narrow sides and attached to the collar, so there’a hole at the back. The back should be closed with hooks, a zipper doesn’t bother me, but it seems hooks are accurate.
The dress needs to be FULL. Can you see all those folds the skirt makes on the skirt, in the first picture? It has to have a lot of fabric and almost no visible seam, except for the sides and the neck. Basically, except for the collar and hood, it’s cut in one single piece. The sleeves reach from the shoulder to the waist in width, and not only the dress is wide enough to have a huge amount of fabric at the waist and hide the body shape, it is also extra long, long enough to bulge above the waist and cover half of the belt.
I suggest to add some elastic tape to keep it all in position under the belt and some snaps or velcro to keep the belt in place, so that it doesn’t reveal the elastic.
Sewing jersey, and keeping several layers of it in the right place is not one of the easiest thing, even if the dress looks simple. If you’re a beginner and you want the costume to look good, have a seamstress make it.
Oh, well, nothing is as iconic for this character as her buns. You can recognise a Leia from her buns only. However, if you place them in the wrong way, if you make them too small, you end up with a Chun Lee, and I’ve seen so many.
The buns have to be at the sides of the head, their center just at the back of your ears. The top of the buns is almost as high as the head, and their lowest is at the jaw. They’re huge. They’re round and made from a single thick hair strand, twisted and places in a swirl. This remembers me of a nautilus shell, the same one that inspired Padmé’s lake hairstyle.
I suggest to create the buns with extensions, and use bobby pins to place them over two ponytails (center parting of the hair) placed as close as possible to the ears.
If you see your ears you might want to adjust something.
Oh, the belt is the hardest part. It has a very peculiar look, and its pattern is not as simple as it looks. It’s like the belt of the Qarth dress Daenerys wears. It’s not a cylinder section, it’s a cone section. Which means the upper edge has a different measure from the lower one. You can not cut it from a straight stripe.
In this case, the upper edge is smaller, and the lower bigger. This means the upper edge sits exactly at the waist line, and the lower one is…lower. If you cut it from a straight stripe, the top edge sits higher than the waistline, and the lower one just below, but not enough.
An other thing about the upper edge: it has a sort of corner. You don’t want it to be straight, it follows the shape of the lower one.
We don’t see the belt, except in exhibit of the thicker costume, where it’s placed on the mannequin without the bodice bulging (which makes me think the original has no elastic at the waist, and which is why I suggest to add one). However recently the Ceremonial dress has been recovered. Its belt looks just like the senatorial gown’s, except for the colour of the leather, which is silver instead of white. But we can base our pattern on that, to have a closer look.
The metal parts of the belt are something you need to draw once you’ve tried your belt pattern, and not sooner, to find the right proportions. There has to be enough space between one and the other.
The boots are white vinyl or shiny leather boots. No high heels, round point, not higher than where the calf starts.
So this is the overall idea.
There are many other tricks that can be used, but these are the basics, and should help you get a very nice costume. Probably a non-costumey-looking costume.
Let me know if you found this useful, and if you used this advice to make your costume, link back in a comment!