The Force Is Strong in This One

Me Dressing Wookies (1)
Honour with wookiee costumes from Star Wars: Episode III—Revenge of the Sith. They were worn by Australian basketball players, which made them 7-foot-4 when worn. Chewbacca’s original costume is made of yak hair, but these are polyester.

Star Wars is huge in my life,” says Joanee Honour, Fashion Design ’92. She and her colleagues take care of the Star Wars archive of original costumes, models, art, and props in California. “We’ve got R2D2, the Millennium Falcon, and the Death Star.”

Her job mostly involves costumes; as the senior registrar for the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art (when completed, the new building will be located in Chicago), Honour styles them for exhibitions, stores and preserves them, and conducts research. Costumers for The Force Awakens, the new Star Wars movie, wanted continuity with the original films, so they often contacted her from London during filming to verify specific details about those costumes. Details matter, because the audience can be obsessive. “The fans know even more than me,” she says.

It took Honour and the archive team four years to assemble the exhibition Star Wars and the Power of Costume. This collaboration with the Smithsonian Institution, tied to the release of The Force Awakens, is on view until September 2016 at New York’s Discovery Times Square. The show, featuring actual costumes—from Obi-Wan Kenobi’s robes to Princess Leia’s “slave bikini,” and a host of looks from the new movie—got a rave review in The New York Times, and attests to the importance of the clothes in defining character.

“We wanted the costumes to speak for themselves,” Honour says, “so I found and helped design poses for faceless mannequins.”

Visitors may be surprised by the attention to detail—couture-level sewing in some fabrics, their wrinkles carefully steamed out by Honour; elaborate gowns affixed atop archival-friendly Mylar. Styling the Queen Amidala costume for display involved sewing discreet magnets into the lining of the headpiece to hold it in place. It took a year just to dress the mannequins. Honour travels worldwide to work on exhibitions, but she loves returning to the Skywalker Ranch.

“It’s my dream job,” she says. “Everything I’ve ever wanted to do is here.”

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