behind the seams

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Attack of the Clones | Behind the Seams | Padmé’s Wedding Dress (P-20)

George Lucas wanted Padmé’s wedding dress to be a simple but beautiful gown in an amazing fabric and it took Trisha Biggar quite a long time to fulfil his vision. She decided to give it a pre-Raphaelite feel and thought of lace as the main material but couldn’t find the right fabric until finally her buyer in Australia stumbled onto a century-old Italian lace bedspread from the Edwardian era in a thrift store. However, the cream-colored bed cover wasn’t big enough for the Lucas-authorized design, so the costume designer devised an option with shorter sleeves to fit the amount of material and master embroiders in Sydney made over 300 yards of French-knit braid to blend the vintage elements together with the modern handiwork. 

The gown and head piece are studded with hundreds of vintage pearls and the veil itself is made from Maltese lace and includes Edwardian wax flowers and tiny beaded pearls. Each pearl was actually hand sewn because the night before the wedding scene was to be filmed, Biggar decided the gown needed a little something “extra”. So she pulled an all-nighter and pearled Padmé’s wedding dress herself.

Later she noted that P-20 “was a gown with very simple lines, with an antique feel to it, but at the same time it was quite intricate, probably one of the most complicated dresses, and you couldn’t quite put your finger on what it was made of.”

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Revenge of the Sith | Behind the Seams | Padmé’s Funeral Gown

For her funeral in Revenge of the Sith, Padmé wore a silk chiffon dress ombré-died in blue-greens, with hand-pleated panels fringed with silver and sapphire stone decoration. Her cloak was made in a gray-blue, wave-shaped sillk devoré, and scattered with cold-dyed hand strung iridescent vintage sequins that were used to create the flowing ribbons  and ties that are laid over the dress and cloak. Fresh flowers were carefully placed about her hair and costume.

The azure blue color and rippled fabric was chosen by Trisha Biggar to match the ethereal and melancholy landscape of the Naboo Lake Retreat at Lake Come, where Padmé and Anakin fell in love. This is where Padmé wanted to escape with Anakin, and her funeral gown symbolizes her spiritual return to the lake.

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Revenge of the Sith | Behind the Seams | The Peacock Gown

As the ensuing Clone Wars threaten the Republic in the opening of Episode III, Padmé is seen wearing the somber colors of mourning. Constrained by her hidden marriage, her costumes now adopt a Victorian silhouette. She is shrouded in petticoats and crinolines - fashions adopted to conceal her pregnancy - but the design also heralds the oppresion of the dark times on Coruscant, the coming of the Empire. All the costumes in which she is seen in public hang from the shoulders and are supported on what is essentially a simplified crinoline shape unerneath. Using steel rings in the petticoats and quilted petticoats to keep stiffness underneath allowed Trisha Biggar to use soft fabrics on the top, so there would still be a very soft, feminine feel to Padmé’s costumes.

The Peacock Gown consists of a glossy, high-collared underdress woven from a tightly pleated material which Biggar called “peacock fabric” because of the way it shifted colours according to different lighting conditions and Natalie Portman’s movement. In different lights, it looks both blue and rusty brown. The puff sleeves are drawn at the lower arm and have beads dangling from the cuff. Over this dress Padmé wears a long, brown, layered coat that is somewhat triangular from the front and has a cape that goes over her arms. Small tassels hung off each ending of the coat, which is decorated in its entirety in scrollwork done in ribbon.

Padmé’s headdress is an unique design, shaped like a rectangle with an in-facing scalloped front. The sides are done in a decorative yet simple style in a grayish metal with Padmé’s hair done in myriad tight ringlets resembling strings of beads. In order to create the thin, tight ringlets of the hairstyle which was heavily influenced by Ancient Egyptian female fashion, the hairdressing department had to carefully match swatches of real Russian hair to the actress’s hair color. The matches needed to be made under sunlight, as fluorescent lights don’t accurately reflect true color. What’s more, different colors of hair were mixed together to create realistic ringlets that looked natural. For the headpiece itself, Trisha Biggar had a pin she liked reproduced a dozen times. The reproductions were placed on hand-bent piano wire, then plated, and finally lined with leather.

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DIY Wrap Turned Scarf | Behind The Seams

Finally a project that I cannot screw up because it has no sewing whatsoever! Woo! And it’s so cute and so versatile. As I’ve said before, the weather here is nuts at the moment and I need something that I can switch up. Today it was freezing in the morning, then by the afternoon I was ripping off my cardy because it was so hot. WTF weather!? Anyway, the wrap scarf. This needs a new name that combines the two: wraf? Scrap? Scrawf? Warpf? I think I like Scrawf. I’m going to make myself a Srawf this weekend.

Behind the Seams: All Buttoned Up
we talked to our trimmings expert, Danielle,
to get the backstory on our beautiful buttons
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The process: Our designers bring me their inspiration (usually vintage buttons) and I study their markings and materials to determine which details we can incorporate into our own designs. I’ve been doing this for 20 years, so I can usually figure out right off the bat which manufacturers will be able to put a modern spin on the look we’re going for.

A great resource: Waterbury is among the oldest—if not the oldest—button companies around; they’re actually able to reproduce one-of-a-kind designs they made back in the 1800s, which is pretty amazing. The pieces start out as sheets of brass that are then tooled and molded into the company’s signature items. We use their buttons on all of our peacoats (and the U.S. military just happens to use them for their uniforms too). And, funnily enough, Waterbury is also one of the largest manufacturers of jingle bells. (How’s that for seasonally appropriate?)

Objects of desire: Along with Waterbury’s brass, one of the other materials I love is Corozo. It comes from the tagua nut, which grows in South America (the kind we use comes from Ecuador). It’s typically called vegetable ivory because it looks just like the real thing except it’s more durable, not to mention animal friendly, which we love. And even though the natural finish is beautiful on its own, it also holds other colors wonderfully.

Favorite haunts: I collect buttons myself, and some of my go-to spots around the area are Junk and Jems in Connecticut and various flea markets in upstate New York. Tender Buttons in New York City also has tons of unique options made of everything from glass to horn. They let you buy by the button instead of having to buy in bulk, which is great for mixing and matching buttons on a jacket or a cardigan.