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Trisha Biggar: Of Imaginary Wardrobes and Real-Life Clothes
Costume Designer Trisha Biggar could rely on her broad background of experience when she set out to meet the many costuming challenges of Star Wars: Episode I. Her work with prestigious British theatre companies, like the Glasgow Citizen’s Theatre, and her extensive film and television experience (including The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles) had more than prepared her for whatever obstacles would arise during her work on the next chapter of the Star Wars saga. Still, the unusual aspects of the project made it inevitable that she would be confronted with at least a few new and stimulating challenges.
Episode I is the fourth Star Wars film, yet it brings to life a previous generation, whose actions shaped events that took place before the classic trilogy; and so Biggar had to make sure costume continuity was respected, while at the same time drawing on her skills and imagination in order to trace her own path through new territory.
The first and foremost challenge was the sheer volume of costumes required to bring to life George Lucas’ vision, and the short time frame in which all of these ideas had to become physical reality. In less than a year, over one thousand costumes were painstakingly designed and put together, piece by piece. When working on a project of this scale, careful management of a productive team is essential; and so Biggar was there at every step, making sure that each member of the team was doing exactly what was needed.
Inspiration for the realization of this myriad of costumes came from a variety of sources, including, of course, the classic Star Wars trilogy. “We obviously had to have some continuity from the first films, and we had, among others, the Jedi costumes,” Biggar says. “Since we see them again in Episode I, we tried to link through and bring parts of their costumes from the first film back into this one. We used virtually the same Jedi cloak, but we experimented with different types of fabric. And we modified the undergarments to make them more suitable for younger men, men who have to fight.”
Other inspirational sources included the cultures of several countries, mixed together and revised with the Star Wars universe in mind. Even the Roman Empire influenced some of the designs. But no hypothetical future style shows up in Biggar’s work, for her designer eyes were always turned toward the past. “The costumes have all been drawn from the past. A long time ago. Not futuristic,” she says.
Devising a real cloth costume based on a design drawing is a process that Biggar was well familiar with, but Episode I made this a bigger challenge than usual, for Star Wars’ exotic setting gave rise to some concepts that were very highly imaginative. Another difficulty lay in the fact that some of the costumes were intended for characters who were not human. And on top of that, Biggar had to keep in mind that certain pieces of clothing were to be worn during action scenes, sometimes even fitted to stuntmen who jumped, fell, and pushed themselves – and the costumes they wore – to their limits.
The Royal Guard costume, briefly seen in part 4 of our “Lynne’s Diary” behind-the-scenes documentary, is one example. “We had to look at what the people who would be wearing the costumes would be doing. And so a few of them had to be adapted so the people wearing them wouldn’t injure themselves. Some different fabrics for stuntmen, and so on,” Biggar says.
Staying true to an already deep and detailed universe while at the same time improving old concepts and introducing completely new ideas is a challenge like few others, but one that Biggar could match up to and enjoy. “Everything was great fun, really, because there was such a wide variety of things to do,” she concludes with a smile.