‘Star Wars’ exhibit coming to Cincinnati Museum Center – Cincinnati.com

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“Star Wars” is the biggest franchise in the entire film universe. But how big is big? The Enquirer’s Carol Motsinger uses examples from our corner of the planet to put these numbers in context. The Enquirer/Michael Nyerges

In this galaxy, a white dress is not just a white dress. A black hood is not just a black hood. 

In ‘Star Wars,’ every stitch tells a story. And that is by design. 

Forty years ago, filmmaker George Lucas invented a new mythology, said Laela French, director of archives for the Skywalker Ranch and the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art. 

When the most enduring pop culture phenomenon launched in 1977, it was “a new fairy tale,” she said, “that has really become a part of the storytelling narrative we raise our kids with.” 

And the costumes, from Princess Leia’s white, belted gown to Emperor Palpatine’s black robe, played a leading role in the telling of the now seven-part space saga.

“Star Wars and the Power of the Costume,” an exhibit heading to the Cincinnati Museum Center May 25, demonstrates how the filmmakers used dress to tell the audience something about a character before the actor spoke a word, French said. 

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The costumes all come from Lucas archive. It’s kept at Skywalker Ranch, his filmmaking headquarters just north of San Francisco. 

“We are not really a museum,” French said. “We are not open to the public, per se. We do a lot of research for the other ‘Star Wars’ films and maintain the archives.”

Cincinnati is only one of six cities in the country hosting the traveling show from the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES) and Lucasfilm.

But “Star Wars and the Power of the Costume” is not just about the lavish looks we’ve spotted on the big screen. 

The presentation showcases some real-life cultural inspirations, too. Did you know that the armor of the shogun, a Japanese military dictator, became Darth Vader? Or that a monk’s simple garb became the Jedi robe?

“All of that was very purposeful and very thoughtful,” French said. 

The organizers reveal that thoughtful process to demonstrate how people came together to map the paths they took and identify tools they employed to create their magic, French said. 

Creativity is something everyone uses, everyone needs, she said. The scientist and the writer. The teacher and the student. The parent and the child. 

That’s the core of the exhibit actually. It’s why the presentation found a home in a community learning center like the Cincinnati Museum Center. 

Imagination belongs to everyone. And inspiration comes from everywhere.

That’s true even for George Lucas. The costumes tell his story, too. 

Take Harrison Ford’s Han Solo, the rogue who turns out to have a heart of gold, French said. 

Solo “is straight out of the old West,” French said. The allusion makes sense, really, since Lucas is a vocal student of the classic cowboy movie.

Think about it. Just swap his space ship for a horse, Solo belongs on the set of a John Ford film. Even his blaster – the Smith and Wesson of space – hangs from a holster at his hip. 

But look closely at his pants. The stripes down the side of the legs reference Union soldier uniforms.

After the Civil War, these soldiers settled on the edge of the country they just preserved. They took their uniforms with them. So these trousers became a standard of the American Western attire, French noted. 

And then there are Solo’s boots – more a riding boot than a cowboy boot, of course. But still a boot. 

The white shirt he wears under the vest? That’s called a Custer shirt. 

Yes, that Custer. Gen. George Armstrong Custer who was defeated at Little Big Horn. 

Solo is “truly the gunslinger” of the ‘Star Wars’ saga. And Solo’s garb “is a nice homage to that icon of the West,” French said. 

Lucas also directly cites his other major influence through character style. 
The X-Wing flight suit, the orange jumpsuit-type thing the Rebel pilots wear? It should remind you of something and someone else. 

Hint: Google vintage photographs of the original Mercury 7. The original NASA astronauts wore similar suits on the first American flights into space. 

Decades later, this relationship is now “a mutual love affair,” French said.  

A couple years ago, the International Space Station Expedition crew posed for their official poster. 

They weren’t wearing an orange flight suit, however.

The six sported brown Jedi robes. 

Want to go?

The exhibition opens May 25 and closes Oct. 1 at the Cincinnati Museum Center. 

Cost: Adult ticket is $24, child (ages 3-12) is $16, senior (ages 60+) is $21. For members, adult tickets are $17 and member child (ages 3-17) is $12.

Visit http://www.cincymuseum.org/star-wars for more details.

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