With "Star Wars: Visions" (スター・ウォーズ：ビジョンズ) being released in a week, I wanted to take a bit of time to discuss Japanese influence in the Star Wars universe as this series was created by seven different Japanese animation studios. My husband is also Japanese-American and spent five years living in Japan, so Japanese culture is a part of my day-to-day life!
The focus for today's blog post is the fashion worn by Padmé Amidala. By no means will this be an all-encompassing deep-dive, but when the trailer for "Visions" came out, I was surprised by some of the comments from people stating they didn't understand how anime (アニメ) made sense for the Star Wars universe, so I felt a cursory overview of Japanese influence within the universe could be helpful!
One important thing to note is that, in my opinion, the Japanese influence in the universe of Star Wars was and is not cultural appropriation. Instead, I view it as cultural appreciation and points of reference for the design work.
Now, on to some high-level analysis!
Padmé Amidala's Throne Room Design
Beyond being one of the more well-rounded characters in Star Wars (thanks, in part, to "The Clone Wars" series), the costume design for Padmé Amidala was critical to her character. She had a different costume for nearly every scene she was in and many pieces had Japanese influence woven into them that was an intentional design choice by concept artist Iain McCaig and costume designer Trisha Biggar. While most of her wardrobe was incredibly intricate, the actress who portrayed Padmé, Natalie Portman, commented that the costumes were made to be easily removed and would only take 15 minutes to get off! The make up, on the other hand, was a more arduous task at 2-2.5 hours (source: StarWars.com)
For now, let's focus our attention on the "Throne Room Gown" or "Invasion Dress," one of Padmé's most iconic looks in "The Phantom Menace" (pictured to the left).
Her hair style is very similar to some of the hairstyles worn by geisha (芸者), female performance artists trained in traditional Japanese art forms in dance, singing, and music. More senior geisha would wear a wig (which we imagine is what Padmé was wearing) called katsura (かつら). This website has an excellent overview of the various hairstyles worn and where you can clearly see the influence of several different styles in Queen Amidala's look.
Geisha also wear white foundation known as oshiroi (白粉; means "white powder") , using it "to hide their feelings in order to keep the guests happy, entertained, and not offended" (source: Ikidane-Nippon.com). We can easily draw a line from this usage to the character Padmé due to how she was trying to convey through her role as Queen of Naboo - calm, collected, almost impervious to any kind of emotion.
Another signature look for geisha is the red lip, an integral part of Queen Amidala's Thrown Room design . The idea behind coloring the lips red, at least for geisha, is to represent a flower bud (source). Depending on the rank of the geisha, the look of the red lip is applied differently. First year geisha only fill in their lower lip while a more senior geisha is allowed to fully color in their lips. For Queen Amidala, designers added a twist on this traditional geisha element with the "Scar of Remembrance," a thin block of red coloring on her lower lip.
We hope this gave you a little taste of Japanese influence within Star Wars! We'll be covering more aspects leading up to the release of "Visions."