The art of rock 'n' roll.
The art of rock ‘n’ roll. (Photo credit: me.)

So, now that I’ve (finally) downloaded some of the pictures I took during my visit to Seattle at the beginning of the month, I thought I’d write a post about one particularly awesome part of my trip.

Apparently, there’s this place in Seattle called the “EMP Museum.”

Initially named the “Experience Music Project,”  the museum is more often known by its acronym “EMP” because it’s no longer specifically dedicated to rock music—although they do have a cool guitar sculpture in the building. Instead of just focusing on music, the museum has exhibits dedicated to the fantasy and science fiction genres (among other themes).

The week I was in Seattle, the museum also happened to feature a costume exhibit.

On Star Wars.

And yes, it was epic.

During the exhibit, the EMP Museum showcased the actual costumes from the original Star Wars set, as well as the set for the more recent trilogy. However, viewers didn’t just get to geek over the costumes of their favorite characters—including a terrifyingly huge replica of Chewbacca—they also got a glimpse behind the screen, into the mind of George Lucas and the various costume designers of the series.

Chewie? (Photo credit: me.)
Chewie? (Photo credit: me.)

I’ve always been fascinated by the costumes in the Star Wars films—even when everything else about Episodes 1, 2, and 3 left me sincerely wishing that I was still watching the original trilogy. How did they manage to get a costume to look so creative, and yet so fitting to that universe?

Apparently, by taking some aspect of real-life culture and history, and adding their own twist.

One costume in particular caught my eye in the exhibit: one of those over-the-top gowns worn by Queen Amidala and her decoy. I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who was thinking “What in the world is she wearing?” when we first caught a glimpse of Padmé sitting on her throne in the beginning of Episode 1.

But the designers were thinking when they made the queen’s costume—and they were actually thinking pretty creatively. Padmé’s dress may look a little ridiculous in the 21st century, but it probably wouldn’t have looked out of place at Mongolian court, or in 18th-century Japan.

The Three (Million)Faces of Padmé
Three Faces of Padmé (Photo credit: me.)
Photo credit: me.
Mongolian Princess (Photo credit: me.)
Photo credit: me.
18th-Century Geisha (Photo credit: me.)

The designers started with the concept of traditional Mongolian dress, and carefully added in a dash of 18th-century geisha to the mix. The result is something that looks very much original, but still has an aura of believability—at least, to the casual history buff.


So, now that I’ve rambled on about Star Wars for the majority of my post, what exactly does this have to do with writing?

Personally, I’ve always had trouble with worldbuilding. (Dialogue, I can do, but when it comes to setting and background, I’m more or less at a loss.) However, I think the designers’ approach to costumes in Star Wars can definitely be applied to worldbuilding. When you’re trying to create a nation in a fantasy world of yours, get inspiration from the real world. It’ll ground your work and add a little bit of believability. But don’t stop there—add your own little twist, make it your own. The results may just surprise you.

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2 thoughts on “Worldbuilding with a Twist

  1. I love the EMP!! I went to the Star Wars exhibit last month and it was amazing. So interesting to see (and contrast) costumes from the old trilogy and the new one. It was so fun to see how much the costumes shaped the story. And I had way too much fun powering up the lightsabers. 🙂

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