The Prequel Trilogy displays a wider variety of dress than the Original Trilogy. The Jedi Knight’s gear is simple as practical, as expected. The politicians dress formally with some unfortunate incidents (Bail, a ruffled collar is not okay). When it comes to the costumes of the PT, however, the focus rests on the shoulders of Padme Amidala. What she wears makes a major impact on her characterization and the feel of each of her scenes.
The Phantom Menace
The most ornate outfits in all six movies belong to Queen Amidala. Rich in color and details, each outfit shows a bit of the planet’s culture and the situation. Her first outfit, the Red Invasion Gown, makes Padme appear regal, yet as if she’s too young to be sitting at the throne. The headdress appears heavy, like the burden on her shoulders. The dark red contrasts brilliantly with the white face makeup. The split lip makeup, red dots and Naboo symbol on the front piece of the dress show the importance of maintaining Naboo’s culture, something Padme carries on throughout the movie (the symbol can be found on most of her outfits from each movie). The lighted globes at the bottom of the dress resemble something found in nature, like in an underground cavern, furthering the beauty of Naboo.
The Black Invasion Gown worn by decoy Sabe gives off defiance. The feathers remind of a bird, which is free to fly. She looks like a bird of prey, daring someone to make an attack. The dark color creates a stark contrast between Sabe and flame gowns worn by the handmaidens.
Padme retains her status as queen even dressed as a handmaiden. In both the flame gown and the outfit she wears on Tatooine, she rarely lets her guard down. The only times she does is with Anakin Skywalker. With everyone else, she behaves as she would as queen.
The kimono-like dress she wears on Coruscant while meeting with Palpatine and the darker colored gown she wears while talking to Jar Jar convey the emotions of that point in Padme’s fight for Naboo. The kimono dress is lighter in color and subdued a reflection of the combination of hope and dismay. The dress worn after the session in the Senate is shapeless and dark, almost depressing.
The gown worn by Padme in the Senate contains the most weight to the role of queen. It screams royalty and attention. Between the large headdress, voluminous outer robe and large sleeves, Padme create the image of someone imposing. The thickness of the sleeves and layers of the costumers make me think of the protective shield Padme must surround herself with at all times. She must maintain her queen image no matter what.
Padme’s parade dress is my favorite. Her makeup is lighter; she appears more relaxed and truly happy. The gown isn’t as restricting as the others she worn during the film. The symbol of Naboo appears on the front of the dress. The design combines both parts of Padme into the perfect representation of her spirit—and that of the end of the movie.
Attack of the Clones
At the beginning of the film, we see Padme in costumes that still hold to the formal, slightly out there style worn by the queens of Naboo. Gone is the face makeup and overly complicated gowns, but she still wears intricate hairstyles and dressy clothes. Padme’s outfits while meeting with Palpatine and the Jedi and packing both demand respect. Her face free of the white and red coloring makes her appear more human. Her dresses fit her body rather than make her appear more imposing as some of her gowns did when she was queen.
Upon arriving in the Lake Country, Padme transforms into the former queen and senator to a woman. She starts with a pastel backless dress. The fabric flows from her neck without any hindrances. The way the sleeves fall resembles ripping water, acting as a nice contrast to Anakin’s personality and background. The softer color adds to the romantic ambience. The backless feature of the dress makes it appear more natural than it would look like a backing. Her seashell style hair also adds to the water illusion.
A fan favorite, the picnic dress embodies love, fun, joy and other positive emotions that make up Padme. Between the detailed flowers on the bodice and headband to the neutral, soft colors, the picnic dress adds to the feel of young, forbidden love. It’s light and airy. Padme behaves as relaxed as possible while wearing this dress. She’s comfortable in it. Even the hairstyle appears natural. It’s Padme in her true state: determined, fierce, loving, spontaneous and observant.
The black dress worn at dinner with Anakin and during the fireplace scene takes a dramatic turn from everything else she’d worn. It’s tight, slinky and not something to wear to a dinner with a friend. While eating, she wears a feathered shrug. Once removed, the corset is revealed. The dark color and fit of the dress works well with the overall feeling of the scene: Padme and Anakin are restricted from what they want, yet cannot stop it. While some could see this dress as a fanboy service, it seems to me more akin to Leia’s metal bikini. It serves a purpose in the story. Padme isn’t intimidating by what she is wearing. She wants to be with Anakin, but can’t. That’s what the dress represents.
Padme wears three costumes (counting the deleted scenes) that use the color blue. Blue appears often in her wardrobe, which works nicely with the contrast of
water and fire between she and Anakin. The two-piece blue outfits worn on Naboo and Tatooine are much more casual than anything she’d worn before. Even though the two show off her midriff, there’s still a regal air to the two outfits. Padme appears comfortable in both. In the first, she acts completely comfortable and happy. In the second, she’s confident yet concerned about Anakin and their situation. After wearing such constricting clothing, outfits that are freer would feel like a relief.
The third blue costume Padme wears is the poncho and skirt combination on Tatooine. It’s quite casual and relaxing. The loose fit is appropriate for the weather on Tatooine. Her hair is down in natural curls. She blends into her surroundings.
The white outfit Padme wore in the arena is practical for the scene. She’s expecting action, though determined to find a peaceful way to rescue Obi-Wan. The basic white shirt, white pants, boots and cape (which she lost) work well. Padme not only makes it through the droid factory, but also saves herself from instant death before the two Jedi can come up with an escape plan. Her monster is the nexu, a fierce feline-like creature. Padme fits the nexu and is injured. While the injury fits the story, it’s incredibly unrealistic that with one swipe, the nexu would rip off the bottom half of her shirt and a sleeve like it did. Tear the back and upper part of the sleeve, sure. Remove the front of the shirt as it did? Absolutely not. The nexu didn’t latch on, it scratched, something that’s clear while watching the scene in slow motion. That decision completely ruins the costume and tarnishes everything that had been established about Padme’s role in the film.
The final outfit Padme wears is the wedding gown. It’s incredibly detailed and has an antique look to it. Padme and Anakin surrendered to love, the greatest and oldest power in the universe. It beautiful and simply Padme.
Revenge of the Sith
Padme’s wardrobe takes a much darker turn in Revenge of the Sith. Several try to hide her pregnancy, like the velvet cloak (with buns similar to Leia), the burgundy dress, the purple senate gown and the peacock and brown dress.
The navy dress with the shawl that Padme wears when Anakin realizes Obi-Wan’s been in the apartment looks a bit like something someone would wear in mourning. It’s clear that she’s pregnant and comfortable, but there’s a certain sense of something holding back, like doubts of what her husband is going through and what he will become.
The green cloak with the purple sash that she wears while watching the Jedi Temple reminds me of Leia’s Senatorial Gown. Though they really aren’t much alike at all, there’s something about how Padme appears in it that reminds me of Leia, especially in the images that show the hood up. The long cloak makes her look like she’s hiding something—as we know she is. This is perhaps one of the most powerful scenes in the entire Prequel Trilogy. She’s forced to think about what is going to happen with she and Anakin and what the right path is.
The sleeveless outfit worn during her final moments with Anakin is, like the arena outfit, practical and comfortable. Her pregnancy is cleared in this and the two nightgowns worn earlier in the film. At the top of the gauntlets, the Naboo symbol rests. Padme never forgot where she was from and whom she was serving throughout her personal crisis. Had the scene involving Padme, Bail Organa, Mon Mothma and other senators remained in the film, her struggle would have appeared more complicated, aiding in her characterization.
Padme’s funeral dress fits her so perfectly it’s eerie. The blue-green coloration and the impression of waves made by the fabric back her character. She can be serene, like water, but an unwelcome disturbance will make her rise up and fight back. There’s the obvious balance between Anakin’s fiery rebirth and Padme’s quiet death. Her hair sits in natural curls around her, dotted with tiny flowers. Her hands clutch the japor snippet over her apparent pregnant form. She looks like an innocent beauty from the sea, a treasure the people of Naboo are returning home.
The costume decisions for Padme are a good representation of her character. They reflect her mood, situation and (most of the time) her role in the story. The ripped arena costume shows that Padme is stilted for no real reason while the casual outfits worn on Tatooine and Naboo during AotC show off Padme’s true nature. Clothing choices aren’t just a necessity; they’re a statement to the person wearing them. When they match the character, she feels natural and real, not like a manufactured role.