Later this month, the Smithsonian Institution's new exhibition "Rebel, Jedi, Princess, Queen: Star Wars and the Power of Costume" will open at Seattle's EMP Museum. A collaboration with the Lucas Museum and Lucasfilm, the exhibit includes Jedi robes, Princess Leia's slave bikini, Chewbacca's pelt, and many other costumes and related art and ephemera.
In the earlier films, (Lucas Museum of Narrative Art curator Laela French) says, the characters in the Rebel Alliance were on the run, so "the costuming was ad hoc." "When you move to the new films" she adds, meaning the prequels from 1999, 2002 and 2005, "it was the height of their culture." For those designs, concept artists looked to cultures in Japan, Mongolia and China and for inspiration.
Fortunately, French says, Lucas held on to many of the materials from his early films. And when it came to saving artifacts from the three prequels, French says, "We collected pretty much everything we could."