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Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker serves up a sartorial win

By Emma Fraser
Star Wars The Rise of Skywalker cockpit

You don't have to go to a galaxy far, far away to find clothing collections inspired by the Star Wars franchise. From high-end brands like Rodarte, Preen by Thornton Bregazzi, and Rag & Bone to more affordable collabs with Levi's, Uniqlo, and Adidas, there are plenty of options when it comes to Resistance and First Order attire. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker continues this trend of combining fantasy costumes with looks to inspire your everyday wardrobe, which includes more coats to covet, infinity scarves for cold or warm climates, and cape flamboyance.

Legendary costume designer Michael Kaplan returns for his third Star Wars outing, which creates style cohesion across the trilogy. He has already been nominated for a Costume Designer Guild Award for The Rise of Skywalker, where he will also be the recipient of the CDGA's Career Achievement Award. Kaplan has not only successfully created a strong visual narrative from The Force Awakens through to the conclusion of this trilogy, but he has also drawn on the work of the Star Wars costume designers who came before him.

Detailed spoilers for The Rise of Skywalker ahead.

Rey Daisy Ridley The Rise of Skywalker

In a callback I wasn't expecting, one of the most underrated Leia looks is given a contemporary twist. Carrie Fisher's real-life daughter Billie Lourd has appeared in all three movies wearing her hair in a manner nodding to the infamous New Hope hairstyle — but it is the choice of fighting attire for the climactic battle, which opened the floodgates of emotion. The camouflage poncho isn't quite as lime-green as Leia's Forest Moon of Endor get-up, but there is no doubt that Lieutenant Connix is mirroring the Return of the Jedi fighting outfit of her IRL mother.

General Leia did get a costume change; while the stunning purple shade mirrors her Force Awakens ensemble — combined with powerful gold statement jewelry — it is hard not to get distracted by the uncanny valley of it all. It is a hard assignment to send off a character (and actress) this beloved, but the green poncho homage does this in such a beautiful and subtle manner.

rise of skywalker leia

Another Leia nod comes courtesy of the star of the show, who spends the entire movie clad in white. Rey (Daisy Ridley) starts the movie looking like she is at a yoga retreat in the woods — it is actually her Jedi training. Part Princess Leia from New Hope, part Padme (Natalie Portman) in Attack of the Clones, Kaplan weaves the shared history (though not blood) via comfy minimalist-adjacent clothing. There is even a bit of Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) in there, which is even more explicit when she wears his helmet later on. Vintage is always in fashion, no matter the galaxy.

The white hooded ensemble gets put through the wringer, including desert danger, lightsaber fights in the middle of a ferocious ocean, and an actual battle to the death. She either has multiples of her comfy-looking robes or the Force is also really good at getting dirt and bloodstains out. Rey's goth side pops out too; in her vision, she wears a hooded black robe with some hardcore face contouring to give severity to her cheekbones. Star Wars makeup tutorial, anyone?

Star Wars Rise of Skywalker

On the snowy planet of Kijimi, Rey gets to indulge in my personal favorite of all things Star Wars fashion: a really great overcoat. And while the matching heavy-duty olive coats aren't quite the sartorial levels of Empire Strikes Back (I mean, what is?), it indicates a strong bond between the three recently reunited friends. Even C-3PO (Anthony Daniels) gets in on the outerwear action to hide his identity from those hunting them.

Kijimi is home to Poe's (Oscar Isaac) pre-Resistance past, including an ex who also happens to be one of the best-dressed characters from the franchise. Zorii Bliss (Keri Russell) has the perfect look to go with her name: a gold helmet paired with a burgundy bodysuit complete with gold cuffs, multiple low-slung belts, and an incredible metallic neckpiece. It is armored and anonymous, but also incredibly sexy. This is a woman who has clearly seen some messy days, and her signature costume is a form of protection. And while she never takes off her helmet, when she is alone with Poe she removes her visor, which reveals wisps of hair and an incredible smokey eye. You never know when an ex might show up, so always have your best eye makeup on. 

Oscar Isaac as Poe Dameron in Star Wars: Episode IX

Certain garments have set the internet alight in 2019. One is, of course, the Knives Out sweater. But a high thirst bar had already been set by Poe Dameron's infinity scarf. It is a little bit The Mummy with a dash of Indiana Jones and a pinch of the military (but make it suave): the perfect recipe for a collective swoon. Poe's costume underscores a level of special ops, which matches the dangerous mission at hand. He's been reunited with his pals, his hair looks great (seriously, those curls), and his pants are extra tight. Sure, he has an awkward run-in with an ex, but on the whole, this movie is a solid outing for the former spice runner-turned-general.

Poe has got his groove back, and being around Finn (John Boyega) and Rey is a big part of this. Finn's also feeling himself, in a leather vest and racing stripe pants that offer an athleisure-meets-military aesthetic (which also resemble pants worn in the original trilogy). For command casual, look no further than the sadly sidelined Rose (Kelly Marie Tran). She's still wearing her half of the medallion she shared with her sister, but I wish she had more to do than standing around spouting exposition in well-tailored high-waisted pants.

Newcomer Naomi Ackie as Jannah fares a lot better in the style and action stakes. A gold cape and bodice add some femininity to a look that draws on her stormtrooper past through her machine-like accessories.

Lando Calrissian The Rise of Skywalker
One person who knows how to work a cape is none other than Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams), making his entrance in a suitably spectacular space cape resembling leopard print. Later on, he tones it down in a teal-collared number, which is paired with a very familiar bold canary shirt. At any age, Lando is serving sartorial excellence.

Eschewing color altogether, other than an attempted edgy helmet rebrand featuring jagged red lines, is Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) leaning hard into the emo of it all. He's a little too petulant, but his hair sure does look good no matter the weather or mood situation. However, his black threads take on new meaning after his big lightsaber battle (and defeat).

Kylo Ren and Rey in The Rise of Skywalker

After Rey has brought him back to life and he's had a heart-to-heart with his dad, he ditches the scale-like attire. The only garment that remains is his super cozy-looking baggy sweater. It now has a giant hole in it (the perils of death), but this suggests he is entering a new grunge phase in his life. Again, his hair is giving off the kind of volume and texture that only someone with the Force can utilize.

Unlike previous Star Wars installments, there is no big medal-giving ceremony or celebration, denying us party attire. However, throughout this trilogy, Michael Kaplan has drawn on the past to create memorable costumes that will not only live on in movie costume history, but will likely influence the runway in years to come. The sartorial force is strong with The Rise of Skywalker.