Tuesday, 27 December 2016
Princess Leia & Her Wardrobe
Leia's ski suit and other uniforms in The Empire Strikes Back (1980) were similarly familiar to girls growing up at the time. We wore a lot of clothes back then, and baggy, oversized clothes were considered cool by 1984. Naturally she still looked feminine because of her pretty face and long, artistically-looped braids. (Her braid-crown reminded us that she was a princess.) These were also easily copied by little girls.
Therefore, when Leia appeared onscreen in The Return of the Jedi (1983) in a copper-and-leather bikini, I was horrified. This was not at all how grown women dressed in public at the time. Naturally, it didn't make me feel any better that Leia was attached to a collar, a chain and a giant anthropomorphic slug. Whatever the adults intended, it was obvious to a child that Leia's outfit was a mark of degrading slavery.
I was thinking about this the other day when I heard that Carrie Fisher had had a heart attack. "Slave Leia" is a theme of much joking today, but when I was a child in the cinema, I was frightened for her. And all of a sudden a great mystery was solved: why it was that, when I was a muscular twig of 26, a lean, mean, fighting machine, I couldn't bring myself to buy a bikini. Other girls probably have happier bikini memories--watching old Gidget movies or having glamorous bikini-wearing aunts. But mine was of Leia---the small and feminine yet brave and adventurous princess--who preferred to dress for dignity or comfort but was stuffed into harem-wear when captured by an enemy.
Update: Carrie Fisher on the "slave bikini" : “The father who flipped out about it, ‘What am I going to tell my kid about why she’s in that outfit?’ Tell them that a giant slug captured me and forced me to wear that stupid outfit, and then I killed him because I didn’t like it. And then I took it off. Backstage.” Which is exactly what I thought.