‘Star Wars and the Power of Costume’ opens this weekend at The DIA

Customes from Queen Amidala and Obi-Wan Kenobi at the Detroit Institute of Arts. (Garrett Godwin/AmericaJR)

DETROIT — Once upon a time, in a galaxy far, far away … 

It was 35 years ago that “Return of the Jedi” was released in theaters.  Episode VI in the “Star Wars” franchise finds Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) becoming a full-fledged Jedi Knight like his father Anakin, who fell from grace into the Dark Side of the Force as Darth Vader.  The old saying, the father becomes the son and the son becomes the father was true in this film with the redemption of Darth Vader: finally bringing balance back into the Force, sacrificing his life to save Luke.  But for some fanboys like yours truly, the film’s memorable for Luke’s sister Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) wearing that revealing slave outfit for Jabba the Hutt.

Those are one of many at the Star Wars and the Power of Costume exhibit inside the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA).  According to DIA Director Salvador Salort-Pons, it is an exhibition that is targeted for families because “they are a diverse audience,” a “delight for our community.”

“We wanted to create an exhibition that brought new audiences to the museum,” he added. “And at the same time provided a good art experience. This exhibition is about the costume designers and how they come up with these amazing costumes that dress the characters of the film. It is also an exhibition that we are doing in the summer when normally we don’t do exhibitions. It is targeted to families with young children, which are the target audience for the DIA.”

This exhibition is on the eve of the “Star Wars” prequel “Solo” hyper-thrusting into theaters a week from Friday: coinciding with the anniversary of Episode IV’s “A New Hope”, which was released on May 25, 1977.  Starring Alden Ehrenreich, “Solo” follows the origins of the scruffy-looking space pilot/smuggler, how he won the Millennium Falcon fair and square from Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover), and meeting his partner and friend Chewbacca.  Originated and forever define by Harrison Ford, Han Solo is both an outlaw and outsider in proverbial terms of the Old West: always on the run from bounty hunter Boba Fett and Jabba, a gun-for-hire who discovers justice, love, and friendship as its greatest rewards when he joins the Rebel Alliance’s fight against the Galactic Empire, becoming both a hero and a legend.

“I have to say your team has done an amazing job of installation of this exhibition,” said Myriam Springuel, director of the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Services. “The collections with your permanent exhibition, I think you will all enjoy. There are more than 60 costumes from the “Star Wars” saga beginning with the original  “A New Hope” which debuted 41 years ago. It also includes costumes from the 2015 [film] “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” You will also see additional objects on loan from the Lucas Museum including original concept artwork and props.”

With more than 60 costumes, the exhibition includes several that have inspired and influenced “Star Wars”.  For instance, its timeless and relevant saga of good versus evil is a throwback to the swashbuckling heroic serials such as the pulp Flash Gordon, who defends the Earth against Ming the Merciless.

Like myself, DIA curator of film programs and exhibition curator Elliott Wilhelm loves the movies, said this is a reminder of motion pictures like Star Wars having the ability to affect you.

“It has been such a joy to work on this exhibition with the crew that installed it, the people who have worked on it to design,” Wilhelm said. “I sort of feel like someone who got to stand back and say, ‘Yeah, I like that. That looks pretty good. This is great.’ It reminded me of the experience of actually creating a motion picture. It is a highly collaborative art form. The Star Wars saga looks a little bit different to you as you get older. You begin to find different things. There are themes about fathers and sons and mothers and daughters. We’re focusing on costumes in the film. The ways those costumes give us immediate impressions of characters.”

Interpretive specialist Melanie Parker hopes people will get the feeling of being behind the scenes with this exhibition, that they will feel the spirit of the Star Wars fantasy with the family.

“Visitors will enter a dramatic and theatrical presentation of these costumes that is reminescent of the film’s universe,” Parker explained. “One of the things that makes this show special is the inclusion of the 150 concept drawings, artworks, textile samples, costume parts and pieces and accessories throughout the exhibition that came from the archives of the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art at Skywalker Ranch. These additions that help to bolster the costumes give a magical glimpse not only into the Star Wars universe but into the minds of the designers who brought these iconic characters to life.”

After 41 years, the Force is with us … always.

Tickets to Star Wars™ and the Power of Costume include a free multimedia tour. Time slots for this special exhibition will sell out, so be sure to purchase your tickets in advance, either online here or by calling 313-833-4005. Residents of Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties receive $5 off all adult tickets.


The late Carrie Fisher wore these costumes when she played Princess Leia in the “Star Wars” films.


Costumes from the most recent “Star Wars” films. (Garrett Godwin/AmericaJR)


Droids from the “Star Wars” franchise (Garrett Godwin/AmericaJR)


Chewbacca costume from “A New Hope,” and Han Solo’s costume from “Return of the Jedi” (Garrett Godwin/AmericaJR)


Darth Vader’s costume is located near the end of the exhibition. (Garrett Godwin/AmericaJR)



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