Costume Designer Michael Kaplan Talks Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Michael KaplanMichael Kaplan is already busy working on Rian Johnson’s Star Wars: Episode VIII. The famous designer, responsible for the costume designs in such movies as Blade Runner, Flashdance, Fight Club, Star Trek, and many more, spoke with Elle, revealing new details about Daisy Ridley’s costume, what it was like dressing Han, Luke , and Leia, and working with J.J. Abrams.



From Elle:

Did Abrams have any sort of things he wanted, key ideas he wanted you to hew to, or did he leave it entirely up to you?

He’s always had very strong opinion, but when it came to Star Wars, I was suddenly dealing with a totally different person. I mean, he would ask me where I was putting the seams. I mean, nothing, nothing got past him without notice. It was remarkable how everything on this movie became important. I could see what effect the movie had on him as a child and how he carried that into his film-making. I was thrilled to support him and go through all the steps that would make him happy.

It was really important, for me and for J.J., that we stayed within the same world of the characters, that they were in the initial three films. Many of the characters were inhabited by the same actors, and I wanted it to feel familiar, as thought the same characters were still making the choices they made 30 years ago in what they were wearing…Things needed updating, but not recreating.



Princess Leia has been unique in the superhero fandom for having a lot of costumes that weren’t overly sexualized. The character Rey, that Daisy Ridley plays, seems to be carrying on that sense of empowered dressing that isn’t focused too much on breasts, nudity, and revealing outfits. How did you approach dressing her character? Was it with that in mind or was it a continuation of the idea behind Princess Leia’s fashion?

I didn’t think of Princess Leia when I was creating costumes for Daisy’s character. Whenever I start a movie, I take all my cues from the script. Those cues might be the climate, the economic background of the character, the type of work or action they’ll be doing. All those things are built into the costume, whether it’s a contemporary film or a period film or futuristic film or fantasy film. It’s a long process of addition and subtraction until the character is discovered and all the interested parties are satisfied—those parties, being myself and the director.

During this process, I’m aided by an extraordinary team of concept artists and costume makers. Ideas and sketches and rough facsimiles are presented to J.J. or whoever the director is. This was no different with Star Wars and with Daisy’s character. Rey is written as a very strong character and it took all the elements that I mentioned earlier, the fact that she’s working, doing very hard work in a very hot and dusty climate that might get cold at night. Everything that she’s wearing and everything that she’s carrying has a reason for being there.

Something I’ve never said to anybody about the costume is that she wears a head wrap. It’s almost like a turban that she has on her head. It’s actually a long-sleeve t-shirt that she put over her head and then took the sleeves and wrapped them around. That’s the garment that she would carry with her if it got cold at night. Yet, she doesn’t want to have to deal with her hair getting all full of sand and dust, so she tied it around her head during the daytime. Everything is dealt with like that.



Any other examples?

If you look at the goggles that she wears closely, you can see that the lenses are actually old Storm Trooper eyes; maybe she found them in one of the old starships that she’s been scavenging from. Then she’s made them into goggles so she doesn’t get dust in eyes. Coming up with that just adds ingenuity to her character…plus it’s a bit of an inside joke. If somebody notices them―​and I’m sure they will―​they’ll know what they are and what it means and where she got them. I love doing things like this that enriches the character and make you realize how clever they are, but in a very quiet way. People might not notice it at all and that’s fine too. They just see her wearing goggles.


Did you have a favorite Star Wars costume from the original films?

In the entire franchise, it was C-3PO.  In The Force Awakens, it was Captain Phasma.



‘The Force Awakens’ is arguably the most anticipated film in history. Has anyone tried to bribe you to get the full story?

Yes, Carrie Fisher. At our first meeting, she hadn’t yet read the script and she knew that I had. She told me if I revealed Leia’s actions in Force Awakens, she would show me the famous Ruby Slippers from The Wizard of Oz, which her mom, Debbie Reynolds, owned.


Was she incredible to work with?

She’s amazing. I love her. She’s the funniest person in the world and she’s adorable, and warm, and generous. I can’t wait to have her show up here again, to dress her again.


So Kaplan didn’t think of Leia while making the costume for Rey. If she was her daughter, one would assume quite the opposite, right? 😉


For the full interview make sure to go to Elle


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Founder of SWNN, MNN and The Cantina forums.

Born on April 24, 1980.

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Founder of SWNN, MNN and The Cantina forums.Born on April 24, 1980.

27 thoughts on “Costume Designer Michael Kaplan Talks Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

  • November 24, 2015 at 5:31 pm

    Thank you for posting this. Really great article! Glad he was working on TFA!! 23 more days!

  • November 24, 2015 at 5:32 pm

    Dress her again….so that is Luke and Leia confirmed for Ep VIII…

    • November 24, 2015 at 5:38 pm

      Yup! Nice!

    • November 24, 2015 at 6:15 pm

      And Han?…

      • November 24, 2015 at 6:46 pm

        How so? (About Han)

  • November 24, 2015 at 5:39 pm

    You know who’s costume I would like to see? …. Supreme leader Snoke.

    • November 24, 2015 at 5:51 pm

      … and you will, in 20 odd days.

      • November 24, 2015 at 6:06 pm

        LOL, I was waiting for that response. = )

  • November 24, 2015 at 5:50 pm

    Cool interview. The little things like the stormtrooper’s eyes, the attention to detail, that’s what makes a great movie.

  • November 24, 2015 at 6:07 pm

    I like this guy’s work ethic.
    He ain’t thinking in terms of “main woman” he’s just worried about her day-to-day life, nice.

  • November 24, 2015 at 6:15 pm

    You know… it’s possible we don’t learn about these characters origin in this film. Gotta leave something for the next two movies.

  • November 24, 2015 at 6:21 pm

    As he stated in the article, JJ Abrams has put a lot of care into making this look as much like it came from the original films as possible. As particular he was with these costumes as compared to other movies he’s done with this designer.

  • November 24, 2015 at 6:26 pm

    “So Kaplan didn’t think of Leia while making the costume for Rey. If she was her daughter, one would assume quite the opposite, right?”

    Only if you wanted it to be patently obvious.

    • November 24, 2015 at 7:05 pm

      fan-person dribble.

  • November 24, 2015 at 6:36 pm

    If Rey is the daughter of Leia she has obviously been separated from her mother for most her life if not all… Why would their relationship have any effect on their clothing? Nothing in this article indicates, in either direction, what Rey and Leia’s relationship is.

  • November 24, 2015 at 10:08 pm

    JJ has also said while the character Rey was always intended to be played by a female actress, there were no race restrictions when casting. Infact if I’m not mistaken a black actress auditioned for Rey.

    Add this with the news we were getting during casting that they were looking for a female lead to play a descendant of Obi Wan Kenobi, and the character didn’t have to be white, and you can put two and two together.

    The character might not have any relations to Kenobi (I think it’s possible) but I truly don’t believe Rey is the daughter of Han or Leia. Especially with the new spoilers from that book were we find out Han basically runs into Rey and Finn by chance instead of the old theories of him watching over Rey from afar.

    These might all be original characters.

    • November 25, 2015 at 12:35 am

      My friend, if I am the director and I want and need to keep secret certain´s character identity, I would say exactly that – no race restriction in the audience. And now you can try to proove he´s lying 🙂 I would do a fake auditioning with people of different color and I would know the whole time who would be the winner. If the “random race” character will be a Calrissian, I would make sure that the winner is a black actor….that simple.

      • November 27, 2015 at 8:50 am

        I get what you’re saying man haha. But there was actually a (and maybe more than one) black actress/es that auditioned for the part of Rey. We also already know Finn’s role had no race restrictions either because John Boyega, Jessie Plemons (who is white) and Michael B Jordan, were on the short list for the role. These roles didn’t have specific races in mind. I understand why fans think they went THAT far into hiding stuff since some people are even convinced that Luke is playing Kylo Ren and that Adam Driver got paid to pretend he’s in the movie lol.. but I just think they give out little clues while remaining subtle

  • November 24, 2015 at 10:12 pm

    Wait, Debbie Reynolds has the ruby slippers?!?!?! WOW

  • November 25, 2015 at 12:31 am

    And not only that….the guy´s expecting Carrie to return in the next chapter, so at least we know she survives 🙂

    • November 25, 2015 at 9:13 am

      Given that it would seem that Luke isn’t in it much it’s possible she may not have any scenes with Hamill and that she’s being saved for the next film for precisely that reason.

  • November 25, 2015 at 3:59 am

    I talked him into grey instead of white for my undershirt 😉

  • November 25, 2015 at 4:09 am

    “I can’t wait to have her show up here again, to dress her again.”
    That’s interesting!

    • November 25, 2015 at 6:52 am

      Hmmm, i found that comment interesting too. Does that mean he’s set to design costumes for Ep. 8? And is Carrie in it too????

  • November 25, 2015 at 5:15 pm

    Rey is Yoda’s daughter, duh.

  • November 25, 2015 at 5:56 pm

    I find it hard to believe that he didn’t at least glance at Mara Jade’s head scarf before he “designed” Rey’s.

Comments are closed.