For many of us, the first princess we ever knew was the rebel leading, blaster shooting, badass Princess Leia from Star Wars. This is a legacy we strive to pass on to the next generation. I’d like to think that, after finding this in my nine year old’s homework, I’m doing a good job of it:
— Republic of Xadia (@nightxade) April 1, 2015
But it’s hard to associate the face-down-a-Grand-Moff-and-a-Sith Lord, survive-torture, speeder-bike-racing, watch-her-planet-be-destroyed, rebel-commanding, Millenium-Falcon-fixing-and-flying, and boyfriend-rescuing Leia, with the image of Leia in a metal bikini with a collar around her neck that seems to forever permeate the media. Toy Ark’s display of the recent Star Wars “Black Series” of six inch figurines spells out the problem:
“These are the kinds of memories that are burned into the hearts and minds of every Star Wars fan. That’s why each figure is highly articulated and comes with the right accessories, so that fans can pose them to recapture these classic Star Wars scenes.”
“Star Wars Black Series sets out to capture the quintessential characters and scenes from the Star Wars saga — legendary moments in time brought back to life in excruciatingly accurate detail.” — www.starwars.com
Take a stroll down the toy aisles and you’re likely to see the “Slave” Leia, complete with the metal collar and chain that bound her to Jabba the Hutt. A friend who wanted to decorate her new baby’s nursery Star Wars style had to have a mobile custom made because the ones she found all seemed to think bikini Leia is just what baby needs. Leia as Boussh the Bounty Hunter has been added to the series, but Slave Leia remains the most prominent. Apparently, this is the only way Disney and Hasbro believe Leia toys will sell to young boys (remember: girls only play with Barbie and Disney Princesses). Having Leia toys in the aisles at all is a victory, right? Especially when Disney already tried to keep her out. Perhaps if Black Widow had spent a few seconds in a bikini during any of the Avengers movies, we’d have more toys for her now? Thankfully, the Black Series doll also comes with a pair of lethal looking battleaxes for Leia to wield after she chokes out Jabba in Return of the Jedi. The princess once again rescuing herself from her captors most certainly is an iconic moment for the character. It’s a scene that makes me cheer every time I see it, but it is not the only such moment that made her famous. Yet, when it comes to capturing the “quintessential character” that is Princess Leia, it’s all about the sexy slave girl in a bikini.
“In short, its sexy. Slave Leia sexy.” — www.starwars.com
Oh I’m well aware that the Slave Leia image is marketed toward adult (male) fans, despite the figures’ presence in your average toy store aisle where kids can see her in all her chained glory. But despite what Disney and Hasbro might have you believe, collectors want other versions of Leia too, as well as more female Star Wars characters in general). Slave Leia remains one of the most popular cosplay choices and is fetishized all over the pop culture and the media, most recently by comedian Amy Schumer in a photo spread for GQ magazine.
There is nothing wrong with the bikini per se and Carrie Fisher and her stunt double, Tracy Eddon, certainly looked great in it, despite the difficulties it created for the actresses and the costume department on set.
According to Wookeepedia’s detailed history of the iconic costume, Fisher herself requested a new look for the princess after spending two films in outfits that she felt made it difficult to tell she was a woman. (We beg to differ — see below.) Star Wars creator George Lucas was apparently smitten with the design Aggie Guerard Rodgers came up with, which was inspired by fantasy artists like Frank Frazetta. Soon enough, Fisher was told to get in shape, poster artist Kazuhiko Sano was asked to alter his Return of the Jedi sketches to include Slave Leia, and all promotion of the film featured Leia front and centre in her metal bikini. Some women find the outfit empowering, especially considering what Leia accomplishes while wearing it. Fisher herself reminds us that Leia always knows how to take care of business, no matter what situation or attire she finds herself in:
That chain only”enslaved”me until I could use the frabjous thing to KILL THAT DROOLING SWOLLEN SUPERTONGUED SLUG&whirl him off into infinity
— Carrie Fisher (@carrieffisher) July 15, 2015
“Jabba’s prisoner” Leia is so prominent that those who are new to the Star Wars franchise might think this is all there is to the intrepid princess. In fact, that’s exactly what our own Ardo Omer thought when she recently watched the saga.
“I was so surprised by the first two original Star Wars mostly for Leia. I thought she was going to be in that bikini for the whole franchise the way it is disproportionately represented in media. Very surprised by her being just a bad ass and a leader worth following.”
There are a lot of things inherently wrong with the slave bikini, not the least of which is the fact that a leader of the rebellion and one of the very few women in the franchise is reduced to a slave girl in a bikini. Fortunately, no matter what Leia is wearing, she always kicks ass, and we’d love to see her more prominently featured in some of the of the other outfits she sports during her on screen reign:
Senator and Rebel Spy Leia — A New Hope
What I like about this look is how the design fits the princess-politician role she was using as cover, a very simple white dress that at first glance looks very modest and unassuming. I like to think that she chose this look deliberately for just that harmless impression, which just might have worked if it hadn’t been Darth Vader who caught up with their ship.
Of course, pacifistic and unassuming is the utter opposite of Leia Organa, and she spends the rest of the movie subverting those damsel-in-distress narratives that go along with the usual story of a princess in trouble. That’s why the all-important blaster accessory is key to this costume. First of all, because every action figure is better with accessories, but also because you just know the Han Solo action figure gets a blaster. Leia kicks just as much ass in A New Hope as he does, and it’s AWESOME. Girl knows how to wield a gun and shoot her way into a garbage compactor, no problem.
I also love this look because it is so important to establishing the futuristic fashion and feeling of Star Wars as a universe. Princess Leia ain’t no Barbarella, and putting your lead female character in a full-coverage dress (with a turtleneck of all things!) makes a strong statement that this isn’t going to be a pulpy sci-fi story of Babes from Outer Space. So does the hairstyle, which remains one of the most recognizable looks from pop culture history. Compare Leia’s look to the popular styles of the ‘70s, and you can see it deliberately and immediately sets the Star Wars aesthetic as distinct from modern day America. It ALL starts with this look.
— Catie Coleman
Hoth Leia — The Empire Strikes Back
I saw Hoth Leia repped as a fashion icon by Liz Barker on the excellent, now-defunct, style blog, No Good For Me, a few years back, and the idea stuck. I’d never considered it but when you’re shown a glimpse of truth you can’t ignore it. Right? Right.
So what makes this look so good? First of all, it’s hard to look good in the snow. I have been skiing a number of times, and so this is a thing that I deeply know. Snow gear is puffy in order to keep you warm, and it’s easy to feel like you’re trying to stay afloat in your own garmentry if it’s not cut just-so. An over-long snow coat is a recipe for abject misery. Oh my goodness.
Leia goes for a practical all-in one, a white, padded salopette jumpsuit with princess-seamed bodice area (that means it’s tailored to her joints and peaks, instead of asking her to fill a rectangular body-sack), with reinforced areas on thigh and shoulder which also serve to add textural interest, and somehow manages to give a creamy gilet panache. That’s the strength of character you need to run a planet (or a rebellion). Slate blue boots add interest and a more overt threat of style, which one can miss in “all-white snow gear” if one is not paying attention, and still manage to blend in with the general surroundings. Flawless.
— Claire Napier
Bespin Leia — The Empire Strikes Back
There are so many facets to the princess and we get to see a lot of them in Empire Strikes Back. When she and the crew of the Millenium Falcon make their way to the Cloud City of Bespin, she is dressed in a demure, practical, and comfortable outfit with adorable twin braids looped under a bun. She is tiny, she is sweet. Lando can’t help but flirt with her and she acknowledges him with a coy glances, but offers him nothing more. Kenner, the now defunct toy company that originally held the license to Star Wars toys, got it right with their figurine for “Bespin Leia,” where her accessory is a blaster. Because cute, sweet, and demure Leia is not to be under estimated.
Bespin lets us see the softer side of Leia. Glomping on to Han’s initial judgment of the princess, some people uphold the belief that Leia is an uptight woman. I’d like to see you lead an intergalactic rebellion and watch your planet die at 18 years old and handle that with anywhere near as much poise, confidence, and competence as Leia does. For a few moments on Cloud City, she gets to set that pressure aside, only to be reminded that no one can be trusted. Enter “Bespin Escape” Leia, who is back in the princess’ iconic pure white. She is leading the charge, flying the Falcon, rescuing Luke. All in a day’s work for Princess Leia.
— Wendy Browne
Moon of Endor Leia — Return of the Jedi
When people think about Leia in Return of the Jedi, they think about Slave!Leia in the gold bikini, but that was never my favorite outfit that she wears in the movie. What I love about Leia in the moon of Endor scenes is that this is the first time we see her in practical, combat-ready attire when she is actually herself, instead of when she is posing as the bounty hunter.
This is a Leia who is prepared for everything and is still every inch a princess, thank you very much. Visually, the layers and masculine nature of the outfit only make her next scene in the Ewok Village more of a contrast.
— Kate Tanski
Ewok Village Leia — Return of the Jedi
It’s probably obvious that Return of the Jedi was my favorite Star Wars movie growing up, and that moment when we see Leia in the Ewok village is one of my favorite moments. Her hair, which in every other scene is either pinned up or braided, is down in loose waves. So gorgeous! And even though her dress is clearly primitive, and worn over a white long-sleeved shirt (her own, which she was wearing under the poncho, I assume?) This full body promotional still shows that she was actually rocking a high leg slit.
Way more sexy than the gold bikini, imho.
— Kate Tanski
Yavin Awards Ceremony Leia — A New Hope
Leia spends most of her time saving everyone else’s skins, but there’s no doubt she’s a princess, not a brawler: Carrie Fisher ran the show in A New Hope with a regality Han Solo mistakes for arrogance. If she’s impatient with her would-be rescuers, it’s because they simply can’t keep up with her; they act in the moment, while she strategizes for the galaxy. It’s not until the solemn awards ceremony on Yavin 4 that either Han — who lives and breathes don’t know don’t care — and Luke — who idolized the two-dimensional picture of her — really see her as the princess she is.
The awards ceremony dress recalls her initial outfit: again, Leia is dressed head to toe in white, with a flowing A-line skirt and elaborately braided hair: again, she wears minimal makeup and no accessories but a chunky silver necklace that echoes the shape and color of her belt and follows the curve of her neckline — low enough that it is the only real clue that this dress isn’t meant for daily wear. She has no crown and no cloak or scepter; her gown is simple and elegant. The arms flow into a cape that softens the silhouette and a silver belt adds shape and contrast. And — always ready to sprint off to solve a crisis at a moment’s notice — she’s wearing low metallic heels.
Naturally, the look was informed by the fashions of the time — flowy silhouettes and minimal makeup that emphasized dark eyes and natural skin and lips — but look at how she carries herself. Her hair is braided back and piled up, showcasing her chin held high and her squared shoulders. She stands in a position of power, gaining height over both the men she is rewarding, and centered on the platform. She is serene and fully in charge. Leia’s got no time for your bullshit; she’s got a war to win and a world to mourn.
Ironically enough, the “Yavin Awards Ceremony Leia” does, in fact, have an action figure…but there were production problems which delayed shipment. They were promised to be on shelves this summer, though, so if you find one…send it along, won’t you?
— Laura Harcourt
Boussh Leia — Return of the Jedi
I’m going to cheat and talk about my favorite Leia figure from when I was a kid — Leia disguised as Boushh the Bounty Hunter, complete with a little detonator in her hand. I’m really pumped this outfit is actually being brought back to action figures, because in these scenes we get to see Leia being suave and in charge (not to mention the swoon-worthy reveal).
The cape, the boots, the utility belt all add up to a Leia who knows how to take care of business. It’s also a good alternate look for a toy because it is less iconic; you can have a Leia ready for both combat and secret, off-script missions in disguise. I liked the classic Leia look, to be sure, but it wasn’t great for stealth when my action figures were out fighting. Plus, this outfit manages to have a detachable cape, so her friends can also practice their suave rescuing moves!
— Kat Overland