Star Wars: Let’s Talk About That Metal Bikini

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As the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens fast approaches, Star Wars is, unsurprisingly, on the minds of many fans. The latest chatter stems from a rumour that Disney intends to retire “Slave Leia” from its merchandising plans. Many fans are upset by this, while others are happy to see it gone.

The Slave Leia bikini was already the source of controversy earlier this summer due to her appearance within the Star Wars Black Series toy line, which describes itself as a collection of “quintessential” character moments, packaged in sleek boxes that are:

“In short, its sexy. Slave Leia sexy.” — www.starwars.com

For some, the scene where Leia uses her slave bondage to kill Jabba in Return of the Jedi is the epitome of empowerment:

— and Carrie Fisher herself takes a similar, “never truly diminished” perspective:


Although she added nuance to her tune when giving advice to Star Wars’ new female star, Daisy Ridley:

“You should fight for your outfit. Don’t be a slave like I was. You keep fighting against that slave outfit.”

Others find the metal bikini representative of disturbing sexism:

Carrie Fisher, Rolling Stone (1983)

If this was where the story was coming from, says Stevenson, above

The concern isn’t necessarily that the bikini exists, but that it became the “face” of Princess Leia. George Lucas, a man known for his intense focus on merchandising and marketing, had Slave Leia added, front and centre, to the movie poster and other promotional material, including the 1983 Rolling Stone beach photo shoot above. While older fans will never forget the white gowned, spiral-bunned princess passing on messages to a droid or facing down a Moff and a Sith Lord, for many younger fans, the metal bikini is their introduction to Leia Organa.


When the issue was raised in the summer, our own Ardo Omer said:

“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.”

Our resulting discussion, as well as the history of Leia’s iconic and problematic bikini can be found here, along with our own ideas about quintessential moments in Princess Leia’s career and the corresponding outfits that go with them.

But what about you, dear readers and fellow Star Wars fans? What are your thoughts on the metal bikini? Vote in the poll or add your thoughts in the comments.

The "Slave Leia" Bikini:

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WWAC Assistant Editor and Left Hand. Also, mother, geek, gamer, writer, blogger, bibliophile. Not necessarily in that order.

4 Comments

  1. IceCreamGenius on

    The most problematic thing about the bikini IMO is that it’s become the iconic Leia look. Probably the thing remembered most about her look other than the buns. And it really does turn her into an object, especially when it’s removed from the context of her strangling her captor to death with a chain.

    On the other hand – to argue FOR it – it’s not just that the bikini was developed in the early 80s when a costume like that would have been less widely criticized. People often overlook the fact that the original trilogy was very much an intentional pastiche of the cheesy sci-fi serials that pre-dated it by decades. I think the bikini is a very much an intentional throwback to that aesthetic.
    That doesn’t excuse it, of course, but it also didn’t pop right out of the ether.

  2. I don’t understand why people can’t agree on this when it sounds like most of us are saying the same thing. I tend to not associate with the drooling fanbois who just say “hawt.” The bikini is a “fun” outfit that’s been exploited and tiresome; it could be fun if it were by choice which it was not. But it’s not empowering.

    There’s nothing empowering about clothes. It’s character that’s empowering. It’s actions and whether she’s inspirational. That’s what makes Leia a badass. She could have killed Jabba wearing anything.

    It’s absolutely no different than Bryan Singer demanding to the point of throwing a little boy tantrum, that Mystique be nude in the X-Men movies (real story from a designer of the film).

    Women who hate the gold bikini aren’t even calling for it to be permanently retired. We want it to stop be the only Leia ever shown or made in terms of the merch. There’s no mega gathering of Hoth Leias or New Hope gown Leias at SDCC. It’s SLAVE LEIAS and they get a hundred of them to pose for photos. That’s fan-driven. The fans have not broken the barrier to say, hey this year let’s do something different! They want the attention of being in that bikini so they end up on the pages of EW and Nerdist.

  3. As it’s been said, a lot of the problems with the bikini aren’t the bikini by itself. It’s the situation Leia was placed in and how that’s now been marketed as her #1 situation to remember. So often male characters get defining moments for being heroes. For women, it’s just trying to survive a situation with sexually violent undertones. If Leia chose to wear the bikini, that’d be cool. If she found strength in it afterward, cool. But she never wears it again. Why do we keep seeing her marketed in the bikini then?

    (We know the reason, but it’s sad.)

  4. I believe the outfit is 100% sexist. Especially considering how hard the marketing pushed to put her half naked front and center on everything. That said, it’s entirely possible that knowing the context of the story, a fuller picture can be drawn and you can see “Oh, within her character arc this is actually really cool and she used it to her advantage to be a badass” but you’d never know that without context. Which is obviously what the marketing people were banking on. Posters and merch just don’t quite get across the idea of “Yes, this is a sexy bikini, but she does a badass thing with it and actually it isn’t sexist because blah blah”. It’s specifically put on there because of the old adage, “Sex sells.”