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Costume Designer Discusses Carrie Fisher’s Iconic Golden Bikini

Photo Credit: Twentieth Century Fox / Pineapples101 / MovieStillsDB
Photo Credit: Twentieth Century Fox / Pineapples101 / MovieStillsDB

There are a lot of things the Star Wars franchise is famous for – Darth Vader’s misheard quote, “Luke, I am your father,” the infamous Stormtroopers, and of course, lightsabers. However, the biggest symbol of Return of the Jedi, the third film of the saga, is most certainly the bikini worn by Princess Leia. Played by the beautiful Carrie Fisher, the bikini is an icon of the entire Star Wars franchise.

The bikini became a thing of legend

Although she only wears it for about five minutes in the whole film, Leia’s slave bikini became a symbol of the entire Star Wars franchise. She’s forced to wear the scandalous outfit after being captured by Jabba the Hutt following a failed attempt to rescue Han Solo.

A scene from 'Return of the Jedi,' with Carrie Fisher as Leia sitting in front of Jabba the Hutt
The scene where Leia wears the slave outfit lasts for only about five minutes but it still managed to make a huge impact. (Photo Credit: Twentieth Century Fox / Zayne / MovieStillsDB)

The look began as a simple design sketched out by the film’s costume designer, Aggie Rodgers, in collaboration with Nilo Rodis-Jamero. Rodgers was guided by director George Lucas to look at artist Frank Frazetta for inspiration, as he was known for designing the characters Conan the Barbarian and John Carter of Mars.

“He’s a wonderful illustrator of the imagination,” Rodgers explained. “I used to get books on him all the time, and [Leia’s bikini] is very much from that milieu. George specifically said he wanted a bikini, and so that popped up in my mind, and we had the illustrator draw it up.” They kept working at it until they had the perfect design.

They then handed the job over to the costume creators, who made the bikini out of a malleable gelatinous material. This was laid above an overwire to help it keep structure while also being able to move. This element was essential to the design, as Leia was expected to participate in action scenes while wearing the revealing outfit. “You know, she had to fly,” Rodgers said. “She had to have a harness at different points. When you’re flying around with a bikini on, life is a little different.”

Fisher wasn’t a fan of it

Fisher herself wasn’t really a fan of the costume, for multiple reasons. For one thing, it was uncomfortable. “You don’t want to sit. There were creases, legs bent, sweat. I don’t like sweating, I don’t know about you,” she once recalled. She also didn’t like how five minutes in that costume turned her into a sci-fi sex icon for the remainder of her life.

Carried Fisher dressed in Princess Leia's slave bikini, laying against a way.
Fisher didn’t like the costume which turned her into a sex symbol in the franchise. (Photo Credit: Twentieth Century Fox / Swot2010 / MovieStillsDB)

As for her Force Awakens co-star Daisy Ridley, who plays Rey in the film, Fisher encouraged her to maintain her agency when it came to costuming. She warned, “You should fight for your outfit. Don’t be a slave like I was. You keep fighting against that slave outfit.”

Fisher had taken a strong dislike for the bikini, but got sweet redemption in the following scenes of the film. “What redeems it is I get to kill him, which was so enjoyable,” she explained back in 2016. “I sawed his neck off with that chain that I killed him with. I really relished that because I hated wearing that outfit and sitting there rigid straight, and I couldn’t wait to kill him.”

Rodgers later explained that it was never her intent to exploit Leia’s sexuality. “When you look at it, she’s completely covered up. She had a lovely figure then, as we all did then. There was never any discussion of lasciviousness at all. There was no deep cleavage showing. I’m kind of that way myself. I’m kind of square in that way. But it still was a bikini. It’s not Brigitte Bardot, let’s say that,” she said.

“Of course, some people choose to remember this because, like George says, it’s the most iconic costume in the last 30 years,” she continued. “I think that’s very sweet, but it really was carried off by Carrie and George. Carrie and George were really good friends, and I certainly don’t think he was making fun of her or her character in any way.”

Ford was ‘naughty’ during costume fittings

The slave bikini wasn’t the only risque job for the costuming department. As Rodgers revealed, Harrison Ford was a bit saucy during fittings. Ford plays Han Solo in the franchise, dressed in a relatively simple shirt, vest, and pants. “He’s a very naughty man,” Rodgers explained. “He doesn’t say anything lascivious to you; it’s just his person. He’s so funny.”

Harrison Ford as Han Solo in 'Star Wars'
Harrison Ford was a ‘naughty’ one during costume fitting for the films. (Photo Credit: Twentieth Century Fox / Darcy / MovieStillsDB)

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Later, Rodgers and Ford would be reunited under the context of Star Wars costuming, as the actor presented her with the career achievement award at the 2015 Costume Designers Guild Awards.

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Samantha Franco

Samantha Franco is a Freelance Content Writer who received her Bachelor of Arts degree in history from the University of Guelph, and her Master of Arts degree in history from the University of Western Ontario. Her research focused on Victorian, medical, and epidemiological history with a focus on childhood diseases. Stepping away from her academic career, Samantha previously worked as a Heritage Researcher and now writes content for multiple sites covering an array of historical topics.

In her spare time, Samantha enjoys reading, knitting, and hanging out with her dog, Chowder!