The costumes of Star Wars can be pretty telling about the heroes themselves. Luke starts off white, goes gray, shows up in all black, but has a white flap that reveals what is really inside him as a character. Its pretty basic, if not simple stuff. But Luke Skywalker is a simple guy. He’s a farmer that becomes a commander, and becomes the savior of the galaxy. It is a simple yet insanely effective design direction that tell us a lot about the hero in basic visual language.
In Star Wars: The Force Awakens we are introduced to Finn. When we first meet Finn, he’s a Stormtrooper. He’s wearing white. But white is used different on the Stormtroopers, they’re meant to evoke the skeletal armies of the spiritually dead, rather than virginal innocence and hope. Finn starts out in The Force Awakens as a spiritually dead coward. Its not until he witnesses the atrocities of the Empire first hand that he’s “awakened.” For the first time he takes matters into his own hands and runs. Maybe he runs because he’s still slightly a coward? Maybe he runs because its the right thing to do? He’s becoming the man he will become, but he’s not actualized yet. But that’s the start of his hero’s journey.
We then see Finn shed the armor of spiritual death and he just wears a black body glove. Is this symbolic in the film or just the practicality of removing one’s armor? If you believe the white flap of Luke Skywalker’s black outfit is telling and represents inner purity, perhaps its also telling Stormtroopers wear black under their costumes because it represents who they fight for, the forces of darkness. I’ve only seen Finn wear the black body glove in the back of the wagon speeder when he’s injured. He seems like he might not make it and he’s out of it. After these sequences, Finn then wears the clothes that represent his hero-self for the remainder of the film (to the best of my knowledge).
Some recent unpainted toy leaks made it appear as if Finn wore a vest. That’s a misunderstanding. Finn wears a brown jacket. The jacket is sort of evocative of Luke Skywalker’s yellow ceremonial jacket from the end of A New Hope. In The Force Awakens Finn has cargo pants that are also brown with a grayish brown undershirt. We still see some hint of gray in the costume but colors have moved towards earth tones, somewhat the opposite of the Stormtrooper costume he started out in. This jacket also has a blue and red rank type insignia on it, so it might be the clothes he receives once he joins the Rebellion.
Rey wears a white tunic and the tabards are gray and they cross instead of going straight down like the old Jedi used to wear them. This is what she wears under the shawl you see in the teaser. She’s probably following the Luke Skywalker model of costuming more than Finn. But it will be interesting to see if the gray in her costume is pulled out more in Star Wars: Episode VIII or if they grey simply clashes with the white well and that’s all there is too it.
On the flip side of things, Kylo wears all black. His mask does have the design we’ve described in the past and Indie Revolver showed the world. However, the design on the mask is not yellow, it is simply gray. His lightsaber hilt is about twice as big as a normal lightsaber hilt as well. We’ve heard a lot that Kylo Ren is a damaged person. Its interesting that his lightsaber has a line that runs up the hilt all the way down to the bottom pommel. It lights up like a crystal almost with a red wire running all the way up to the top of the hilt. Why isn’t it that way in the teaser but it is that way in other places? I can’t say. Maybe its not finished in the teaser or its not finished in the film itself? Maybe he has more than one? We can’t say for certain at this point. But it does appear to exist in this form:
It might be the energy source, but the source can’t say for certain. One thing is clear, the saber is a bit “primitive,” and when coupled with his frayed getup in some of the movie, he seems to be a very incomplete monster. Another source described the bottom of the saber as having “a clean shape, could also be some kind of crystal chamber with protection” while another suggested “he’s upgrading it or building it from parts he has to find first.” He’s not as in control and slick as someone like Darth Vader. Interestingly, he clashes in a cool way with the female Chrome Stormtrooper Commander. Her red cape has been described as “Ezio from Assassin’s Creed 2” in cut and length. I found that interesting as one of the pirates with a lightsaber also has a very Assassin’s Creed look about him as well (we apparently have a fan in the design team). Point is, she seems to be very clean, in control and lethal and he seems like a impulsive, brutal, and falling apart and held together by evil.
Its still early to say exactly how the costumes will reflect the characters themselves. But there is generally something in the visual language of the costume design and choices that are suggestive of the characters and their overall arc. Some characters like Poe simply wear their flight suites the entire film as far as we can tell. Sometimes a design just looks cool. It is impossible to tell what is being encoded by the creators with these ideas and maybe at the end of the day all that matters is how we decode them? One thing is for sure, I can’t wait to get a better look at all the costumes from the next Star Wars film.