Designing Costumes for ‘Star Wars’ Jedis, Princesses and Naked Creatures

In his long career as a Hollywood costume designer, Michael Kaplan has created looks for disco legends (the Village People in “Can’t Stop the Music”), 1980s icons (Jennifer Beals in “Flashdance”) and ’90s cult classics (“Fight Club”).

But he holds special regard for science fiction, including the original “Blade Runner” in 1982, one of his first movie credits. Recent sci-fi projects include the 2009 reboot of “Star Trek” and “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” both directed by J. J. Abrams.

He returned to a galaxy far, far away this season, designing Rey’s scrappy Jedi-training outfit, Kylo Ren’s high-waisted pants (or is it a bandage? “They’re high-waisted pants” Mr. Kaplan said), and Princess Leia’s majestic capes in “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” (“She has two,” he added).

Mr. Kaplan, who lives in Los Angeles and was recently nominated for an award from the Costume Designers Guild, spoke to The New York Times recently about how he approaches costume design, and the unique challenges of creating costumes for otherworldly creatures.

How do you dress a Jedi?

The old movies looked to Japan. The original costume designers looked at a lot of ninja clothes. They looked at westerns. And they looked at W.W. II and a little bit at W.W. I. I went to the same sources they did. I didn’t want to reinvent “Star Wars.” I wanted to embrace it and update it.

How many costumes did you design for “The Last Jedi”?

More than a thousand. And they’re all individually made, all in different fabrics. They needed dresses and gloves and jewelry. You can’t go out and buy clothes for “Star Wars.” We had a milliner. It was like M.G.M. in the ’30s. We had hats made, gloves made. We had people just making jewelry for this one sequence. The creatures would come to us naked, and we would dress them.

Were the creatures anatomically correct?

No comment.

Which was your favorite “Star Wars” costume?

The ninja-inspired Praetorian Guards on the red carpet.CreditDanny Moloshok/Reuters

Praetorian guard. We looked at 1950s muscle cars. The costumes had to be on stuntmen who were fighting very hard. They use weapons and they need to have complete range of motion. And if these guys fall, you don’t want the armor cracking. And the helmets look like they have no way of seeing, but there’s actually tiny slits, and they can see out perfectly well. They’re very samurai, very Japanese, but very clean. Very “Star Wars.”

The Academy tends to…

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