"Star Wars" fan or not, chances are you've heard a thing or two about the most anticipated debut within a theme park this summer — if not the past 10 years. "Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge" will welcome visitors at Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif., beginning May 31 — while ticket reservations were extremely quick to sell out, they won't be needed after June 23 — with another outpost set to open on August 29 at Walt Disney World in Orlando.
Why is this such a big deal? For starters, it's a destination dedicated to one of the most beloved franchises in entertainment, spanning loyalists across generations and around the world. Plus, the attraction itself is an innovative approach to traditional design, with every tiny detail helping to build a world of its own within the "Star Wars" universe, from exclusive merch to plans to have "Galaxy's Edge" adapt to future films and storylines.
The "Star Wars: The Last Jedi" Costume Designer Looked to Queen Elizabeth II to Dress Carrie Fisher
The Complete Breakdown of Brie Larson's Costumes in "Captain Marvel"
Superhero Costume Design Is Finally Getting the Recognition It Deserves
For the first time in Disneyland Park history, the cast members (that's Disney speak for employees) of "Galaxy's Edge" — specifically, a village called Black Spire Outpost on the planet Batuu — will have the chance to create their own personalities and backstories, using a full wardrobe of clothing, accessories and jewelry to create outfits of their choosing.
"It was really important to our creative team that the village that we're creating of Batuu was filled with villagers, and each person would look unique as opposed to each person wearing a specific uniform," says Brenda Mercure, manager of costuming, design and development at Disneyland Resort, who boasts over a decade of experience working for one of the happiest places on Earth. "That definitely informed the design and this mix-and-match approach. It was a challenge that our designer [Joe Kucharski] hit head-on of making sure that all of these garments go together, no matter how they mixed them."
Kucharski and Mercure worked together for almost three years creating the costumes for "Galaxy's Edge." In the beginning, Kurcharski sketched and researched photos and stills from the archives of Lucasfilm, while Mercure looked into the different roles (and wardrobe needs) of cast members, including food and beverage, attractions and merchandise. "Part of my job as a project manager is to be an advocate for the cast members that are wearing these costumes," she explains. "I try to get as much information as possible so that the costumes we're giving them are comfortable and functional to meet all of their needs."
What makes costume design for a place like Disneyland different from creating wardrobes for say, a blockbuster film or television series, boils down to durability. "Our cast members are wearing the costumes every day," says Mercure. "We really need to give special attention to the fabrics, so that they can be laundered repeatedly and look great for a long time." (In case you were curious, cast members have the option of having their costumes cleaned on-site via local laundry businesses, or they can do it themselves through "Cast Zoom," a process where they check out their costumes to bring home. Each garment comes with specific laundry instructions.) Mercure also notes that what makes the operational side of Disneyland's costume design both interesting and challenging is its standard size range, which goes from XXS to 5XL.
For "Galaxy's Edge," there are three categories of costumes that visitors can spot throughout Black Spire Outpost: There's, of course, the First Order, which Mercure describes as an extremely streamlined, crisp and very distinct uniform, as well as the Resistance, which is also a uniform, but a little more relaxed and worn-in. (Cast members of the latter group have the option to wear a vest or jacket with their costume.) Lastly, there are the villagers, whose costumes are custom-printed to show distressed details, such as fading, dirt smudges or paint splatters.
The villagers of Black Spire Outpost have the most options when it comes to their cast costumes, with the choice of four tops, five bottoms, three vests and optional accessories, including a belt for women, two types of necklaces, two scarves and two different types of sun protection hats. All of the villagers are dressed with jackets and coats, too.
"There are many things that we're proud of with each costume," says Mercure. "When I look at each garment, I feel like each one has something special about it or has a special trick to it or something we've never used before."
In fact, all of the fabrics for the "Galaxy Edge" costumes are entirely custom, from the specially-chosen Pantone colors to select fibers. "We really worked hard to make these garments breathable and lightweight so that they can be worn year-round," says Mercure. "We worked with mills to get as many fabric samples [as possible] until we landed on the right one."
Mercure also took costume tips from Disneyland's "Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: Breakout!" ride, which opened in 2017, and applied them towards the "Galaxy's Edge" wardrobe. One such example was the introduction of stretch in the bottoms, which was a huge success among cast members and were then made a priority for the new attraction. Optional accessories also hail from "Guardians," a wardrobe choice that the costuming team was initially unsure of how it would be received by cast members. Luckily, it was — and still is — a hit. "The cast members are wearing their accessories every day. They really love them," says Mercure. "When we saw that, we embraced that and wanted to do for 'Galaxy's Edge.'"
While both Kucharski and Mercure worked closely with Lucasfilm to maintain accuracy throughout the entire creative process, a challenge did stem from one particular "Star Wars" fashion rule: no exposed closures. "When you look at a 'Star Wars' garment, you're not seeing outside buttons, snaps or zippers," explains Mercure. As a solution, the two decided upon hidden plackets, acquiring a special material from Japan that resembles small Lego pieces, like little bumps that snap together. "It looks like a high-tech piece but really it's just a different way to do a snap," she adds. "We had to find creative ways to hide them in the garment and it's just a very small detail that I really love."
Ahead of the official opening of "Galaxy's Edge," Mercure is wrapping up the hundreds (!) of fittings for each of the individual cast members — a process that is also fairly unique. "Our costuming team is very gung-ho about 'Star Wars' land and the new opening, so they created a special video for our cast members that's both informative and has some pretty good 'Star Wars' jokes in it," says Mercure. Cast members view the video and then try on every garment for their assigned role to check on correct sizing; they leave with an informational sheet that includes photos and sizes of each item they'll wear.
Fittings for those who fall under the villagers' mix-and-match program are slightly more involved. "They're definitely spending more time on their fittings than they normally would. We see them trying on the different vests or shirts or want to see [their look] with the necklace," says Mercure. "I have to say our cast members are having a lot of fun with this process."