In honor of E.K Johnston’s The Queen’s Shadow, the last book I actually had time to read and enjoy FOR MYSELF, and well aware of the absolute wreck this comments section becomes when the prequels are mentioned (and in a desperate ploy for Cap to get an account so he can troll me in the comments) I figured let’s talk females in sci-fi, fashion, and my childhood life goal Padme Amidala.
But first, a real-world story. Lil Annie (me, not Anakin) was going on her FIRST DATE to see Attack of the Clones, because I had free movie tickets from cereal boxes! Granted, I hated cereal, and I didn’t really like the 5th? grade boy I was going with, but I had EARNED this, dammit, and so we went….
….and my dad sat between us in the theater. And he didn’t even like Star Wars. And that was the only date I went on for the next eight years. But boy, the next summer, I watched Attack of the Clones every single day (maybe why I had trouble getting dates?) Padme was everything I wanted to be; beautiful, smart, confident, a good shot, brave, dating without parental supervision, and dressed in insanely gorgeous couture outfits my Catholic-school-uniform-wearing self could never dream of owning. I even went as her for Halloween after tricking my parents. I owned a nightgown of her dress from Episode I and layered white pants and a white thermal shirt underneath, so as soon as I was left unsupervised the nightgown game off and a red sharpie came out to draw the stomach scars. And you bet I rolled the shirt up.
But BOY did the episodes themselves undermine the passionate and competent Padme I hero-worshipped. Say what you will about Phantom (I’ll wait) but the woman had an ARC. And so did her friends! They banded together; teen girls, using diplomacy, ingenuity, and the invisible puppet strings of the Sith to save their planet from a fate a dude from their planet had…. caused? So it didn’t necessarily hold up, but THEY didn’t know. Natalie Portman, Keira Knightley, and Sofia Coppola as literal and cinematic royalty…. only to throw it all away in Episode II. While The Queen’s Shadow does a nice job explaining WHY Padme had an all new support staff and best friends, it took sixteen years for Disney/Lucasfilm to realize that oh, girls liked Star Wars and oh, they cared about the handmaidens. Imagine a spin-off with Keira and Natalie doing politics and noir in Coruscant around 2006-2007. The teen girl energy could have stopped global warming in its tracks. Anakin and Padme’s love story was… fine when you were little and romance was still kind of scary, though in retrospect it blows my mind they dated in real life because that did not translate and girl missed enough red flags to build herself a dress. But Padme fighting the space saber tooth tiger, shooting blasters, wearing a front cape? That was all I needed. And Rose Byrne! But there were no time for girl friendships in episode II; or really just any healthy friendships at all? Is George Lucas okay? There was a marriage and it seemed ominous because we all already knew the ending.
And then, we all know what happened. I don’t like to talk about it, but I will. It was bullshit. There were fan theories; Darth Sidious stealing her life…energy? midi-chlorians? to keep Anakin alive, a killer case of instant postpartum. But it was CANON Leia had seen her mother. So like… the fuck Lucas? Natalie did what she could but the Padme I had thought was determined and loyal and fierce and would never give up for those she loved most…gave up. It had to be that way, sure, I guess… but did it? Padme, having just conceived twins (and apparently receiving no medical care the entire time she was pregnant to alert her THERE WERE TWINS) goes into hiding, determined to do what she can to stop the one she loves most from doing more harm. It would devastate her to send Luke away, even as she understood; but she knew Owen and Beru, and she knew Obi-Wan was just as grieving as her. Leia would go to Breha and Bail of course; she had to, but no one would have noticed a servant who stayed in Alderaan; a nurse for the child when Queen Breha Organa could not have any. She could have been a proto-member of the resistance under her mentor Mon Mothma. HELL, kill her off in Rogue One after an encounter with Jyn where she talks about convictions and all the good a rebellion could do for everyone. Let her be the inspiring, passionate, idealistic figure she could be and then fridge her if you have to. But like FUCK, let me have something.
The Queen’s Shadow cannot rewrite Episode III, though better Topher Grace’s than I have surely considered. But it gave me and other girls who grew up with the prequels (where multiple women could share the screen in a Star Wars movie at the same time) more time with her, time to see her navigate a peaceful transition of power from Queen -democratically elected, term-limited queen, you nerds I fought with the other day- into a Senator who had to be both representative of Naboo but herself as well. No longer able to easily switch herself out for her most loyal companions, she has to learn to be herself publicly, after being someone else for so long; and having others be the same when needed. Sabe, Rabe, Sache, and Eirtae all get development as well, as both individuals but as girls who are friends, something the sci-fi series OT and prequels somewhat lacked. Sabe becomes an operative, Rabe goes into music and science (which can be easily combined, government funded, and publicly supported in a magical fairyland like Naboo) to ecologically sustain the planet, Sache and Eirtae, WHO ARE DEFINITELY TOGETHER, get a fancy mansion for Sache to go into the planet senate and Eirtae to run an orphanage. Meanwhile, I work part time at a retail store and pretend I’m using the Force around automatic doors, so look how we’ve all grown.
So here’s a list of Anna’s most coveted (movie) outfits, and a mantra I hope you all take forward with you. Padme is not useless. Padme is a heroine and fashion icon, because a woman can be both.
The height of beauty, grace, and punching someone in the face.
The “If I’m Ever Pregnant Again I’m Getting This Off Etsy”
Me after ten minutes bickering with Cap about Padme and completely losing the will to live myself after failing to articulate how I love her so much when Lucas gave me little to work with, yelling SHERBERT DRESS as I stomp off and glower at him for the next hour.
I STILL WANT THIS NIGHTGOWN GODDDDDDAMMMIT
It’s a Tide ad.
The Lady of the Lake tribute and honestly what I would also be fine being buried in.
Knocked Up Disney Princess and Madonna figure I would actually believe in Padme Naberrie.
This is like, wedding lingerie or best dressed librarian ever goals. Chunky blue sweater but still looking cute? Here for it.
Imagine being queen of a planet and rewearing things. We stan a recycling fashion legend.
Napkins, but make it fashion.
10/10 would wear.
The aunt at a writer’s conference #goals look.
The “choke me daddy”
The dress itself is intricate, beautiful, somehow futuristic/sci-fi but timeless with its clean-cut lines and tasteful silhouette. The darker colors present a more adult, focused Padme who still appreciates fashion but no longer uses it as a tool to distract and obfuscate. She’s transitioning into a much more open and vulnerable person while maintaining the regalness and experience from fashion diplomacy she has more than earned. So of course they fuck it up with a headpiece that looks like my javelin from Anthem.
Girl who waits all year for the Ren Faire because she knows it’s her chance to shine. (I was this girl so I can say that)
Fuctional. Practical. Tactical pants. A hairstyle I could potentially emulate. A turtleneck I think my mom owns in her closet. Video game looking cosplay gauntlets. The scent of a pivotal inciting action. This outfit has it all.
somehow seems dated yet is fictional? It was all I wanted to wear when I was like nine because BLUE but in retrospect this looks itchy. as. fuck.
The one that I felt was cultural appropriation before the term cultural appropriation had entered the lexicon/ Ice Penguin with Dust Brush Headpiece
Yes, the iconic dress is pretty low on this dress but you know what? So much of Naboo is color coded to be blue and green and purple and cool. But the Queen lives in the contrast, the space between expectations and reality. When she is in bright her handmaidens are in dark, as she becomes darker they brighten. They are a cohesive unit, with deceptively simple fabrics and colors that distract from faces and personalities. This dress is a contrast to Naboo but also to Padme in its structure and its heaviness; unlike later cuts that let her express herself she chooses to become someone else; a familiar but unknowable figure. This dress is Amidala through and through, but Amidala is the role, the figurehead, and it is Padme I love, Padme with her dumb heart falling for a dreamy and should-have-been-unobtainable boy. Amidala being a Skywalker- impulsive, headstrong, lucky, and led by her heart- would be impossible. But Padme is the matriarch of the family through and through, the kyber crystal strength running through her daughter’s leadership and her son’s loyalty.
Are you an angel?/ Gender-swapped production of The Crucible.
Community theatre production of Cats! costume designer on a power trip.
Your grandma’s lace doily
The Twi’lek Looking Headpiece one that you’d clearly wear when you didn’t feel like washing your hair for a week.
Sunrise, sunset. Sunrise, sunset, swiftly go the daaaaaays.
This is the same exact fabric on my grandparent’s furniture set from the 80’s, I swear to you.
I walk around the house in a blanket like this but I don’t look half as regal.
That specific type of woman who goes on a vacation to Arizona and never returns the same.
Naboo Coachella, 2009.
Queen PadBey. (Cuz it… cuz it looks like a beehive. Ya get it?)
Alien vs. Predator.
A cigar ad.
I said no.
Disney villain song scene/ Old world Grandma in family photographs you heard a story about being a witch and were like “nah” and then saw it and were like “oh okay, that might have actually happened” who had at least one husband die under mysterious circumstances and never smiled in her life.