Alum Is Costume Designer for 'Star Wars'

January 6, 2016

Michael Kaplan BFA '71 (Sculpture) updates looks for iconic characters, creates new styles in history-making blockbuster



Michael Kaplan BFA '71 (Sculpture), the costume designer for the history-making blockbuster “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” was featured in PeopleElleVanity FairEntertainment WeeklyThe Philadelphia Inquirer and other publications in advance of the movie’s highly anticipated release. “It's possible that no single person is going to exert more influence over fashion trends in the coming year than Michael Kaplan,” says Elle magazine.

Trying to strike a balance between conveying the passage of time and maintaining consistency in style for the costumes was Kaplan’s goal. “We redesigned the Stormtroopers [above] to show 30 years of change and yet tried to keep them iconically the same,” Kaplan says of the white, armored uniforms, which were inspired in part by Apple. “So, at a glance, they would appear to be the same thing, but on closer inspection, you could see that they were really simplified, modernized,” he told Entertainment Weekly.


Other costumes were also inspired by the original films, like First Order commander Kylo Ren, who wears a mask reminiscent of the one worn by Darth Vader, but it also stands on its own with its mirror-like details. Kaplan sought to keep Han Solo [above] in recognizable territory. "I wanted Han's costume to feel familiar, since Harrison Ford is the same actor playing the same character," he tells People magazine.

Kaplan has also designed costumes for the latest “Star Trek” films, as well as for “Blade Runner,” “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation,” “I Am Legend,” “Burlesque,” “Flashdance” and “Fight Club,” among others. He began his career in the mid-1970s working for designer Bob Mackie on “The Sonny and Cher Show,” with an initial task of “metallicizing” a pair of Cher’s shoes to match one of Mackie’s glitzy gowns.