labricoleuse: (mee)
[personal profile] labricoleuse
This post is the first of more-than-one [1] concerning our final costume replica project for the Museum of Science Fiction in Washington, DC: a Stillsuit from the 1984 film, Dune.



So, first let’s consider the costume itself. Within the context of the film (and the numerous novels by Frank Herbert which predate the movie), a Stillsuit is a standard outerwear garment for people on the desert planet of Arrakis. It basically collects a person’s sweat and bodily wastes, filters/distills/purifies them, keeps the wearer’s body at a reasonable temperature, and turns all the waste into sustenance. It also makes everybody look kind of like a superhero in a black rubber union suit.

You can check out our Pinboard of research images here, to get a good overview of what we’re creating. In addition to my collection of these photos to work from, the Museum also provided us a DVD of the film to view and screencap as needed. We even held a viewing party at the theatre early on in the process, for those faculty, staff, and students who would be working on the projects—in addition to the Stillsuit, our props department is creating a replica of the Maker Hook (a kind of weapon-tool people use on Arrakis…it’s a long story involving huge sandworms that secrete a drug called the Spice and how that drug is harvested).

There are a variety of different Stillsuits in the film, all minor variations on the same basic look. They differ depending on whether the wearer is an adult or child, man or woman, and according to how the wearer’s frame is built. So, a Stillsuit for a tall skinny person might differ from a Stillsuit for a short broad person in minor details like, say, the arrangement of the pad shapes and tubing details down the length of the limbs. There are dozens and dozens of these costumes in the film, similar to how there are loads of the same military uniform in a war movie, all slightly different. And much like with the Neo coat we made from The Matrix, you can find some visual example of any slight variation in style-line because there simply were so many of the original.

For the Stillsuit we’ve been asked to create, we have a display mannequin which it must fit; and just as we dealt with in terms of our prior projects for 2001: A Space Odyssey and The Matrix, display mannequins have unusual, exaggerated bodies. They’re elongated, posed in an odd presentational stance, and their measurements are…well, outside the norm compared to human actors. (You also have to twist their arms and legs off to put their clothes on, which presents its own set of challenges…but more on that later perhaps.)

In the case of this costume, the original concept by costume designer Bob Ringwood  incorporated the pad structures in such a configuration as to boost and "feature" the musculature of the wearers—all the guys in Dune give the impression of being incredibly fit because the Stillsuits augment their shoulder breadth, pecs/abs, biceps/thighs/calves. We’re working off of a mannequin though who already has substantial shape in those areas, so we knew we’d need to approach this project with a mind to proportion in the pad shapes which took into account the idealized body underneath.

We were also asked to specifically look at the Stillsuit worn by Max von Sydow, who played the character Dr. Liet Kynes (on the far left in the photo above). Dr. Kynes has been stationed on Arrakis for much longer than some other characters, and as such his Stillsuits [2] are not shiny-black and brand-new like many of the other characters’ costumes. Dr. Kynes’s suit has been sandblasted and sun-baked so that it’s got an aged, distressed look. It’s dusty, it’s well-worn, it’s been keeping him alive for a long time. In some lights it even appears to have a brown cast. That’s the surface look we’re going for in our replica: a suit which would have been worn by an experienced veteran of life on Arrakis.

But when you look at these costumes, you may ask yourself: what am I looking at? Are they leather? Rubber? Vinyl? What are those things made of? How do they move like they do when the actors run across the desert or execute complex fight choreography? On our research Pinboard, you’ll also find a link to this video, which is a behind-the-scenes look at how the original artisans made the original Stillsuits back in the early 1980s: a complicated process involving full-body life-casts, latex rubber, and so forth. It provided excellent insight into exactly what we’re seeing when we watch the film and observe these costumes in action.

And for us as the costume artisans developing this display piece, it was an excellent document of methodology illustrating exactly why we shouldn’t create our replica for the Museum using the same process used by the original creators!

I’ll explain why in the next post in the series...




[1] I’m not sure yet how many posts it’ll take to fully cover this project. I’m going to guess, at least three For now, let’s just say that this is definitely not the only one!

[2] I use the plural here for a couple of reasons.

First, conceptually, I would not want to wear the same Stillsuit every single day on Arrakis. I’d want to rotate through a few because it just seems more sanitary, the way you don’t want to wear the same clothes every day. So i’m choosing to think that Dr. Kynes has several Stillsuits.

But second, in actual fact, it’s standard for there to be duplicates of costumes in film particularly of the stars, for any number of reasons—recall the Neo coat for which over twenty different versions were used. Unlike for The Matrix, we don’t have confirmation of the exact number of suits each performer might have worn, but just inspecting the film stills, press photographs, and the DVD, there appear to have been more than one created for Mr. von Sydow.

Date: 2016-06-09 06:56 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ladycelia.livejournal.com
When Dune was released, there was a travelling show of some of the costumes at Bullock's of all places! Being Bullock's, they only showed costumes from women, but my heaven, they were magnificent.

Date: 2016-06-09 09:46 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] girfan.livejournal.com
I saw the exhibit of original costumes, weapons and some of the furniture from Dune at Marshall Fields on State Street back when the film was released. The quality was stunning!

Date: 2016-06-13 11:27 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] virgie hudgins (from livejournal.com)
My business partners were needing SEC Form X-17A-5 a few weeks ago and encountered an online service with a lot of sample forms . If others need to fill out SEC Form X-17A-5 too , here's "http://pdf.ac/6AxE5W"

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