‘Star Wars’: Imperial Stormtrooper Suits Were Originally Designed to Look Like ‘Living Skeletons’

Star Wars films feature some of the most iconic costume designs in the movie business. Originally created back in the 1970s, George Lucas gave every character a unique look, bringing a sense of individuality to the franchise.

One of the most memorable costumes in the Star Wars universe is that of the Imperial stormtrooper. Simple, yet fascinating, the design does a great job of creating a unified look that’s both clean and terrifying. Since being introduced in the original trilogy, the Imperial stormtrooper has gone on to become one of the most dreaded characters in Star Wars.

Stormtroopers were central characters in ‘Star Wars’

TR-8R Stormtrooper in Star Wars: The Force Awakens
TR-8R Stormtrooper in Star Wars: The Force Awakens | Lucasfilm

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Although Star Wars featured a number of memorable villains from start to finish, stormtroopers may be one of the most recognizable. Because they have been included in nearly every film of the Star Wars franchise, they’ve become synonymous with the brand. 

A symbol of the Galactic Empire, stormtroopers were originally clones designed to serve Chancellor Palpatine in the Clone Wars. However, once Palpatine revealed himself to be a Sith Lord, they became the first line of offense and defense for the Emperor. They evolved from servants of the Republic into hired hands that fought to uphold the Empire.

Stormtrooper costumes featured a unique design for a reason 

Imperial stormtroopers have a look that’s unforgettable. Their shiny white armor and helmets designed with humanlike expressions gave them a grim, intimidating appearance that gave viewers chills every time a stormtrooper entered the scene. 

The cold, merciless warriors of the Empire sported their iconic look for a reason. Lucasfilm Vice President Doug Chiang explained to WIRED that George Lucas’ desire to create “living skeletons” inspired the stormtrooper costumes.

“George wanted to create this iconic imagery that looked like living skeletons, and that’s why you have the stark black and white,” Chiang said. “And so when you see the white armor coming out of a black room, you just see the armor and it’s a very terrifying sort of moment for you.”

He later detailed the specifications behind the stormtroopers’ helmet design.

“One of the iconic things was that the helmet is very specific, it looks like a skull, it’s a stylized skull,” he said. “[They] did a brilliant job to take all the key elements like the eye sockets and the mouth to make it just sort of a touch mechanical, but yet still harken back to a living skull.”

Han Solo and Luke Skywalker couldn’t fit their Stormtrooper disguises

The original Imperial stormtrooper costume design fit a specific body type, which made each wearer pretty much the same size. However, both Harrison Ford (playing Han Solo) and Mark Hamill (playing Luke Skywalker) had to have their costumes custom-built because neither actor fit the profile.

“Stormtroopers were made in such a way that they were sort of geared toward actors that were around 5-foot-10 to 6 feet to be able to fit into the armor,” Madlyn Burkert, Lucasfilm Collections and Exhibitions archivist, told WIRED. “… When it came time to fit Han Solo and Luke Skywalker into their disguise, the stormtrooper armor, it took a bit of magic from the costume department to make them fit.”