Homemade Palpatine Costumes

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Hooded black robes and a seamed white face have become synonymous with Palpatine.
Hooded black robes and a seamed white face have become synonymous with Palpatine. (Image: Ethan Miller/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images)

While Darth Vader was the primary villain of the first two "Star Wars" movies, the third of George Lucas's films, "Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi," showed Emperor Palpatine as the ultimate power of the dark side of the Force. Palpatine's clothing throughout the films reflects his dark nature, but no costume exemplifies Palpatine's evil more than his dark cowled robes. Actor Ian McDiarmid also donned heavy makeup to portray the pale, aged Emperor.

Choosing Fabric

Close-up views of Emperor Palpatine's black robes show that the fabric costume designers used to make them was coarse and matte. Use rough, fairly heavy cloth with no shine to it to make your Palpatine costume's robes and hood. The Emperor's robes swallow him completely except for his face and hands, so use plenty of fabric to create the voluminous flowing effect of the movie version of the robes. If you have trouble finding black fabric, dye a lighter shade black to match the Emperor's iconic costume from "Return of the Jedi."

Making Robes

In their simplest form, robes require no sewing, only draping and tying at the waist. Working in black fabric also hides any sewing mistakes, so the costume does not require sewing expertise to create. Measure your height at your shoulders and double that figure to derive the length of fabric you'll need to create a simple robe. Fold the length of fabric in half and cut a semicircular hole at the fold for your head. Cut away portions of the sides to make a rough robe shape, then stitch up the seams along the undersides of the wide sleeves and the sides of the robe. If you want a fuller robe that looks more like the movie version, add triangular panels to the sides before stitching.

Hood and Sash

Emperor Palpatine's hood drapes well over the upper portion of his face and falls full at the sides. Duplicate this look with a large piece of fabric doubled near the face and tucked into the neck-hole of the robe at the sides. Pull and tuck the fabric until you achieve the right draping, then affix the robe in place with a few stitches, staples or safety pins. Belt the robe with a sash in the same fabric as the robe and hood. Fasten the sash with a simple knot.

Makeup

If you're skilled at crafting latex cosmetic appliances for masks, use them. Ian McDiarmid underwent as much as four hours of makeup application for his role as Emperor Palpatine. If you would prefer a less labor-intensive look, mimic the color scheme of the original. Palpatine's "Return of the Jedi" look is withered, aged and pale; cover your face with pallid makeup and use red to line your eyes. Draw furrows on your cheeks and hollows under your eyes with darker gray makeup to give you the appearance of a seamed face. Use the same color scheme to make your hands look pale and to darken the cuticles of your fingernails like the screen version of the Sith lord.

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