Everyone’s favorite movie villain has been on the scene for a while now, and if you’re an avid Star Wars fan, you may have noticed that Vader’s costume has evolved slightly over time. Let’s take a look!
Ralph McQuarrie’s very first sketches of Vader were quite a bit different from the Vader we’ve come to know! The only thing that’s really stuck around from this sketch is the concept of the iconic gas mask.
In his earliest sketches of the costume, Ralph McQuarrie has said that he came up with the idea to add the personal respirator because “early in the script there was a description of Vader crossing between two ships in space so I created this mask so he could breathe in space. George [Lucas] loved it.”
Later sketches start to look a bit more like the iconic Darth Vader that we know. George Lucas requested that McQuarrie exaggerate the robes a little more and give Vader a wide-brimmed, samurai-like helmet.
The look that made it to the big screen in 1977 was based on a WWII “German Stahlhelm gas mask, a monk’s cloak, a leather under-suit and a metal breastplate.” His helmet was a bit asymmetrical with a subtle “red tint to the eyes.”
Vader’s helmet in A New Hope was also not quite as shiny as it was in the later films, and even had a bit of a dusty appearance. Executive Producer John Knoll says that “if you look in New Hope, especially that white corridor scene at the beginning, you can see all these smudges and all these fingerprints on there because it was cast from a clay sculpt.”
By Episode V, the designers had eliminated the red-tinted eyes of the helmet and added a more detailed-looking chest box — perhaps to make him look more robotic. This costume also displays the shoulder pads more openly, which were covered up by his robes in A New Hope.
When Episode III came out in 2005, George Lucas decided to give Vader the “cyborg-emphasized design” similar to that of Episodes 4-6. This costume, however, had even more robotic features, and the helmet was completely reconstructed using a robotic tool, instead of by hand, to ensure that it would be perfectly symmetrical.
Star Wars Rebels is an animated TV series takes place five years before A New Hope, and tells the story of the formation of the Rebel Alliance.
This animated Vader is similar to the Vader in Episode IV. His helmet features an intense widow’s peak and red-tinted eyes. The breastplate is mostly covered by the cape. This Vader, however, is quite a bit glossier than earlier versions from the original films.
If you saw Rogue One then you were probably just as excited to see Darth Vader on the big screen again as we were. John Knoll says: “[For Rogue One], we matched more what the chest plate looked like in Episode IV, but a little bit more of the high polish that’s in Episode V.”
There’s a few more Star Wars films, including a Han Solo anthology, that are set to be released in the future, but no one really knows yet whether Vader will make an appearance. (Editor's note: He will. He totally will. He has to...right?)