Star Wars Darth Vader Tour Suit Costume Conservation

Conserving and restoring an extremely rare original 1970’s Darth Vader tour suit costume.

We’ve been fortunate to preserve quite a few pieces of Star Wars history, but this was quite special! A breathtakingly complete costume, this rarity was uncovered by our friends at Prop Store of London. Originally made by the same costumer as the film suit, and sporting a helmet cast by none other than Rick Baker, this original Darth Vader tour costume was one of the most rare pieces to come through our studio for conservation.

This project would provide a number of challenges and call on the wide skillset of our experienced team of restoration artists. Pierre Briel created the custom fiberglass form, made not just to evoke the size and body style of David Prowse (or Kermit Eller, who frequently played the Dark Lord on tour events in the late ’70’s) but also reverse-engineered to fit the costume without creating additional stress on the fragile leather. It’s no small task when dealing with a fragile, yet heavy suit like this.

Nathan Hernandez worked to careful reverse many of the on-tour repairs done to the strapping and to gently patch and reinforce any separating seams or leather connections. Tony Cipriano digitally recreated a missing piece or two for the belts and, per our client, Marcus Loscalzo upgraded the belt system to LED’s for long-term stability and safety, while saving all original components to preserve with the suit. Marcus also assisted on the chest-box restoration and managed to clean off decades-old gaffer tape from the belt boxes while repairing and reinforcing those.

After many discussions with our client, we found the right path for restoring the helmet, mantle and chest box, with Maria Teran and Melissa Ocampo working to judiciously conserve those pieces. Together, they very carefully filled and touched up only the most visible cracks, using classic museum-style in-painting, where only the repair is painted, maintaining all original paint and making the repair practically invisible. It’s painstaking and challenging work, but something our talented team excels at!

A few small missing elements from the helmet were recreated. The lenses were replaced (but the originals saved) for a cleaner look, per the client. New tusks were machined to match the tour suit tusks as closely as possible.  Christine Richter oversaw crating of the giant-sized display, creating custom braces and carefully packaging every element to ensure safe arrival to our client!

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Have an original movie or television prop in need of restoration or conservation? Email or call today and let’s discuss your project!

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