era: rise of the empire Essay Media: Animation

Dressing for the skies with Hera Syndulla

star-wars-rebels-flighter-fight-hera-syndulla

It’s no secret that Hera Syndulla is my favourite character – take on an Empire and fight to death favourite. Yet, somehow, I have never written about her look beyond a single vague half-meta-half-ficlety thing. In part this was because I felt that her look was self-explanatory enough to speak for itself, but certain official writings and a few comments I have received suggested otherwise and gave me impetus to finally create this blog.

It’s Syndulla Sunday (just), so let’s get to it.

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In its main, Hera’s costume is simple: an armoured flightsuit. It’s utterly pragmatic, designed for comfort in the pilot’s chair, ease whilst crawling around an engine room and protection whilst out in the field. The paler neckpiece is almost certainly a helmet seal for inevitable incidents. It is simple, and showcases to the galaxy the role that she plays whilst making her as unobtrusive as a Twi’lek can be in an Imperial galaxy. Perfect for allowing Kanan to play the lead. There is a lot of history built into this look, though. History of the galaxy far far away and our world.

Her armour in her s1-2 look neatly alludes to a leftover of the Clone War, hard and soft pieces combined, particularly in the seemingly floating pauldrons and gauntlet gloves (see yesterday’s Hondo post.) These shapes are echoed in S2 episode Homecoming when we finally see Cham, Gobi and Numa, but with obvious differentiations. In the Clone Wars the Rylothean Twi’leks seen appear to wear more traditional fashions, Cham being an outlier layering armour over a more formal look. When we catch up to him those traditional looks appear to have evolved directly to incorporate armour; unsurprising given the endless turmoil on Ryloth. Hera’s incorporation is similar but noticeably different, as is her colour pallette of warm colours against their cool blues as she has broken away and forged her own path of rebellion.

Naturally Hera’s flightsuit is a callback (callforward?) to the X-Wing pilots of the original trilogy in its basic composition, particularly in the webbing details and allusion to the lines of the OT mae wests. The silhouette is much more grounded in history whilst acting as a proto-precursor to Alliance flightsuits. The fuller volume and high-waist of her flightsuit feels like a direct reference to American WW2 WASPs – Women Airforce Service Pilots – one of whom was Jacqueline Cochran (note, Trek fans!) who was the first female pilot to fly a bomber across the Atlantic, and to later break the sound barrier. What better model for the only pilot to ever outfly Darth Vader, and the first pilot of the B-Wing?

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Left: Bless that nerd; Right: WASP’s, including Jacqueline Cochran second from the right.

Hera’s flightcap and goggles are a direct salute to the wealth of pioneering early C20th aviatrixes (aviatri?), headphones playing again  in WW2 imagery and all adding to Hera’s pragmatism. (A quick note due to the official errors that referred to above: the flightcaps would typically be leather, quilted and heavily seamed for safety and security with a cotton drill lining. Pleated? Not so much, as pleating would introduce movement and looseness which would render the item impractical. The style of construction in Hera’s cap, other than aesthetic, is for fit and shaping allow as close and secure a fit as possible whilst working with Twi’lek anatomy.)

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Amelia Earheart, Amy Johnson, Betty Jo Reed.
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The wonderful @lorna-ka played directly on these historical influences in the amazing Mummy AU commission that she did for me. (sorry, had to throw it in here!)

So, not unlike Kanan Hera’s costume is one defensiveness, though driven more from a point of practicality and, in some small part, cultural divergance. Come S2 we finally see Hera sans goggles and headphones, creating a softer look within this boundaries. This is Hera relaxing, settling into her role in her crew and the comfort of being an active part of a larger organisation at last. It also displays trust, which is in a key element of her relationship with Sabine, but also a more subtle part of her development from S1 as she has learn to trust herself, her gut and her own priorities.

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This development is furthered in her S3 look. It’s a less overt change than Kanan, Ezra and Sabine’s makeovers, but subtlety is more Hera’s way. As described by Filoni at SWCE:

Hera – because she’s much more a part of the growing rebels alliance – she has more of a military look, a uniform. She wears a rank badge now just to show that she’s really becoming a part of that formalised rebellion. [x]

She was formally granted the rank of captain within the fledgling Alliance in S2, not just of the Ghost, but is now wearing that openly. The addition of tech and pockets to her sleeves further lead into X-Wing pilot flightsuits of the OT. Her shirt has less of that soft historical shape and is more regimented and formal, the colours shifting into those OT greys (a shift that is being seen across Rebels’ colour palette as a whole.) However her silhouette is now much more of an open hybrid between the Ryloth looks worn by Cham and Numa in Homecoming. The open stand-collar shared with Cham, the shift in the cut of her chestplate is building more towards that worn by Numa. (Let it be known now that I am weak for stand collars, so I was absolutely delighted when this look was revealed at SWCE.) Given that we know Cham et al will be coming back in S3, and a trip to Ryloth proper is on the books (Scream), and Homecoming closed on a point of reconciliation between Hera andher father, this suggests a re-embracing of certain elements of Hera’s history and/or a deeper integration of Free Ryloth into the wider Rebellion. (i’m not sure how I would feel about the latter and certain points in Bloodline suggest otherwise. I am also pretty sure that Cham Syndulla would not be down with this.)

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This is also a more open look, more vulnerable. The helmet seal is gone, she is less armoured and she is generally more exposed. Gauntlets replaced with short gloves (this an across-the-board shift towards short gloves seen in pretty much all characters, and is an obvious and active push towards that OT aesthetic.) As with the cap, this suggests a further relaxation into her role, and greater confidence in their growing organisation. Even without Kanan taking the role of field general (presumably given his blindness), Hera is settling more into position of, well, desk general, delegating missions and leadership positions to other Ghosts.

With a little luck, someday soon we will see Hera 1) wearing her nerd goggles, and 2) san cap.

A post-Hera’s Heroes addendum:

A quick addendum just to delight at the attention to detail in Rebels:

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In last night’s episode Hera’s Heroes, Hera and Ezra broke into Hera’s childhood home on Ryloth to reclaim a priceless family heirloom. Hera removed her goggles and headphones and, more interestingly, her captain’s rank badge so that she could pass for a desperate, thieving refugee if caught (it worked for a moment thanks to Imperial xenophobia.) This answered a question I had about whether or not it was in fact a patch, or was in someway integrated into her shirt as an embroidered on printed embellishment – the way it moves closely with her arm and the fabric made me wonder, but is no doubt a need to simplify such a tiny detail when animating.

This mirrors the real life practice of military personnel to sometimes remove their combat patches for operatios security. If captured, the enemy can find no identifying markers and won’t know if they have a ‘valuable’ officer or not. Hera removing her rank patch enabled her to run her refugee cover far longer than she would have been able to otherwise. It also speaks a lot of where the rebellion stands at this point. Most of all, it speaks a lot of the incredible attention to tiny details when making the show.

1 comment on “Dressing for the skies with Hera Syndulla

  1. Pingback: Twi’lek vs Rylothean

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