"I remember that iron bikini I wore in 'Episode VI': what supermodels will eventually wear in the seventh ring of Hell."
So Carrie Fisher said of her infamous costume from Return Of The Jedi, when writing for Newsweek in 1999. It's no secret that Fisher is not fond of the outfit which has fueled fan fantasies for generations, inspiring many imitations and tons of pop culture references.
So just why has this costume sparked such controversy over the years? There's the debate on whether it's overly sexualized, and how it's used as a means to degrade and subjugate Leia herself. It's likely that the outfit would be more broadly celebrated if Leia had donned it herself for a night on the town, or a day at the beach.
But aside from the controversies and arguments, this little bikini has one of the most interesting histories of any of the iconic Star Wars costumes.
George Lucas Designed It Personally
Or rather, he helped the design team more than with any other costume. The scene was planned to cause a stir in the audience, shifting focus away from Leia's image as the contentious rebel leader and towards her allure as a woman. The slave Leia costume designer, Aggie Rodgers, who created the bikini, explained Lucas's input to Wired, as he sent her sketch after sketch and insisted on his involvement along every step of the costume's creation.
"His eyes started sparkling when we talked about it."
But that wasn't the only input Lucas had when it came to crafting the iconic image of Slave Leia.
Fisher Was Pressured To Lose Weight
On the audio commentary for Return Of The Jedi, Fisher explained how before they started shooting, Lucas showed her the sketches for the slave bikini.
"He showed me to frighten me into exercise, I think. He succeeded."
But it wasn't just a suggestion. Fisher was specifically told to tone her stomach muscles so that there would be no folds or wrinkles when she sat in front of Jabba.
Lucas Gave Fisher An Erotic Figurine
Of her in the bikini, naturally. When Justin Lee Collins interviewed Fisher for Bring Back Star Wars in 2008, she showed him the figurine Lucas had given her for her birthday as a joke. And the figure was a lot more detailed than you might expect — especially underneath the silk skirt.
"George sent me this for my birthday. So I sent him a message saying like, I know he owns my likeness but did [his ownership] go that far?"
Lucas and Fisher are known to roast each other at every opportunity, but they're quick to sing each other's praises too.
Boba Fett Could See Everything
Although there were several versions of the bikini, and rubber ones to make it easier for Fisher to do stunts, the classic metal version wasn't the easiest to move in. Which made for a very entertaining show for the rest of the cast and crew, as Fisher told The Daily Beast.
"If I lay like this” — she arches her back flat — “and it doesn’t adhere, it is like plastic, so that is a problem here” — she points to you-know-where — “because if I lay down, it doesn’t go with me. I didn’t inform him, but I always thought that if Boba Fett were of a mind, he could see all the way to Florida.”
Boba Fett wasn't the only one. According to the official Star Wars website (archived here), the chief moldmaker was taken off the job just before Fisher came in for the fitting, as he was just too enthusiastic about this prospect, obsessing over how he would get to measure Fisher for the bikini, and talking about it at every opportunity. Yikes!
Harrison Ford Didn't Approve
When asked by Elle if he thought the Leia's slave bikini would become so iconic, Ford was quick to brush off its significance.
"I didn't even think it was going to be in the movie. She's a princess. What the hell is she doing walking around in a bikini?"
What the hell indeed. It's a good thing Han Solo was blind at this point in the film, or he might have felt the same way!
It Was Sold For $96,000
In May 2015 Leia's slave costume was auctioned off on the "Profiles of History" online bidding war. The buyer remains unknown, so you'll never know if that cosplayer's costume just looks authentic, or if its secretly the real thing.
Slave Leia Merchandise Is Now Banned
Disney and Lucasfilm recently made the decision to stop manufacturing Slave Leia merchandise.
This is a pretty bold move, since at one point there were more figurines available of Leia in the bikini than in any other costume. And yet, Fisher wasn't as overjoyed about this as you might expect.
"I think it’s stupid. 'What am I going to tell my kid about why she’s in that outfit?' Tell them that a giant slug captured me and forced me to wear that stupid outfit, and then I killed him because I didn’t like it. And then I took it off. Backstage."
Fisher makes a good point: The moment when Leia kills Jabba has become iconic in itself.
This Scene Inspired Leia's New Name
In defiance of the "Slave Leia" term, many fans refer to this outfit as the "Hutt Slayer" costume instead.
This scene is awesome to watch, as Leia finally kills Star Wars' most grotesque villain. And it turns out that Fisher relished it as much as we do, as she told the Guardian.
"I had a lot of fun killing Jabba the Hutt. They asked me on the day if I wanted to have a stunt double kill Jabba. No! That's the best time I ever had as an actor. And the only reason to go into acting is if you can kill a giant monster."
It's not just fans that this scene inspired: in the new canon book Bloodlines, Leia is referred to by some as the Hutt Slayer. And honestly, that might be the best thing that the infamous bikini inspired.