How 'Star Wars: The Acolyte' created a fresh new look for the Jedi (exclusive interview)

a young woman with braids stands with blurry palm trees in the background
Amandla Stenberg stars in "Star Wars: The Acolyte" (Image credit: Disney)

Envisioning an entire line of science fiction fashion for a period of "Star Wars" occurring long before the Skywalker clan arrived in the galaxy far, far away is no small task, but costume designer Jennifer Bryan gladly accepted that challenge for her eclectic clothing featured in Disney+'s "The Acolyte." 

This ambitious "Star Wars" prequel series from creator/showrunner Leslye Headland stars Amandla Stenberg, Lee Jung-jae, Charlie Barnett, Dafne Keen, Rebecca Henderson, Jodie Turner-Smith, Carrie-Anne Moss and Manny Jacinto. It explores the century when Jedi Knights were heralded galactic protectors at the end of a period known as The High Republic.

Since this represents the first time that an era decades prior to "Star Wars: The Phantom Menace" has ever been fleshed out in live-action form, it was an artistic opportunity to build costumes and wardrobes from the ground up without the burden of past designs to emulate or adhere to.

"The Acolyte's" costume designer, Jennifer Bryan. (Image credit: Jennifer Bryan)

Bryan is well known in Hollywood for her exceptional threads, which have been worn by the stars of "Breaking Bad" and "Better Call Saul," among others. But on "The Acolyte," she was liberated from the past to take inspiration from a multitude of ethnicities, historical timelines and cultures in designing unique costumes.

"To this day, I don’t know how Leslye Headland heard about me," Bryan told "Because my specific body of work is contemporary television. I was doing the last episode of 'Better Call Saul,' and we Zoomed and we hit it off right away. Growing up, I was just the average 'Star Wars' fan. I wasn't steeped in the legacy and the iconography of it all, and I was a little bit concerned. But Leslye said they were actually looking for someone who was not so dyed-in-the-wool about it, and it worked because this time period is basically like a prequel to everything we know about the galaxy. So I had the benefit of 150-plus years of creative freedom."

Related: Everything we know about 'The Acolyte': Release date, plot, cast & more

Watch The Acolyte on Disney+

Watch The Acolyte on Disney+

Disney+ is the home of all things Star Wars, including  all the classic movies and series, alongside new shows like The Acolyte and the upcoming Skeleton Crew.

Bryan felt extremely fortunate to inherit a clean design slate that still needed to fit within the "Star Wars" sandbox.

"My research was based on old ancient global cultures that had a warrior subculture to it," she explained. "I went as far as Asia Minor, Pacific Islands, North Africa, West Africa, the Roman Empire and Byzantine Empire for my reference. Tertiary to that was Anglo-Saxon cultures for design inspiration, and undoubtedly samurai. For example, in Mae's assassin costume, you’ll see she’s wearing this kind of body armor. 

"The first part of it is bamboo, and then I went into the Byzantine and Roman Empires where they started to use metal as body armor, and that's the melding of two significant warrior cultures. And I used chain mail, which you don’t see very often in 'Star Wars' which might be the first, or one of the first, times seen. I just took on the galaxy as a global thing, still with the essence of 'Star Wars' but with something fresh and new."

Lee Jung-jae as Master Sol in "The Acolyte." (Image credit: Disney Plus)

For Master Sol's costume, Bryan looked at Jedi Masters, Jedi Knights and Padawans inside the Jedi culture during this moment of peace, attempting to convey tranquility.

"Especially in the Coruscant and Temple costumes, they have a certain calmness about them," Bryan said. "I really emphasized a honey mustard color scheme instead of just being tones of ivory. It's something you might see on the comic book side, but I really punched it up for 'The Acolyte.'

"I wanted to show a sense of mastery and command. Sharp lines. I used a bit of gold trim like what you'd see on military costumes. For the mission costumes, what I did was add textures and fabrications within the cloaks. So we ended up with the ivory, the mustard, and added my version of everybody's favorite Obi-wan Kenobi cloak.

"Master Sol's white Coruscant cloak was large and circular, and when he turns to the younglings, I just thought that sweep of fabric was beautiful. Yord's cloak was a little bit shorter, and the way it was draped on his shoulders was inspired by Roman senators' togas. And he's so fastidious about his wardrobe. I’d never seen a Jedi steam his clothes on 'Star Wars' before."

For Mae's distinctive assassin cloak, Bryan chose a deep purple that was emblematic of royalty seen in Mae's society.

"I wanted to have a visual link to her childhood, because she's on a rant of a mission, because in her mind the Jedi destroyed her family and she's going after them to kill them," she added. "So she's sort of this mercenary, vagabond murderess. Her cloak is made of bits of scavenged fabric and these pieces of chain mail. She put this metal plate together with bamboo and metal, and it's kind of like building her own armor."

Jennifer Bryan's "Star Wars" costumes from "The Acolyte." (Image credit: Disney Plus)

The mysterious character of Osha has a couple of different costume looks in "The Acolyte," and Bryan made sure there was a stark contrast between the two. 

"The first time we see her, she's on this Neimoidian freighter," she notes. "The Neimoidians and the Wookiee were the few things that were already established in the galaxy that I had to incorporate. She's like an astronaut-meets-mechanic kind of a person, and my design inspiration was if a flight suit met an auto mechanic's coveralls. After the Jedi realize she didn’t kill Indara, you’ll see her in a brand-new look, but I don’t want to say it because it might be a spoiler.

"When you're a well-rounded costume designer, the expectation is that you should be able to deliver any garment from any period that mankind has ever put on their body. You never know what project you’re going to get. I’ve always wanted to be on a show that was groundbuilding from scratch, pulling it out of my imagination and my research. It was my dream to be able to do a show that required all my resources. I could never ask for a better template to do that."

Join our Space Forums to keep talking space on the latest missions, night sky and more! And if you have a news tip, correction or comment, let us know at:

Jeff Spry
Contributing Writer

Jeff Spry is an award-winning screenwriter and veteran freelance journalist covering TV, movies, video games, books, and comics. His work has appeared at SYFY Wire, Inverse, Collider, Bleeding Cool and elsewhere. Jeff lives in beautiful Bend, Oregon amid the ponderosa pines, classic muscle cars, a crypt of collector horror comics, and two loyal English Setters.