Attack of the Clones is visually stunning, and every Padmé costume is my favorite costume, but the meadow picnic dress is special. It was used in promotional art, such as the poster above and the Vanity Fair photoshoot by Annie Lebowitz, and thus helped (re)introduce the audience to Padmé and her love story with Anakin. A love story we know is passionate and doomed – just like the ones this costume so perfectly references, especially Queen Guinevere of Camelot.
On the left is “God Speed” by Edmund Blair Leighton (1900), on the right is “Queen Guinevere’s Maying” by John Collier (1900). While the Leighton is not specifically Guinevere, it is a maid and her knight in the era of chivalry. Both these artists are Pre-Raphaelites and they depict a fantasy version of historic record turned legend. Here are a few more examples:
On the left an illustration of Guinevere and her handmaidens, in Tennyson’s Idylls of the King, by Eleanor Fortescue Brickdale (1909); on the right “It Was Their Last Hour Together” by Florence Harrison (1912); and below is “Lancelot and Guinevere” by Herbert James Draper (1900).
The connection between this costume and these illustrations is pronounced, evident in color, line, and effect. And Padmé’s picnic gown is hardly the only reference to Camelot to be found in the prequels. There are Arthurian tones all over.
The Jedi Order are a society of idealistic knights, governed by a select council who sit in the round, and answer to the kingdom. The king and kingdom are manipulated by dark magic and its minions who want the power for themselves, and use the knights’ ideals and mistakes against them. And the catalyst for their doom is a forbidden love affair between the queen and the greatest knight.
Qui-Gon plays the part of Merlin, the wizard who plucks the Chosen One from poverty and obscurity. But Anakin doesn’t remain an Arthur, he is far more like Lancelot, the knight who struggles with his commitment to holy knighthood and his love of Guinevere. Instead Obi-Wan embodies Arthur, the lawful good ideologue who ignores the relationship between his two best friends until it is too late to save them.
The picnic gown also has elements of Elizabethan (Shakespearean) fashion such as those on display in the films Shakespeare in Love, Elizabeth, and The Man in the Iron Mask, all of which appeared on screen four years prior to Attack of the Clones.
And certainly Anakin and Padmé share much in common with Romeo and Juliet, as well.
I love this dress for its soft romanticism, it’s bright palette that compliments their surroundings, and its sweeping beauty that resembles a work of art, and a fairy tale.