Padmé’s funeral gown is described as the water gown, and is a truly stunning culmination of her character.
The book Ophelia Speaks came out the same year as The Phantom Menace. It’s a collection of writings by teenage girls in response to an earlier book, Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Teenage Girls, that is a dissection of teen girl traumas written by a therapist. The editor of Ophelia Speaks felt that Reviving Ophelia was a good enough foundation, but since it was written from the point of view of an adult, it didn’t represent the teen girl experience.
Both of these books have a lot of flaws, I don’t really recommend them beyond the context of their cultural impact. But in my tenth grade English class Ophelia was described as ‘a gentle soul who had a crush on the wrong boy and was driven mad by his ennui’. She was a silly little girl, she was a victim, she was dead. Reviving Ophelia said she (and all teen girls everywhere) had worth beyond the men in her life and Ophelia Speaks tried to give her (and all teen girls everywhere) a voice.
This war represents a failure to listen.
Padmé spends so much of her story trying to get people to listen to her. Sometimes she succeeds: in The Phantom Menace she stops an invasion and thwarts Palpatine’s carefully constructed plan. Anakin pays attention to her counsel in Attack of the Clones and in Clone Wars. But more often she is dismissed, manipulated, pitied, and treated like a hysteric. Exactly like Ophelia.
Theres rosemary, that’s for remembrance.Hamlet, Act IV, Scene 5
Pray you, love, remember.
And there is pansies, that’s for thoughts …
There’s fennel for you, and columbines.
There’s rue for you, and here’s some for me.
We may call it “herb of grace” o’ Sundays.
– Oh, you must wear your rue with a difference.
There’s a daisy. I would give you some violets,
But they withered all when my father died.
There are suggestions of forbidden love and/or sex between Hamlet and Ophelia throughout the play. She is introduced being told she can’t marry the prince, regardless of attachment. Polonius shames them both for their feelings and behavior but also tries to use the situation to his advantage. Hamlet is borderline abusive in his attempts to show her affection. And in her “mad girl” scene she passes out herbs and flowers and keeps only rue for herself. The symbolic meaning of rue is ‘regret’ but it can be used medicinally to induce a miscarriage. All of this adds up to an intense, ill-defined, secret relationship that may have included a pregnancy.
Ophelia died by drowning. After falling into the water from a willow tree, she floats in clothes that drag her down and is too heartbroken to notice, her lungs fill with water and she can’t breathe. There are a number of parallels with Padmé:
- I talk about Padmé’s connection to water here.
- Padmé’s wardrobe is a huge part of her characterization. It is elaborate and intricate, often heavy, and requires help to get in and out of.
- Both Padmé and Ophelia are suggested to have lost the will to live.
- Willow trees are known for bending and not breaking, but Ophelia’s willow branch breaks. It is perhaps a stretch to find parallels between that and the Fall of the Republic, but I do. Throughout the prequels, the Republic, the Senate, the Order, and individual people compromise their values and beliefs. They bend and bend and bend and then suddenly break and Padmé is at the frontlines for it all.
- Whether you think Padmé gave up living, Anakin choked her, or Palpatine stole her life essence to save Vader — she died of an inability to breathe.
Too much of water hast thou, poor Ophelia, And therefore I forbid my tears.Hamlet, Act IV, Scene 7
Elaine of Astolat
Trisha Biggar designed the costume to resemble the lakes of Naboo and symbolize Padmé’s spiritual return to the lake. This is reflective of the poems “The Lady of Shallot” and “Lancelot and Elaine” by Alfred, Lord Tennyson. Elaine of Astolat died of a broken heart floating to Camelot in a funeral barge.
Elaine the fair, Elaine the lovable,Idylls of the King, Lancelot and Elaine
Elaine, the lily maid of Astolat.
As with Ophelia there are parallels between Elaine and Padmé:
- I discuss the many parallels between Star Wars and Arthurian legend here.
- Both women are described as beautiful, kind, and sad.
- Elaine is called “the lily maid” and Padmé’s name means lily.
- There are a few different Elaines with ties to Lancelot in Arthurian legend. In The Once and Future King, T.H. White combines Elaine of Corbin, Lancelot’s wife and Galahad’s mother, with Elaine of Astolat, whose funeral barge floats beside Camelot.
- Elaine is provided a royal funeral and mourned by all of Camelot.
The water gown is our last glimpse of Padmé on screen. She is beautiful, ethereal, and beloved. The colors, textures, and styling of the gown and her hair reference water, the stars, and an afterlife in the Force. She is buried as a mother and clutches a symbol of love and hope. It’s incredible costuming.