Denis Villeneuve’s Dune a sweeping epic—or the first part of one. There’s so much going on that it takes a few watches to capture every detail. From the large ensemble cast, to the vast landscape, to the subtle foreshadowing. For most of the film, everyone wandering through Arrakis’ deserts exclusively wears stillsuits. Wearing anything other than the moisture-saving fit means certain death—if a sandworm doesn’t get you first. But the film’s first third features more lavish, regal looks for House Atreides. Before trading in their wardrobe for more desert-appropriate clothing. It does a lot to set up the family’s status. And, of course, their inevitable downfall. Dune‘s costume designer gave the Atreides looks inspired by the Romanov family to help tell their story.
Costume designer Bob Morgan shared in an interview with /Film that House Atreides’ looks were specifically modeled after those of a real-life doomed family. He shared that the costumes, especially those worn by Lady Jessica and her maidens, represented the contrast between House Atreides‘s life pre-Arrakis and the desert planet.
“A lot of wealth, a lot of power, and a bit of the Romanoffs [sic],”Morgan said. “We wanted to show they’re coming from a place of age and richness and moisture and grain oceans and wealth and establishment, and that was the thought behind their dress uniforms and her dresses in the beginning.”
Clothes very much represent our identities. In film costumes often have to do a lot of heavy lifting, saying a lot so the characters don’t have to. And a movie like Dune is already so dense, Part One only covered half the book. The clothes need to speak. That’s why it’s so fitting that Morgan modeled the House Atreides style off a famous family best known for their tragic downfall. It gives an immediate sense of foreboding to even those who haven’t read the book yet.
Of course, the Romanovs, for anyone who aren’t familiar with the Russian family, were Russia’s ruling family. Tsar Nicholas II was the country’s last emperor. Bolsheviks imprisoned the Tsar, his wife, and their five children in 1917, brutally murdering them a year later. Their disappearance remained shrouded in mystery for decades, and their downfall became something of a legendary—almost mythologized—tragedy.
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