Another year, another trip to our favorite Alien infested moon, LV-426. Last year in honor of Alien Day, I released an in-depth look into the costume design of Ridley Scott’s groundbreaking sci-fi horror, Alien. I had so much fun doing that piece that I decided I have to make this an annual series. With that in mind, it’s time to explore the costume design seen in the sequel of Alien directed by James Cameron, Aliens.
Costume Design by Emma Porteous
The costume designer for Alien, John Mollo, did not return for the sequel. That means the baton was handed off too another esteemed costume designer, Emma Porteous. Porteous is responsible for Aliens costume design as well as some incredible films such as Clash of the Titans (1981), Judge Dredd (1995), A View to a Kill (1985) and so many other projects dating back to the 1960s. Porteous approached this film with a wealth of knowledge and tools which led to a Saturn Award nomination! Clearly Porteous nailed it as Aliens went on to earn $131.1–183.3 million during its theatrical run, one of the highest-grossing films of 1986.
The Crew of the U.S.S. Sulaco
The crew featured in Aliens is vastly different compared to the original crew of the Nostromo. In the first film, the original crew was wearing military casual. They had a uniform but it was more relaxed and varied. In the sequel, Aliens, the crew is dressed for war! This crew was decked out in helmets, fortified vests, headsets, and lots of muscles. The look is very timeless in my opinion which really speaks to the genius of costume designer Emma Porteous. Even in 1986 we were seeing costumes being created that to this day still read as futuristic. Emma doesn’t let these costumes come off as antique, instead the Aliens costume design is very forward thinking and that is an impressive accomplishment.
Some of my favorite costumes belong to Corporal Hicks (Michael Biehn), Private Hudson (Bill Paxton), and of course, Private Vasquez (Jenette Goldstein). I especially love Private Vasquez’s costume as it really became such an iconic silhouette. Vasquez has such a strong presence and the red bandana just does wonders speaking for her character. Vasquez’s costumes show strength, resilience, and fire which really is a common theme amongst the female characters seen in this series.
The Return of Ellen Ripley
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Ellen Ripley is one of the greatest film characters of all time and I will not be hearing debate on the matter! Sigourney Weaver just makes everything better. An iconic character needs and iconic wardrobe and Emma Porteous gave Ripley a little bit of an upgrade! After 57 years in cryosleep, Ripley is ready for some new fashion. Once Ripley sees that she is indeed right about the Xenomorph threat and that Weyland-Yutani is (once again) screwing her over, Ripley ditches the top half of her uniform.
The entire costume changes as Ripley now appears to be wearing a baggy pant (in a really interesting fabric) overalls, and *those* shoes. While the costume is simple, Sigourney Weaver is able to shine as the costume becomes less of a distraction and adds to the strength of her character. This is probably one of the most iconic costumes in existence.
The Alien Stompers
We need to talk about the iconic “Alien Stompers”. These shoes are within the ranks of the Ruby Slippers and Cinderella’s glass slipper if you ask me. These shoes became an instant classic and some versions of the shoe can still be found at Reebok. In the past six years, the designer of the Alien Stomper, Tuan Le, was interviewed by HighsNobiety and talked about the process behind the shoe.
During the meeting we had in London, I met with James Cameron for five minutes, but most of the time we spent with the production staff and they ran through the script with me. They described to me the last scene in the movie when Sigourney Weaver battles the alien and they both got sucked out into the airlock. She was hanging on for dear life and the aliens were hanging on to her shoes. The shoe had to slowly come off her feet [so that] the alien was sucked out into outer space. That was the requirement based on the script that was read to me.
Therefore, my direction was that the shoe had to easily off her feet. That was the only requirement they told me. There were no requirements for colors, looks or any particular theme that I had to follow. The only thing that I had to follow was that it easily came off her foot.
The immediate response to that was that it had to have some kind of Velcro strap. I left with that direction. Basically, anything I wanted to do with Velcro straps that would allow her to get sucked out into space easily. That was it.TUAN LE – HIGHSNOBIETY
Long Live the Queen!
I can’t end this piece without talking about our Xenomorph friends. The sequel film introduced the Xenomorph queen and boy was she beautiful. Remember in my last article, we talked about how in the first film, actor Bolaji Badejo was inside the Xenomorph suit that was molded for him by H.R. Giger. Well in Aliens, they fit TWO puppeteers inside the Xenomorph Queen’s head!
Cameron approached Stan Winston with concept art and had the idea to make a full-size suit with two puppeteers controlling it from inside. Winston thought Cameron it was a crazy idea, but in the end it worked. Winston and his team built the prototype for the Alien Queen suit from black garbage bags, foam, and two puppeteers with sticks for claws. The structure was brought together with a hydraulic lift. Once the team got the prototype Alien Queen to stand and walk, they shipped the design to England to start building the real thing.RUDIE OBIAS – GIANTFREAKINROBOT.COM
Game Over, Man!
The Aliens costume design remains legendary. Some of the greatest costume design of all time. As always, Alien Day has been a blast. If you want more Alien content, check out my previous article by following this link. Also today we released the Alien episode of The Art of Costume Blogcast where we talk all about the costumes from the first film. Thank you for reading and I can’t wait for next year! Until then, “Get away from her, you bitch!”
ago, Rudie Obias| 10 years. “How James Cameron and Stan Winston Made the Alien Queen.” GIANT FREAKIN ROBOT, 16 Aug. 2012, https://www.giantfreakinrobot.com/scifi/james-cameron-stan-winston-alien-queen.html.
Banks, Words By Alec, and Alec BanksFeatures Editor. “Meet the Man Who Put the Alien Stomper on Ripley’s Feet.” Highsnobiety, 26 Apr. 2016, https://www.highsnobiety.com/p/reebok-alien-stomper-history/.
Dean, Tres. “The Long, Strange Story of Reebok’s ‘Aliens’ Collab.” GQ, 5 May 2020, https://www.gq.com/story/reebok-alien-stomper-history.
Goodclobber. “Alien Stompers.” Mens Clothing. Good Clobber: Affordable Fashion for Cost-Conscious Males., Tumblr, 2 July 2020, https://goodclobber.tumblr.com/post/484793344/alien-stompers/amp.
Williams, Spencer. “Costuming Alien: The Perfect Nightmare.” The Art of Costume, 26 Mar. 2022, https://theartofcostume.com/2021/04/26/costuming-alien/.