Listen up, space nerds! It’s Alien Day (April 26th), that time of year when we embark on an intergalactic journey to discuss the costumes of the iconic film series, Alien. Last year, we explored the costumes of the epic 1986 sequel, Aliens. That means it is time to get into the controversial third installment directed by David Fincher, Alien 3 (with that slick stylized spelling, Alien³). Let’s suit up and dive into the universe of Alien costumes!
Get ready for some serious costume credits because the costume designers behind the costumes of Alien 3 are no strangers to sci-fi style! David Perry, who you might recognize from his work on Flash Gordon, teamed up with Bob Ringwood, the costume genius behind iconic films like Dune (1984), Batman, Batman Returns, Star Trek Nemesis, Troy, and even the fourth Alien film, Alien Resurrection. With these two masterminds at the helm, it’s no wonder the costumes of Alien 3 are truly otherworldly. Well, at least otherworldly for a prison…
Unlike the first two films, Alien 3 takes place in a desolate prison full of male prisoners. It quickly becomes obvious that the advanced, futuristic technology surrounding our hero Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver), died on the colonial marine spaceship Sulaco. Not to mention everyone is shaving their heads due to a lice infestation. By this point, I wouldn’t blame you if you were wondering what costume design there is to talk about.
It is mentioned in the film that every six months, ships drop off necessary supplies for the prison. That means these supplies have to be rationed for that time period, assuming more supplies will come. This would explain the absolutely horrible conditions seen in the prison, and the broken-down costumes. Alien 3 is a lesson in costume breakdown and models sustainability in clothing. New clothes are not often making their way to the prison; therefore, the prisoners are likely to recycle clothing. As you can probably imagine, there is probably not a Forever 21 or an H&M on this planet, so it is up to the characters to make what they have work through alterations by any means necessary.
Every costume is aged appropriately to show that the prisoners work very hard and… probably couldn’t care less about overall hygiene. The process behind building these costumes is not well documented, as the 1991 film is an Alien film many try to forget. But by looking at these costumes – it’s obvious that the designers put a heavy focus on breaking down each of these costumes, dyeing the fabrics, and stamping the infamous Weyland-Yutani logo wherever the designer saw fit. Everything looks effectively sweated through, and that is a note I really appreciate because it really explains the story of everyone on this miserable planet without explicitly saying so.
Ripely is, of course, the only woman on this planet. With that, she doesn’t have a ton of options in clothes available to her… not that this was very important to her. She is given a rather nonbinary costume to help her blend in with the rest of the population due to the constant reminder that the men of these prisons are inherent savages and can’t even bear the sight of a woman, or they will lose their cool (Spoiler Alert: they do). However, there is a moment where her jacket falls just so over her shoulder, giving even the slightest sense that Ripley is still Ripley… for now.
Let’s talk about our favorite Alien friend, the Xenomorph. Alien 3 gets back to the original model of only having one Xenomorph, unlike Aliens, where there was a ton! I’ve talked in detail about the incredible Swiss artist H.R. Giger who created the original Xenomorph in the 70s. Giger did have a hand in this film; however, this movie was riddled with disrespectful corporate interruption and setbacks. Ultimately, Giger was not credited in this film, but he did inspire the design for Xenormorph of this third installment. It is said that the original design was to be a bit more erotic than the usual Xenomorph, adding on some… lips?
Fincher specifically wanted the Alien to have lips based on Michelle Pfeiffer’s — more voluptuous and feminine. The director recalled: “We did give it Michelle Pfeiffer’s lips. That’s what they’re based on. It always had these little thin lips, and I said to Giger, ‘Let’s make it a woman when it comes right up to Ripley.’ So it has these big, luscious collagen lips.” Giger wanted the new creature to be “more sensuous” as opposed to repulsive. “The lips and chin on my new model are better proportioned and give the creature a more erotic appearance,” he said. “When the mouth is closed, it looks very voluptuous, beautiful.”MonsterLegacy.Net
Finally, Weyland-Yutani Corporation shows up at the prison to claim their prize… the Xenomorph growing inside of Ripley. Personally, I feel like Weyland-Yutani Corporation is the real villain in this film, but I can’t deny their style is impeccable. In the first Alien film, we saw some of the corporation’s spacesuits, which were quite spectacular. At the time, director Ridley Scott and the creators were inspired by Japanese armor, which is what prompted those suits. Returning to Alien 3, you get to see a commando version of those suits in all of their glory, a fantastic nod to the original film.
There you have it, space nerds! We’ve explored the costumes of the third installment of the iconic Alien film series, Alien 3. From the breakdown and sustainability of the costumes to the controversial design of the Xenomorph with Michelle Pfeiffer-inspired lips, there’s no denying the creativity and attention to detail that went into these costumes. And let’s not forget the impeccable style of the Weyland-Yutani Corporation, even if they are the real villains of the film. As always, I really enjoyed this, and I can’t wait until next year when we will talk all about Alien: Resurrection, a campy film that even introduces Winona Ryder to this nightmare. Happy Alien Day, my friends!