Skip to Content

From Elora’s Coat to the Kymerian Cuirass: Costume Designer Sarah Young Talks Willow, Part 2

  • Link Copied

 Inside the new looks for Willow, Elora Danan, and more.

This is the final installment of a two-part conversation between and Sarah Young. In part one, we explored the establishment of Willow’s costume department and the overall scope of the series. 

One of costume designer Sarah Young’s favorite memories of working on Lucasfilm’s series Willow came at the end of the journey. In November 2022, she was among those invited to the series premiere in Los Angeles where fans lined up in their homemade Willow costumes, including ones inspired by new clothing worn by characters like Elora Danan and Kit Tanthalos. “They had so many questions about Elora’s green scarf,” Young says with a laugh, “asking about how to make it.”

Each and every costume piece, including Elora’s scarf, had been designed and created by Young’s department based at Dragon Studios in Wales, along with many collaborating vendors. For Young, each new costume was an opportunity to tell a story. “For all of the characters, the clothing needed to be versatile. They leave on the journey with one costume, and you want the clothing to develop as they develop,” she says. 

Keeping images of the characters from the original 1988 movie around for inspiration, Young and her team set about creating each costume and its variations. This often involved imagining points about the story to inform their decisions. “If they don’t give me a story, I need one to create these characters,” she says. Inferring from the scripts, Young envisioned different backstories and details. “I’m not afraid to pitch things in meetings and explain why. That’s what sparks the ideas.”

Willow Ufgood

For the series’ namesake, it all began with the costume from the original movie. “I couldn’t see Willow in anything other than a blue tunic,” Young says. “You put blue on [actor] Warwick Davis and his eyes are incredible. He really suits the color.” 

Starting with the same concept, she then conferred with Davis, and together they imagined new refinements that added practicality to the design. Facing tough conditions on the quest, Willow also sported a leather jacket with removable sleeves. Because he is now High Aldwin, Young included runic symbols across the jacket, hundreds of them hand-painted, cut, and sewn (including ones for all of the duplicate jackets!).

Willow’s design also represented the culture of the Nelwyn, who have gone underground since their last appearance in 1988. Considering how these changes would have affected them, Young took inspiration from the lockdown during the global pandemic. “People created stuff,” she explains. “When you’re confined, even during a terrible situation like the Nelwyns in hiding, people come together. I thought they could be making things with organic materials, dyeing with natural colors, hand-weaving, and hand-knitting. It’s a progression from the original.”

Elora Danan 

Few of Willow’s characters experience as dramatic a change in appearance as Elora Danan (even her hair changes color). Initially, this sorceress-to-be needed to appear quite ordinary and blend in with the other staff at Tir Asleen’s castle. Joining the others on the quest, her green shawl distinguishes her from the refined appearances of Kit and Jade. 

“I never saw her in a skirt,” Young says. “She’s actually wearing wide-leg culottes. They’re trousers. I knew they’d work practically for the shoot because of all of the stunt work, but they also fit the character. She starts as this young girl in love with Airk and goes on this journey of self-discovery.” Later, Elora’s green shawl is replaced with a darker coat that exudes her growing confidence and power.

Kit Tanthalos 

Kit’s emotional journey takes her from overconfidence to a deeper vulnerability, and we see this evolution as her costume becomes more flexible. The design began with her mother’s costume from the original movie. Young took inspiration from Sorsha’s corseted belt and shoulder armor, giving Kit a waist cinching belt and attached shoulder piece as a modernized version. 

Of course, Kit is also the one to finally don the Kymerian Cuirass, and as Young recalls, showrunner Jonathan Kasdan had always envisioned armor that transforms from a dirty relic into a kind of super-hero suit (Marvel’s Iron Man was used for reference). The complex design and fabrication process involved both Neal Scanlan’s creature effects department and the visual effects team.   

Actor Ruby Cruz’s body was scanned as she wore a corset. Individual pieces for the Cuirass were then 3D printed, and affixed to a lycra body suit. “The ultimate goal was to accentuate Ruby’s body,” as Young puts it. The build included a practical light for the glowing Lux Arcana that brings the armor to life. “All of the cast would practice fighting during the costume fittings, and with the Curiass, I made sure we had the sword so she could try moving around.” 

Airk Tanthalos 

According to Young, one of Kasdan’s first notes about the costume for Prince Airk Tanthalos was “this is the Harry Styles of Willow.” Leaping at the opportunity, she began with researching 1970s glamor fashion. “It was interesting to show that feminine side,” Young explains. “It doesn’t take anything away from his character. He can be whatever he wants to be.”

Experimenting with different approaches, Young quips that she helped turn actor Dempsey Bryk onto new ideas in fashion. At times, Airk’s costume includes elaborate skirts attached to his trousers as well as various jewelry. “It was fun to show that flamboyant side to his character,” Young adds. “He has a unique style.” 

Thraxus Boorman

Young thinks of the tall, imposing Thraxus Boorman as a drifter. “He’s travelled all over the world,” she says. “His costume travels with him. He picks things up as he goes and steals things! It works for whatever he’s doing at the moment.” 

The self-interested character has a practical costume, including a multi-purpose cape that works as a cloak, blanket, and pillow. Young took inspiration from the poncho or serape worn by actor Clint Eastwood in Spaghetti Westerns like A Fistful of Dollars (1964). For Young, it lends a certain vulnerability and humor to Boorman. “He’s such a strong character,” she adds, “but he’s also got this poncho. He can be serious and intimidating in a poncho!”

Jade Claymore

Raised to be a soldier, Jade is usually quite composed with her attire, even when the others have become disheveled. As she trains to be a knight of Tir Asleen, her costume reflects that traditional design. “She takes it very seriously,” Young says. “She’s a badass warrior, and [actor] Erin Kellyman is such a good fighter, so I wanted to make sure it felt that way.” 

Young imagines Jade keeping an emotional barrier up. “As the series goes on, she explains, “you learn more about her, and she starts to loosen up. She even opens her shirt a bit, which Erin and I couldn’t believe!” 

Meeting her family among the Bone Reavers, Jade adopts some of their clothing style, with new leather armor, perhaps made for her by Scorpia, as Young notes. She also receives a necklace from Scorpia, something Young devised. “When nomadic people live in camps like that,” she explains, “they have religions or beliefs that bind them together. I imagined them worshiping the stars and sky, so it’s a sun with a moon inside that they can separate like a friendship necklace.”  

Graydon Hastur

Graydon is a prince from the faraway kingdom of Galladoorn, a place mentioned in the original movie but not seen. Needing more background for its culture, Young imagined a cold locale and a rigid, militant society that contrasts with Tir Asleen. “Gradyon was almost dressed by his parents and displayed at this banquet like a decorative cake!” Young quips. “He even has a big golden robe as if they’re selling him to be married.”

Restrained and a little mysterious, Graydon then wears an impractical getup for questing, a large fur coat. As he progresses, he loses most every accoutrement and luxury. Graydon is a sort of blank slate who might take any path. “You don’t really know the true Graydon at the beginning,” Young explains. “You perceive him as a rich, pompous, inexperienced prince, but actually, he has a true heart underneath it all.” 


Having advanced from warrior to queen, Sorsha wears a crown both similar and dissimilar to her wicked mother’s. According to Young, although she occupies a place of authority, she still needs to be strong and heroic, as audiences remember her. With a strict color pallet and simple silhouette, her clothing bears no extraneous detail. 

“Everything has a purpose,” Young says about Sorsha’s costume. “She’s a practical queen. I think [actor] Joanne Whalley felt comfortable with that.” Tir Asleen in general follows an organic, nature-based design, using trees and birds. “Going too stuffy and royal with lots of jewels didn’t feel right for Willow,” Young adds. “Sorsha doesn’t need to prove anything to anybody. She walks in the room and you know exactly who she is.” 


Though only appearing in one scene, some of Young’s favorite work came with the Brownie Rool and his daughter Ganush. “There’s so much work in those costumes, I don’t think anyone will realize it,” she notes. With the Brownies settling down in apartments, Young imagined a sitcom feel as they lounge around in pajamas and onesies. Starting with that modern interpretation, she then worked to integrate it with the natural, caveman-like style of the original.

Early on, Young spoke with actor Kevin Pollak, who mentioned Rool’s original mouse-head cap. Using the original colors, Young and team created an elaborate pattern for his robe of mice playing havoc with humans (not unlike Brownies like to do). The same piece includes a furry collar and belt like a tail. Rool also wears mouse-feet slippers and a sleeping cap, the latter “because Kevin wanted to do the reveal with his bald head,” as Young says. 

Then for Ganush, they created a hand-made, mouse-style onesie with cheese buttons down its length. Underneath, she wears a band t-shirt with the word “Eborsisk” (the dragon creature first seen in the original) and two large heads. “We went into minute detail to the point where people might not even know what’s there,” Young says, “but we know! It felt bonkers as we were doing it, but Jon supported all of it.” 

A Wedding Finale 

Having made a hobby of drawing wedding dresses when she was a child, Young’s work came full circle with the elaborate dream wedding sequence in Willow’s finale. “It needed to feel like a dream,” she explains. “I couldn’t reuse stuff from before. It needed to be more out there. I wasn’t restricted in how to do the wedding dress. It could be whatever Elora would’ve wanted it to be in her imagination. Jon described it as Elora’s dream dress.”

As Young recalls, the final dress brought actor Ellie Bamber to tears when she first tried it on (along with everyone else present!). The entire sequence is slightly uncanny, not unlike the dance with actors Jennifer Connelly and David Bowie in Lucasfilm’s 1986 co-production, Labyrinth. “It needs to be freaky but not too scary,” Young adds, “because this is supposed to be really enticing for her. You want to believe this is her dream.”

Related Topics