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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Movie Discussion: The Lord of the Rings:
Did You Ever Notice... Saruman the White's Costume?

Arwen's daughter

Sep 8 2008, 12:54am

Post #1 of 13 (11001 views)
Did You Ever Notice... Saruman the White's Costume? Can't Post

Saruman the White's costume is actually a dirty cream costume in real life. It shows up white on film, though. Christopher Lee says of this costume, "It wouldn't be brilliant glowing white, it couldn't be after thousands of years, or hundreds of years."

The challenge for Ngila and her crew was to make a costume that looked rich but could only use white. So, they built a lot of different textures into the costume, using materials like brocade for the sleeves and quilting the fabric for the undersleeves. They used linen and silk fabrics and sandpapered some of the edges down to make it look worn. The costume seems to be at least two layers, one long underrobe with both narrow sleeves and wide sleeves and a sleeveless overrobe. We've seen sleeves like these on some of the elven costumes. Ngila tried to connect the wizard costume with the Elven costumes.

As always, you can find out more over at AlleyCatScratch.

So, any thoughts?

Did You Ever Notice? is a running look at the details in Lord of the Rings taking a look at one costume at a time. It follows no particular order and appears on no particular day. You can always find previous discussions at my Costume Discussion Archive.

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Sep 8 2008, 12:59am

Post #2 of 13 (8137 views)
I never noticed the clasps [In reply to] Can't Post

on the front of his robe. The seem to be characters from a pictographic language. I knew he had many textures built into the fabric, but these too were difficult to discern on film. As always, the unseen layers of detail must be one of the things that made everything hyper real for viewers. Thanks again for sharing your research Arwen's daughter!

Salty Coqui

Sep 8 2008, 1:42am

Post #3 of 13 (8150 views)
I really like that costume! [In reply to] Can't Post

Yes, I noticed! I got a real good look on the behind the scenes portions on the extended dvd. The designer took real pride in her work! It's not exactly what I imagined from the book, but it is really nice!


Sep 8 2008, 3:18am

Post #4 of 13 (8143 views)
looks like he needs some bleach! [In reply to] Can't Post

But the "soiled" white look works pretty well for this character, doesn't it...

I don't think I've ever seen the back of the costume before -- is that a hood hanging down, or a very long collar? Or is that just a "v" sort of design?

I like the idea of linking the wizard and elf costumes design wise. Saruman is a "copier" in the books, trying to imitate Sauron, so I kind of like him trying to design a robe that looked Elven...fits with his inability to come up with anything original on his own, though he did improve on things, like making orcs into Uruks.

Oh, and doesn't Christopher Lee wear this costume very well? It looks like he poured himself into it, to me!



Sep 8 2008, 3:51am

Post #5 of 13 (8113 views)
Well... [In reply to] Can't Post

It seems Christopher Lee forgot his Tolkien when referring to Saruman's costume. At the time of the War of the Ring, Saruman was not wearing his traditional white robes, he was as he spoke plainly to Gandalf, "Saruman the Many-Colored", and his newer robes were of shifting hues; therefore, Saruman's robes were no longer white not because of centuries of use, but rather, there were elements of all color within them.

THE EARL OF SANDWICH: "Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!"
JOHN WILKES: That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress."
John Wilkes (1727-1797)

(This post was edited by Morthoron on Sep 8 2008, 3:52am)

Arwen's daughter

Sep 8 2008, 4:09am

Post #6 of 13 (8079 views)
I suspect... [In reply to] Can't Post

that Mr. Lee made his comments after the changes to his character had been finalized and after he had rationlized them in whatever way he needed to. Does it make the costume somehow less in that it was desinged for the needs of the movie instead of the book? Does the costume only have merit in how little it strays from Tolkien's words? If so, then it's a good think the Professor never described anyone's clothing much or Ngila would have a doubly impossible task before her.

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Arwen's daughter

Sep 8 2008, 4:18am

Post #7 of 13 (8154 views)
It's a design [In reply to] Can't Post

To the best that I can tell, the Vs down his back seem to be piping, raised fabric sewn into seams down the back. As far as I can tell it's only decorative.

In Reply To

I don't think I've ever seen the back of the costume before -- is that a hood hanging down, or a very long collar? Or is that just a "v" sort of design?

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Sep 8 2008, 4:26pm

Post #8 of 13 (8085 views)
It's stunning! [In reply to] Can't Post

Pure white fallen from grace, eh? I wonder if the colour of the fabric faded or discoloured as a reflection of its Master's failing?

I also notice that another resemblance of some of the elven outfits it the tie about the waste. Much like those ties of Elrond's outfits and the one Arwen had when the Fellowship departed.

Isn't it still a stunning costume, though? The detail once again seems to give the outfit more of a feeling of history and stature. This is wonderful! Thanks so much, Arwen's daughter. I just love these studies of the costumes :D


"Barney Snow was here." ~Hug like a hobbit!~ "In my heaven..."

I really need these new films to take me back to, and not re-introduce me to, that magical world.

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Tol Eressea

Sep 8 2008, 7:15pm

Post #9 of 13 (8044 views)
Yay! I love these! [In reply to] Can't Post

I love the dirty look of this costume! It really signifies his fall from grace, or perhaps these days he just doesn't care about his appearance anymore. You'd never see Gandalf the White looking so grubby!

*Jazminatar the Brown*

Tol Eressea

Sep 8 2008, 7:17pm

Post #10 of 13 (8056 views)
I guess it was beneath the Uruk-Hai to work in the laundry. Ewww!// [In reply to] Can't Post


"There are some things that it is better to begin than to refuse, even though the end may be dark."


Sep 10 2008, 12:29pm

Post #11 of 13 (8065 views)
This costume is very elegant .. [In reply to] Can't Post

even though it be a little 'antique' in its colourings, I think its very suitable for Saruman.
I always imaged the 'coat of many colours' to be like white opal - white all the time until the light or the rain catch upon it and then it hints its colours. I imagined Saruman sort of hiding those colours until he was ready ... so his outfit always looked a little off colour.
I like the simplicity of the design - it flows very nicely - and Christopher Lee has the height to carry it as well.

Thankyou for this one Arwen's Daughter! Another fanatstic thread!
Elven Heart

Were off to Hobbiton finally!

Tolkien was a Capricorn!!
Russell Crowe for Beorn!!

Avatar: Liberace - The other Lord of the Rings.
Quote of The Week: A I LOVE cats and I love TV. And I love to watch cats on TV. Ron Perlman


Sep 17 2008, 1:18am

Post #12 of 13 (8007 views)
That's exactly as I imagined it, too! // [In reply to] Can't Post


"Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter, and those who matter don't mind." -Dr. Seuss (Theodor Geisel)

Believe in the possibility of the impossible.

(This post was edited by stormcrow20 on Sep 17 2008, 1:18am)


Sep 18 2008, 4:38pm

Post #13 of 13 (8076 views)
loved this at the exhibition [In reply to] Can't Post

THIS is one of the reason's the traveling exhibition should be a permanent museum. I loved seeing all of the details on the costumes when the exhibit came to Boston. A friend from a local newspaper took me as her guest to the media opening, and I recall she got to take pictures of all of this. (Something that was obviously forbidden at the exhibition itself.)

I keep hoping that New Zealand will offer a permanent exhibit by the time I get down to visit in 2009 or 2010. :) I want to see all those costumes, and everything else, again!

Being a Steward of Harvard is almost as good as being Steward of Gondor, but I'd still like to visit Minas Tirith (New Zealand).


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