Though it's been over fifteen years since the last installment of The Lord of the Rings trilogy was in theaters, the thrall of the fantasy epic still lingers. Even sprawling series like Game of Thrones, while achieving the same scale of world-building, seem diminished when compared to the grandeur of Peter Jackson's films. This is in part due to their beautiful costumes, created by the talented Ngila Dickson and her masterful wardrobe department. Of all of the costumes, without a doubt, the most exquisite were made for Arwen Evenstar, played by Liv Tyler.
Though Arwen was not featured heavily in J.R.R. Tolkien's books, Jackson decided to increase her presence in his trilogy in a variety of clever ways. Though the majority of her appearances are related to her love story with Aragorn, the fate of Middle-Earth and all its inhabitants, from humans to halflings, brings her into integral portions of the films. Her Elven garments tell the story of a princess pulled between her duty to her people and her duty to her heart. Below are 10 hidden details about her costumes you never noticed.
10 THERE'S A REASON HER FIRST COSTUME IS SO BLURRY
Arwen first appears in The Fellowship of the Ring in a dream-like vision of Frodo Baggins'. He's just been stabbed with a Nazgul blade on Weather-Top, and the poison from Mordor is spreading through his body. He sees her in what appears to be a white dress, with a vibrant halo surrounding her angelic frame.
The reason her form is so obscured is because the original white dress and cloak were made from wool that was woven with metal, creating an amazing drape but also a blurring "halo" effect. It didn't drape so well when she was sitting next to Frodo, so the costume department scrapped that dress and opted for the "Angel" dress we're more familiar with in the scene.
9 HER CHASE COSTUME WAS CREATED SPECIFICALLY FOR THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING
Arwen makes a spectacular impression in The Fellowship of the Ring when she rescues Frodo Baggins from the Black Riders. She takes him on horseback to the River Bruinen, where she uses a special incantation to summon a flood that washes them all away.
In the book, Glorfindel rescues Frodo and Arwen doesn't appear, so her chase outfit was fabricated for the specific sequence. Though it appears green in the film, it's actually a dove gray. Ngila Dickson has stated it was important to convey Arwen's empathy with humans in Middle-Earth, so her outfit is a combination of Elven design and a human riding outfit.
8 ALL OF THE EMBROIDERY WAS HAND-STITCHED
Given the scale of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, it would have been understandable for Ngila Dickson and her wardrobe department to cut a few corners. Modern sewing machines have the technology built into them to allow for automatic embroidery. Simply program in a stitch pattern and the machine automatically takes care of the rest.
While the machine would make for highly accurate work, it would look too perfect. Dickson's wardrobe department, therefore, hand-stitched the embroidery on Arwen's robes, such as along the hemline, cuffs, and seams of her gowns and cloaks.
7 HER CIRCLET WAS A LAST-MINUTE CREATION
Many of the Elven royalty wear circlets. Elrond, Lord of Rivendell wears a solid silver piece that wraps around his head, while his daughter Arwen wears a much more delicate version that comes in five pieces. While it may appear to be of the finest Elven craftsmanship, the real prop was cobbled together from different bits of jewelry that a costume designer already had.
Shooting was about to begin for The Fellowship of the Ring, so Weta associate Jasmine took five pieces of jewelry she already had and came up with Arwen's circlet in an hour or two. The pieces are connected by simple jump-rings, allowing for a delicate drape across her forehead.
6 THE DRAPE OF THE FABRIC ADDED HEIGHT
To create the sense that the Elves tread lightly over Middle-Earth, almost "floating" through spaces, Ngila Dickson had to discover the perfect way to drape the fabric of their elegant clothing on their bodies. Elves are a good deal taller and more graceful than Humans, Halflings, or the other races of Middle-Earth, and the actors needed to look regal.
Liv Tyler is already 5'10, which is tall for a leading lady (Viggo Mortensen is 5'11" for example), and perfect for an Elven princess. Like all the Elves, the fabric of her costumes was draped from the top of her body, creating the effect that she drifted upon the ground. The weight of the fabric also made her movements more precise, deliberate, and graceful.
5 ALL OF HER COSTUMES EVOKED NATURE
Ngila Dickson wanted all of the Elf costumes to represent an affinity with the natural world, so many of their components incorporated patterns that reflected that. The colors of many of her gowns and cloaks were meant to be the exact colors of flowers, such as the lilac piece she wore leaving Rivendell.
Even the cut of her riding outfit during the chase sequence in The Fellowship of the Ring was created with a specific pattern that followed the shapes of leaves. The stitching on the sleeves of her tunic and riding coat also reflected plants and vines.
4 THERE WERE 17 DIFFERENT EVENSTAR PENDANTS MADE
Next to the One Ring, the Evenstar pendant that Arwen gives her true love Aragorn is one of the most recognizable pieces of jewelry in The Lord of the Rings trilogy. She gives him her pendant at a secret rendezvous they share on the step bridge in Rivendell, declaring that she will give up her Elven immortality to be with him.
Aragorn then wears the Evenstar for the rest of The Fellowship of the Ring, as well as the two sequels. Actor Viggo Mortensen liked the pendant so much he had the chain shortened so that it could be seen more readily, but due to his constant battle scenes and general wear and tear, the pendant kept getting broken and needed to be remade.
3 THE BRIGHT HUES CAME FROM REPEATED OVER-DYING
Ngila Dickson and her team of costume designers often had to find out how to achieve certain colors that didn't appear naturally. If there weren't bolts of fabric with the right shade for one of Arwen's dresses, for instance, they had to repeatedly dye it to achieve the right color palette.
This process was used to great effect for what Dickson called "Arwen's Dying Frock" from Return of the King. She's wearing this dress when Elrond explains to Aragorn that his daughter is dying from the evil spreading from Mordor. To achieve the rich, baked red color of the bell sleeves, the velvet had to be repeatedly dyed.
2 HER COSTUMES REFLECTED HER RELATIONSHIP WITH HUMANS
Through her relationship with Aragorn, Arwen was one of the most empathetic Elves to the plight of the inhabitants of Middle-Earth. While her father Elrond, the Lord of Rivendell felt his people shouldn't get involved in a conflict they had no part in, she felt they couldn't turn their back on the war that was to come.
Though she wears many elegant Elven outfits that reflect her status as a princess and Elvish royalty, she is also seen in several outfits that indicate her status as a human sympathizer. Her sleeves are less dramatic, and the hues darker, such as in her chase outfit from The Fellowship of the Ring, and her "Mourning Frock" from a vision in The Return of the King.
1 THE CORONATION OUTFIT WAS THE MOST DIFFICULT TO CREATE
Arwen wore a lot of spectacular costumes throughout The Lord of the Rings trilogy, all requiring hours of labor from the wardrobe department to create. One of the most difficult to create was one of her most exquisite ensembles; her coronation gown, which required hours of dying to achieve its pale green color and the crown she wears in Return of the King.
The crown design was based on a sketch of Ngila Dickson's and was meant to take the shape of a butterfly. The design can be seen specifically in the back. The hanging jewels, while statement-making hang delicately, and were specifically draped to frame her Elven ears.