Everyone talks about it Sandworms and spices, but the coolest thing Frank Herbert invented Dune– until he seemed to think so – it was the fixed suit. Worn by the inhabitants of the desert planet Arrakis, their clothing still captures any moisture that exits the body and recycles it into drinkable water. Also looking very sick, all tubes and tubes and chest plates (cosplayer’s wet dream). Denis Villeneuve Dune To adapt, fashion designer Jacqueline West wanted the look of the suits to reflect her environmental imperative. “It was a prophetic book about a planet that, like our planet, stole its resources,” she says. “We wanted the suit to be made exactly as it would with Frank Herbert’s descriptions.” Can such a thing work in the real world? Probably not — but it’s still cool to deconstruct.
In the desert, grains of sand can peel off the face very quickly. Herbert imagined a mask that covers everything but the eyes—protected by hoods—and filters sand and other particles into the air. Although West’s version didn’t perform the last function, it did protect the actors from flying pebbles on set.
on the nose
in a Dune, wearers of stationary suits are required to breathe in through their mouths and out through their noses, and any moisture from exhalation is captured by tubes attached to their nostrils. West’s version wasn’t a working respirator, she says, but “had to fit snugly into the actors’ nose.” Just try not to sneeze.
One of West’s challenges was designing suits that seemed to keep moisture in but also didn’t smother the actors. To do this, the designers built a “fabric of the future” from layers of thermoplastic foam mixed with cotton gauze and acrylic mesh. It can’t actually perform the main survival functions of a stationary suit, though – trapping sweat and drawing out salt (an idea counterproductive at first, since the point of sweat is that it cools the body through evaporation).
Static clothing stores water wherever there is space and then uses motion to spin it around the body – even in realistic Western versions. To keep the actors cool while filming in the scorching deserts of the Middle East, her suits had pockets of water near the head and anywhere that looked natural—thighs, chest, glutes, and butt. “We put them anywhere they keep beautifully,” West says. “They had to look good.”
Solid suits hug the body like a second skin. So West, in close collaboration with Villeneuve and dozens of costume designers, made mannequins for each actor and used them to manufacture a suit according to their exact measurements. “It’s amazingly built,” says Javier Bardem, who plays Stilgar, Freemen’s leader.
Not only can you wear the stationary suit and defecate, but it is also encouraged, as this is the main source of recycled water. Alas, DuneStars haven’t been able to use their costumes as diapers (which we know). Not even NASA’s finest technology – the International Space Station’s urine processor complex – can do what Herbert described.
The human body is the drive of the fixed suit. Walking, running, breathing Herbert imagined that all this energy could be harnessed to power the reactions needed to recycle water. Alas, it’s pure fantasy: our bodies can’t get enough energy from the food and oxygen we eat to turn waste into drinkable matter.2s.