Costume designer Michael Kaplan dishes to PEOPLE on the new character outfits for Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Credit: 2015 Lucasfilm LTD.

Costume designer Michael Kaplan was very hands-on with his work in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, whether outfitting space captains or princesses turned generals turned … princesses again?

“Initially we see Leia in a working environment, and [director] J.J. Abrams liked the idea of dressing her for that situation,” Kaplan told PEOPLE of Leia’s conservative garb as general in the Resistance. “Later on we do see her looking a bit more regal.”

Kaplan originally thought a career in costumes would lead him to making “pretty dresses,” so he’s surprised as anyone that he’s become the go-to sci-fi designer, from Blade Runner and Star Trek to Dec. 18’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens. “There are a few dresses in Star Wars,” he reveals, “but I wouldn’t call them pretty.”

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Actually, Kaplan’s favorite Star Wars costume from the original trilogy belongs to “C-3PO, no contest.” And he got to go all-out on new designs like Captain Ithano, the red-helmeted character seen in Maz Kanata’s castle and appearing in a Star Wars spinoff book called The Crimson Corsair and the Lost Treasure of Count Dooku.

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He also had the chance to craft mature looks for Han Solo and Luke Skywalker.

“I wanted Han’s costume to feel familiar, since Harrison Ford is the same actor playing the same character,” Kaplan says. “Of course he’s older, but he’s still in terrific shape. I wanted it to seem like Han was still choosing his own garb. As for Luke, I’m not sure. Let me know what you think on Dec. 18.”