Treknobabble #30: Fashion of the Future

Treknobabble is a continuing series of columns written by uber-Trekkie Reed Farrington in anticipation of the upcoming J.J. Abrams Star Trek movie.

This Treknobabble came about from a post comment by Rachel who had noticed the Starfleet delta symbol embossed near the stitching of the fabric of the new movie uniforms worn by the Enterprise NCC-1701 crew in the advance promotional posters. I replied to her comment suggesting that I should perhaps write a Treknobabble about Star Trek’s costume design.

Rather than from research, I would much prefer writing about topics from information that I’ve read over the years. So I panicked at first, because the only relevant piece of information that I could remember was that the Original Series (OS) uniforms were made from a new material never seen on television before: velour! I had always taken this information as truth, but I thought I should investigate to find out when velour was first fabricated. Anyhow, when I sat down to start typing, a bunch of other Star Trek costume related thoughts popped into my head.

For those of you who have no interest in clothes, I can assure you that the stuff I have to write about is of more general interest. So I hope you will keep on reading. (I even mention a naked breast!) Mind you, I did do some research, but I’ll try not to bore you with too many dry facts and figures.

Those of you familiar with TOS will no doubt share my bewilderment in the fact that the Enterprise crew basically wore the same uniform for all three seasons. Even in the episode, “Shore Leave,” where they go to a planet to relax, they wear their uniforms! I suppose Starfleet is based on the military, so the uniform was a standard outfit for crew members to recognize each other on a landing party. But you would have thought that they would have relaxed the rules on board the ship and allowed crew members to wear whatever they wanted. I imagine having the crew wear the same clothes each episode allowed the budget to be spent elsewhere like on the costumes for the guest stars, human or otherwise.

The uniforms in the OS were simply a black tee-shirt with a coloured tunic over top, black trousers, and hi-top black boots. The tunic had a division insignia over the left breast and had gold braiding indicating rank. (No, I haven’t gotten to the naked breast, yet.) And there were no pockets anywhere. I think the black tee-shirt wasn’t worn sometimes so that whenever Kirk’s uniform was torn or slashed, Shatner would get to show some flesh. The colour of the uniforms was significant. Yellow was for command, blue was for sciences, and red was for security. I never saw any other colour uniform, so I guess everyone fell into one of those three categories. So if you were a creative artist like a painter or writer, then I guess you were basically screwed from space travel.

Concerning the lack of pockets, one would have to wonder where one would place items. To carry the communicators and phasers, they used another new invention: Velcro. And sometimes they used a leather (synthesized, not from a cow’s hide) wrap around waist holster type thing that was concealed under the shirt hem, I think. They never showed this close-up, so I’m not sure if it had pockets or Velcro on it. You can imagine that Velcro is not ideal for keeping something stuck on you. In the episode, “Space Seed,” you can even notice Kirk’s phaser drop to the ground when Kirk bends over to inspect Khan’s hibernation chamber. (Not sure why they didn’t reshoot the scene.) The tricorder had a shoulder strap on it. And they don’t use money or credit cards in the 23rd century, so there’s no need for pocket change.

(BTW, I actually took the Velcro idea for attaching my remote controls onto a speaker stand, thereby freeing up table space. This idea is better than having something with pockets to put the remote controls into, because I have the remotes aimed at my devices so that I can just press the buttons on the remotes without having to pick them up!)

Actually, I lied about there only being three colours. Because command has its privileges, Captain Kirk had another tunic he wore sometimes. It was a green wraparound number. My mom used to sew my clothes when I was growing up, and I asked her if she could make something like this green wraparound tunic for me. She commented that it was rather feminine looking. I heeded her advice and took back my request.

Now the simplicity of the uniforms was perfect, because it allowed children to dress up as their favourite character rather easily. We may have neither had the gold braid nor the insignia, but that was okay. There’s a popular group of older guys who have a kids following. I can’t remember their name. But they wear single coloured shirts with black pants. This makes it easy for kids to dress like them. Maybe they were inspired by the OS uniforms. People have often said the uniforms look like pajamas. I think the OS anticipated the sweat pants look adopted by the university crowd.

Regarding the use of velour, there was a problem that wasn’t anticipated. The costumes would shrink a bit after each washing. So, contrary to popular belief, Shatner was not getting fatter as the series progressed, the shirts were getting smaller!

There were some other crew costumes. I think some technicians wore blue coveralls with a black tee-shirt. Uhura had worn a diaphanous gown off-duty in her quarters in one episode. In the gym, Kirk wore these red leotards with black socks and was shirtless. I think this was before having ripped abs was the norm. Occasionally used were some shiny dress uniforms with more braid. There were some sparkly metallic fabric outer space outfits used in only one episode. The helmets were shaped like a men’s shaver with the curved foil, not the rotary heads.

Believe it or not, but it was only in the movies that the crew got to wear coats! On a cold planet in one episode, I think Sulu drapes himself in a blanket. When the crew needed warmth, they would phaser a rock!

The OS did show crew quarters with dresser drawers, but we never got to see where the clothes came from until the movies. I’m thinking of the scene in The Motion Picture where Ilia is showering and then after the sonic shower, an outfit is materialized on her through transporter technology. And she steps out of the shower fully dressed! (People have made jokes about why we’ve never seen a 23rd century toilet. The joke is that your bodily waste is simply transported out of you. I don’t find this funny. I think it sort of makes sense.) We never saw a replicator on the OS, so we can only speculate how clothes were made or washed.

After a commercial break in one OS episode, there was a scene in which we saw Kirk seated on a bed and putting on his boots with a guest star actress in his quarters. (We can probably guess what was going on during the commercial.) As a guy, I know that a pair of boots or shoes only gets comfortable after it’s been worn for a while. So I can’t imagine using a replicator to create a new pair of boots everyday. Oh, but I guess the replicator would make the pair of boots conform directly to the shape of your feet, so it wouldn’t be necessary to break in a new pair of boots.

There are on-set stories of actors (namely, Shatner) splitting their trousers during fight scenes. I think you can even see this in a televised episode scene, but don’t ask me for the name of the episode.

I guess I should mention the name of the costume designer for the OS and the beginning of The Next Generation (TNG): William Ware Theiss. He won an Emmy for TNG episode, “The Big Goodbye,” in which we first get to see Picard’s holodeck character, Dixon Hill. And he also costume designed for films with Academy Award nominations for Butch and Sundance: The Early Years, Heart Like a Wheel, and Bound for Glory. I know what you’re thinking. The OS crew costumes were so simple! Even the revealing costumes worn by the female guest stars seemed simple, but they were carefully engineered. The “Theiss Titillation Theory” states that “the degree to which a costume is considered sexy is directly proportional to how accident-prone it appears to be.” There’s a blooper from the OS episode, “Mudd’s Women,” in which a writhing guest actress has a breast pop out of her costume. (Not so carefully engineered after all.)

The costumes worn during the first two years of TNG were known to generate body odour because the fabric didn’t breathe. But worse than that, they also gave the actors back problems because of the tight fitting one-piece design. I think Theiss was retired by the third season, so Robert Blackman came in and the uniforms became two pieces again like in the OS. Picard even got a jacket that the other crew members never got. (Like I said, command has its privileges.)

In real-life, there are some people investigating “wearable computers.” This is a neat concept that was never explored on Star Trek, or if it was used, it was not explicitly mentioned. For example, you could have sensors embedded in your clothes that could monitor your life-signs and bodily functions. Each crew member could be constantly monitored and the doctor could be alerted by abnormalities.

This article is getting too long and I haven’t even talked about missing shirt insignias, belly buttons, the boot/pants one-piece, communicators built into the insignias, wrist communicators, or the “Picard maneuver.” I also wanted to talk about the costume designer for the new Star Trek movie: Michael Kaplan. J.J. Abrams has worked before with all the major production members on the new Star Trek except for Michael Kaplan. And he was the costume designer for Blade Runner!

I don’t know why I worried about having nothing to say about Star Trek fashion. BTW, velour was invented in 1844. Maybe Star Trek popularized it! And Velcro debuted in the early 1960’s, but was not widely used. People attribute the popularity of Velcro to its use by NASA. Hmm… I wonder if Star Trek got the idea to use Velcro from NASA, or if it was the other way around? The word Velcro comes from the words velour and crochet!

One last thing. If Star Trek is to be believed, the tie will not survive into the 23rd century.

  • “I can just press the buttons on the remotes without having to pick them up!”

    Lol. That rides some fine line between genius and sloth.

    “Picard even got a jacket that the other crew members never got.”

    My friend (who got me into Star Trek) and I had an entire conversation about that jacket.

  • Reed, quick pop quiz:

    Can you describe both the official Picard maneuvrer and the unofficial Picard maneuvrer?

  • Chris

    And where would one find this “Mudd’s Women” boob blooper? Just asking is all…

  • Reed Farrington

    Henrik, I do indeed know the answer to your pop quiz question, but I’ll let one of my readers answer it for me.

    Chris, I knew my salacious mention of a “naked breast” would get some attention. I don’t know if you’d be able to find just that one blooper scene posted on YouTube, but YouTube has several OS compilation blooper reels posted. The scene should be in one of those. Sorry for not providing a link to make things easier for you, but I feel dirty enough just writing about it.

    And don’t go renting the OS episode, “The Naked Time,” or TNG episode, “The Naked Now,” expecting any nudity. That’s one thing Star Trek has never shown. I’m sure Gene Roddenberry would appreciate someone putting nudity into a Star Trek series or movie. Somewhere in the universe there has to be a planet where the residents don’t wear clothes!

  • Henrik

    In other words, no. Gotcha.

  • You had me hooked at the words “naked breast.” This is great stuff Reed. You have a way with drifting aimlessly from your stated thesis that is fascinating. Seriously though, I just read an entire article about Star Trek clothing, and I don’t even care about Star Trek! Kudos.

  • Joel, I don’t know if I should take having “a way with drifting aimlessly” as a compliment, but I’m glad you took the time to read my Treknobabble, and even enjoyed it without being a Trekkie.

    People have often said that Star Trek has the greatest premise of any television show. Basically, in each episode, a writer has the opportunity to create a world and comment on it through the Enterprise crew. Similarly, I like to think Treknobabble provides me the forum to talk about anything from my life since my love of Star Trek has permeated all aspects of it. I think Sean and I realized that the people who frequent Film Junk are for the most part not Trekkies and probably don’t care about the upcoming film. If people read Treknobabble for the entertainment value alone, then I’m happy. If someone grows to appreciate Star Trek, then I’m even happier. And if someone in the production of Star Trek takes notice, then I’ll be at my happiest!

    Henrik, I’ll give you an answer to your pop quiz question, but you’re probably the only one who cares. I believe the “Picard Maneuvre” was first mentioned in the first season TNG episode, “The Battle.” I think Picard may have been the first officer of the Starship Stargazer when it got involved in a battle with Ferengis at Talaxia or something like that. He saved the Stargazer by coming up with what came to be known in Starfleet as the “Picard Maneuvre.” Basically, the maneuvre made the Stargazer appear to be in two places at one time through the warp engines. I think a contemporary automobile analogy would be engaging your emergency brake, stepping on the gas pedal, and then releasing the emergency brake.

    When TNG uniforms became a separate shirt and pants, the actor Patrick Stewart got into the habit of pulling down on his shirt to smooth it out whenever he got up from the captain’s chair. This also became known as the “Picard Maneuvre.”

    How’d I do, Henrik?

  • 10/10.

  • SolesGirlRachel

    Super Treknobabble, Reed dear, and I’m flattered to have inspired it! *hugs* :)

    (I have to get this out of the way first. Picard was actually the Captain of the Stargazer during the “battle of Maxia Zeta” as the Ferengi Daimon Bok called it, when he executed the now-lauded Picard Maneuver to defeat the unknown Ferengi ship – though at the cost of Picard’s own ship. For those who want to read about the battle, get ahold of “The Buried Age” by Christopher L. Bennett, and of course, watch TNG Season 1’s “The Battle”.)

    OK – so – Treknobabble, very good. :) I’m a Trek fan and it’s the only reason I come here, Reed, so as long as you keep doin ‘em I’ll keep reading. *hugs*

    I am still a bit concerned about the new movie’s uniforms though. It wasn’t just along the stitching that I saw the Enterprise delta, Reed: it looked to me as though the deltas were covering every inch of the material! Here, I’ve isolated a section of Chekov’s uniform from the new film poster for him and brightened it with Fireworks to make it a bit more visible.

    What say you?

    But yeah, to sum up what would otherwise be me being long-winded and rambly, lol, Star Trek has done a pretty remarkable job of reflecting futuristic fashions on a limited budget, especially the Original Series.

    [begin rant]Examples, examples…well Ambassador Fox’s neato lookin formal suit is one. There’s so many, I’m sure I’m missing loads but I’m trying not to go on here. Oh, Lenore Karidian, daughter of Kodos – probably the sexiest outfit ever on TOS. Beautiful, I mean just look at her tights, shoes, coat, everything!

    Also Natira of the planet-ship Yonada…talk about a dress (“For The World Is Hollow And I Have Touched The Sky”).

    *sniffle* Forgive me…every time I remember that episode’s title, the old man who said those words brings a tear to my eye. He was a *nice man*, you stupid Oracle! To quote angry grieving Kirk: “HOW many others have you done this to?!

    What gives you the RIGHT-?!” (Oh and Laandru too – you killed that nice old man when he was Tabor, you jerk! I am NOT of the body – and I will NOT attend your crappy festival!)

    Ok, I needed to vent there, lol. :p Thanks for bearing with me. :)[/end rant]

    Oh, one last thing – regarding Velcro, Reed…we now know where that *really* came from *wink* – the Vulcans! :)

    Specifically, T’Mir of Vulcan during the 1950’s. (ENT, “Carbon Creek”).


    Rachel :)

  • SolesGirlRachel

    Shit shit shit, can you please delete that, Reed??? Stupid wrapped text not copying and pasting properly, arrrgh!

    Or if you can please just edit it so that the paragraphs are together properly, thanks.


    Rachel :)

  • Seriously Rachel, will you leave a description of yourself somewhere? Since I’m straight, I can’t leave sexual interest out of my fascination with the phenomenon that is a woman that beats even Reed Farrington in passion towards and interesting subject (of course I knew Picard was captain of the Stargazer, I just gave Reed a 10/10 because I acted like an asshole when he said he’d leave it to other commenters to answer my question. I felt he deserved praise, I know how fragile his confidence is).

    You beginning to post on Treknobabble is a great addition to my daily read. What a difference a gender makes… Women are awesome aesthically, if rarely intellectually, but a passionate woman beats 10 supermodels.

  • Haha, Rachel. I’m laughing with you, not at you, because I’ve done the same thing in the past with NotePad where I didn’t realize that I should have taken the word wrap off before copying and pasting. As for fixing your comment, I don’t know how. I even let Sean add my Treknobabbles to the site. Maybe if Sean reads this, he can fix it up for you, Rachel. I’ll talk to him on Monday, in any case.

    As for your links, I don’t know how to access the images.

    I didn’t realize the deltas were embedded everywhere in the material. I’m not much of a stickler for canon, but maybe Starfleet changed the fabric over the years. :-)

    Interesting fashion examples you chose. Personally, I prefer the Sherry Jackson outfit in “What Are Little Girls Made Of?” and the Leslie Parrish dress in “Who Mourns for Adonais?” (Perhaps the women underneath the costumes influenced my choices.) (Henrik will have to watch the OS now to understand our conversations.)

    Concerning “For the World is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky,” I love that title. When I was trying to think of a name for this Film Junk column, I wanted to use a variation of that title like “For the Internet is Hollow, and I Have Typed the Words.” But I didn’t quite like that title, and Sean thought it was too long and that people wouldn’t know the column was about Star Trek (except for fans like you). I let Sean come up with the name Treknobabble.

    BTW, how did you come across Treknobabble, Rachel? I’m jealous of sites like where their posts get a lot of comments. Despite Jay’s misuse of “its” every once in a while, the writers at Film Junk are excellent IMO, so you should check out some other things on this site of interest to you. We tend to cover all interests although I doubt you’ll see a post on the Top 10 Musicals of All Time here.

    Henrik, looks like we’ve met our match. You’d think that after I goofed a while back with writing that Shades of Gray was TNG’s 3rd season ender that I would research my comments. Thx for protecting my fragile ego.

    (Rachel, my comments are getting longer than yours.)

  • Fixed. I think.

  • Sean’s Film Junk’s “miracle worker.” Thx for fixing Rachel’s formatting faux pas, Sean. Sean fixed the image links, too.

    Now I can see the deltas, Rachel. I think the deltas in the costumes are cool. Maybe if we start noticing the deltas embedded in the Enterprise hull, then the designers will have gone too far.

    Lenore’s outfit is kinda hot. For some reason, that outfit didn’t stick in my memory.

  • SolesGirlRachel

    Dear Reed and all,

    My apologies for not replying sooner *hugs*. Thank you Sean! So many questions, where to begin….

    OK: how did I first discover FilmJunk? It was only like a week ago, and…I honestly can’t recall how I specifically found it. I *think* it was during an attempt to use Google to see if anyone else has noticed the dense covering of deltas on the new uniforms. But I’m not sure. ;) Speaking of which…

    I’m still hoping it’s just some kind of odd watermarking thing being done in the posters. Spock’s uniform is noticeably free of the deltas.

    Which leads me to consider the less-savoury possibility that what we’re seeing is the material of some kind of away-team jacket, worn over top of the familiar uniform. Ordinarily, that would make sense. Archer & crew had ‘em. Pike & crew had ‘em. From TMP forwards, Kirk & crew had ‘em. Harriman & Garrett had ‘em (or so I assume, based on what we know of their uniforms from TWOK forwards). We never really saw ‘em in the late 24th century, but they had cold weather gear, which sorta counts. The ONLY crew that didn’t have a landing jacket or some kind of cold-weather gear was Kirk & crew during the Original Series’ five year mission.

    But to give them jackets NOW would make a whole lotta episodes make no sense. Like why not beam down some jackets to the freezing Sulu and crew in “The Enemy Within” – “but they’ll duplicate, Captain” – good, the men’ll be warmer, idiot! Or Chekov and the security guards in “Spock’s Brain” – if they knew it was cold (and they did) why didn’t they bring away-team jackets?

    The idea is that Starfleet uniforms are made from a special type or types of futuristic fabric that are ideally suited for almost any weather. Worf spoke of this too when he got all cranky on Risa, a century after TOS. Hence, who needs jackets?

    Obviously the jackets were simply not affordable in TOS’s stretched budget, but to introduce them now would just make so many episodes look stupid. And I love those episodes as is. Please don’t rock the boat, J.J.

    I’ve gone on waaay too long already, damn. Well Reed, I’ve never commented on or even been there (never been there that I can recall, anyway). I like to walk my own path rather than follow the crowd. You’re obviously a nice guy who loves Trek and writes fun, interesting blogs. The crowd is smaller here, but certainly not lacking personality. *bats my eyelashes at Hendrik* :D What’s not to love? So you can expect me to keep coming back as long as you keep blogging Trek. Also, your frank admission of jealousy towards is something I find endearing. *hugs* :) (Secret admission: sometimes I just sit for hours, refreshing various profiles and homepages of mine over and over again, wondering why the hell no one has commented on the videos or pictures I’ve put up there, lol, jealous of people with a kazillion bits of feedback.)

    Hendrik, I wanted to say a big thank you for all the lovely compliments too, I’m flattered! *hugs* I’ll reveal bits & pieces about myself over time to make it fun. I have very long brunette hair and the plan is to see if I can grow it to the ground (or longer) – just to see if I can. Though as any gal with very long hair knows, it looks pretty and the compliments are always quite enjoyable. :) Not that I’m vain, because I’m so not. I’m just a nice gal who loves Trek, and your words were a delightful treat to read. *hugs again*

    OK that’s it for this post. :p Top this one for length, Reed! (Actually please do, I enjoy it when you write.)


    Rachel :)

  • Reed Farrington

    Rachel, for the record, it’s Henrik, not Hendrik. Don’t know why I’m speaking up for Henrik. Next thing you know, I’ll be standing up for him.

    This is starting to be the longest conversation I’ve had with a woman. (I’m kidding. Maybe.) Thought I had better say that before Jay stepped in and made the comment.

    I’d better start writing my next Treknobabble.

  • Thanks Reed. Hendrik is a new one, usually people say Henrick. I don’t understand why, the proper spelling is available under each of my comments. I didn’t want to correct Rachel because I want to try and stay positive and on her good side for now, but needless to say, it did bother me.

    Are you behind on the column? I thought you always had 2 or 3 sent to Sean waiting to be posted.

  • SolesGirlRachel

    Henrik, my apologies dear *hugs*. I was somewhat distracted and it was like 5 in the morning when I posted that. I’m usually quite on the ball with such matters. I should get it right from now on. ;)

    Reed, I’m flattered – looking forward to the next Treknobabble. :)


    Rachel :)

  • Apology accepted. Who can resist a hug?

  • Henrik, I’ve been just making the deadlines lately with new Treknobabbles. There’s only one waiting to be posted, but it’s being held up by “legal” wrangles. It’s about the making of a fan video and it’s supposed to have the “Borg and Marriage” video posted with it. The video is 12 minutes or so. Jay was going to edit it, but maybe he’ll leave it as it is. Believe me, the video dialog won’t make sense to anyone. We thought about just posting the lame fight at the end.

    I have two Treknobabbles in progress right now. One’s tentatively titled “How to Keep a Secret,” and the other is a currently untitled sequel to Treknobabble #2: First Contact.

    (Henrik, we should suss out Rachel’s homepages!)

  • Paul

    Life support monitors were on the ST:TMP Uniforms