Follow by Email

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Book Review: Star Trek Costumes: Five Decades of Fashion From The Final Frontier

Trekkies like myself know that the greatest television show of all time is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.  

  The original series premiered on September 8, 1966 and while that series only  lasted three years it spawned four spin offs, an animated series, twelve movies, hundreds of novels, and has legions of seriously devoted fans.   So its no surprise that plenty of people are pretty excited for the anniversary and Paramount is busy releasing retrospective books and planning conventions.  All of that makes a dedicated member of the Church of Trek like myself

Image from Futurama another awesome sci-fi series

seriously crazy with excitement.  One of the first books released in celebration of the anniversary is the Star Trek Costume Book: Five Decades of Costumes from The Final Frontier.   

As I've written before (post one, post two) I adore the kitschy sci-fi style of Star Trek so this book is right up my alley.  I've had it since it was released in October and while there are things about it that I think could be better, over all I love it.   

It starts with The Original Series of course and while I wish it had gone into much more detail,  I enjoyed the coverage of the hillariously outlandish 60s looks.   I'm also pleased that the book gives credit to a man I think is an under-appreciated genius, William Ware Theiss, the first Star Trek costume designer.  

Theiss is the man who came up with Trek's signature sexy 60s space age look and his creations are many things, but never boring.  He used all kinds of unconventional fabrics and trims and cuts to create different outlandish looks week after week.


Theiss even had his own theory of costume design: The Theiss Titillation Theory which states that "the degree to which a costume is considered sexy is directly proportional to how accident-prone it appears to be."  The theory is on ample display in costumes worn by some of the female guest stars 

Theiss didn't just focus on the  ladies though, there where plenty of scanty get ups for the men.  Its rare and somewhat refresshing  to see a television where male bodies are on display almost as much of female ones, I can't think of anyone but Theiss who did that in the 1960s.

Apparently Theiss's costumes did cause some chaos on set since his theory meant that the outfits where often slipping and falling of the actors and had to be taped in place.      

Theiss's sketches are also displayed in the book showing the evolution of a design from concept to execution, which is interesting.

From the Original Series the book goes onto cover all of the series and the spin offs and a fan learns some interesting facts about the outfits.  For example series creator Gene Roddenberry apparently hated wrinkles and felt they'd be eliminated in the future so the uniforms are always made out of tight stretchy fabrics that are designed to resist wrinkling.

But it never quite works right which is why the actors are constantly seen adjusting their uniforms.   Fan's even gave the signature shirt tug a name, the Picard maneuver.  You can see it in action, many times, below:

It seems that no one working on  Star Trek is  ever 100% happy with the uniforms and they are being endlessly re-designed and fussed over.  They change for almost every series and film but they are always fairly tight and wrinkle free.  

The TNG (thats the Next Generation)  uniforms are very 80s track suit 

and by Deep Space Nine and Voyagers the colors are reversed and the fit is a bit looser.

Enterprise is a prequel so the uniforms are a bit more in line with the space suits we see today

and the uniforms from Star Trek The Motion Picture are too seventies for words, and what the heck are those buckle things at everyones waist?

I'm not a fan of the uniforms in the current motion pictures.  I think its the fabric that I don't like.  Also they seem weirdly late 1990s to me.

This is just a sampling of the changes the book covers many more.  

Until  I read the book I didn't know that Theiss designed the first season of costumes for The Next Generation, but in retrospect its pretty obvious.  There are some seriously crazy looks.  Including a skirt for men (if you think about it the idea that men in the future would be wearing dresses and skirts is pretty revolutionary, particularly for the 1980s) and some sort of shiny wrap thing with leggings that the men have to wear on a female dominated planet.  



Wesley Crushers early season sweaters are also a testament to 80s fabulousness.  I just can not get over the orange one it seriously leaves me awestruck, here is just nothing that compares too it.

Though Keiko O'briens wedding dress, not a Theiss creation, comes close.  According to the book its supposed to be a space age take on a traditional Kimono, but it looks like saran wrap and what the hell  is that on her head!?!  
Sadly as the series goes on the fashion gets a bit duller, and while I think all the costume designers have done a reasonably good job no one compares to Theiss.  But the aliens are always fun and the book covers all of the races.  You learn that Klingon costumes involve a lot of quilted leather and jewelry 


That the costumers regret the decision to give the Romulan's giant shoulder pads, it was supposed to make them look aggressive.

That the Ferengi love oppulence (and apparently upholstry fabric)

and that Vulcans are understated and tasteful

You have to be a fan of the show and have a sense of humor to appreciate Star Trek style, its certainly emblematic of fashion icon's  Diana Vreeland famous line: 

If you love Star Trek, and you love the crazy looks.  I can't recommend The Star Trek Book of Costumes enough.

Coming Soon: Our Star Trek costume photo shoot, starring canine trekkies


  1. What a fun post. If I had known what great costumes there were I would have followed the Trekkies more closely.

    Bad taste is definitely better than no taste at all. But who determines what is bad taste and what is just having fun.

    1. I agree! That's why I hate the media commentary on clothing. All the judgements clothes should be fun

  2. Those various costumes sure are fun to look at! My favorite is the red mini-skirt uniform in the fourth picture. Very pretty!

  3. i think the fabric on the new costumes looks too much like sports wear. I dont' like it much either. I am excited to see the jackets that you can kind of see in the star trek: beyond trailer. They look cool!
    my favorite look is the classic TOS of course. I love the gold braiding and the straight leg pants on the men (and kirk's casual green wrap shirt) and those SHORT skirts on the women.

  4. Aaaah, I need that book! It looks really interesting. In fact, I really want to watch some original Trek again.

  5. This was great! I love Star Trek and to see a post on the fashions is really cool. Great review I might need to see about picking this up.


  6. Fascinating post! I had no idea Trek fashion was so interesting!
    The fit in the later movies had to be looser - Captain Kirk was not as ahem, svelte anymore… :D
    I recently watched the one where they travel back in time to bring 2 humpback whales back to the future…Leonard Nimoy was a comic genius. I loved his performance. (Katharine Hicks,sorry to say, not so much)

    1. Definitely. The other actors too. I think the loosened the TNG and DS9 uniforms because the men were getting a bit portly

  7. Holy....whoa! Those are absolutely amazing. I had no idea! The saran wrap, the man-dresses, the dude with the purple pants and deep Simply amazing. Thanks for enlightening me!

  8. The moment I caught wind of this book a few weeks ago, I thought of you instantly. I'm delighted to know that you got a copy. There's no one that a look at the history of Star Trek fashions is better suited to than you, sweet Kate.

    Have a fabulous Sunday,
    ♥ Jessica

  9. Oooo, I am so adding that book to my birthday wish list!! The original Star Trek had such awesome costumes. I remember being fascinated by the styles as a little kid because they were so unlike anything I had seen before. (I also had a fascination with Janice Rand's woven hairstyle. Took me years to realize it wasn't her real hair.)

  10. Love reading your take on the book and getting more insight here to the costumes of Star Trek! Also, I love hearing about The Theiss Titillation Theory. I had to do a little chuckle reading that!


Link Within

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...