To Boldly Wear What Nobody Has Worn Before
Star Trek: The Original Series has had its moments; from Tribbles, to Apollo having no nipples, to the entirety of William Shatner himself. But nothing in Star Trek: The Original Series has captured audiences like the fashion. We’re talking spandex, gold lamé, bright-colored fake fur, a bunch of guys dressed like extras in Spy Kids 2. Here we’re going to break down outfits from all three seasons of Star Trek: The Original Series into categories based on prominent style elements and discuss.
Most important to note is the difference between season one costumes–designed by William Ware Theiss–and later seasons. Theiss designed his costumes in a time where “you couldn’t show bellybuttons and you couldn’t show too much cleavage.” Because of the restrictions, you can definitely notice Theiss’ workarounds; and you can tell how brazen the designers got in later seasons. Theiss won an Emmy award for his costuming on Star Trek: The Next Generation, and he worked on some great films, but that doesn’t mean his costumes in Star Trek: The Original Series are not a little bit ridiculous.
Season 1 Episode 13: “The Conscience of the King”
Here’s something jarring to start us off with; an entire off the shoulder mini dress made of fur paired with shiny tights and matching gloves. When this character walks, this dress has absolutely no movement. Unsurprising, as it’s one big slab of fake fur wrapped around her torso.
Season 2 Episode 1: “Amok Time”
Star Trek sure does love its shiny tights. Here we see them again in Season 2 on T’Pring as she calls for a challenger during Spock’s Pon Farr. I’ll give this outfit a little credit; Vulcan clothing–at least the women–is subtly inspired by Chinese culture. This is one of the less heinous instances of cultural appropriation that we’ve seen on Star Trek (“The Paradise Syndrome” anyone?). T’Pring wears something of a boxy qipao, with the distinctive collar and short sleeves. An actually interesting costuming choice accentuated by those shiny tights.
Season 2 Episode 8: “I, Mudd”
Star Trek may love its shiny tights, but at least they know how to pair them well. The skirt is cut way too high and it looks like one-legged pants, but that weirdness is surprisingly balanced by the long sleeve. If only there was a sleeve on the other side as well.
Season 2 Episode 25: “Bread and Circuses”
If there’s one thing Star Trek loves more than shiny tights, it’s a midriff. Here we have a classic Star Trek-style midriff; cut-out side panels, cleverly hidden bellybutton, and hipbones for days.
Season 2 Episode 7: “Catspaw”
If there’s one thing Star Trek loves more than a midriff, it’s a high leg slit. If we can’t see all the way to the hipbones, it’s not high enough. Star Trek also loves shiny prints that look like bedsheets.
Season 3 Episode 2: “Elaan of Troyius”
Here we have our space-faring Helen of Troy in an outfit that is simply a nightmare to evaluate. She’s got on a Cleopatra-style headdress, Starfire’s backup leotard, knee-length silver sandals, and the highest, shiniest gloves I think I’ve ever seen.
Season 3 Episode 21: “Cloud Minders”
This outfit absolutely defies the laws of physics and I do not want to know how it works out of sheer fear of the consequences. This is a classic Make It High Waisted or Lower the Shirt conundrum. If you raise the skirt, you lose the midriff; lower the shirt and you lose the grapefruit-boob effect. Do neither, and leave everyone feeling weird and uncomfortable and unsure where to look.
Season 3 Episode 17: “That Which Survives”
This one isn’t as bad as others; except I can’t understand how that center panel is supposed to stay up. Unless it’s just glued to her stomach, which I highly suspect it is. The unfortunate thing about this outfit is the top gives this actress a strange IKEA shelf where her chest should be. Besides that, this could’ve been an Almost Normal look.
Season 1 Episode 10: “What Are Little Girls Made Of”
Note, if you please, the man in the corner wearing the same outfit as the woman, except she doesn’t get to wear a shirt under her weird overalls. Star Trek at its finest. Prevalent here is the Theiss Titillation Theory, in which “the sexiness of an outfit is directly proportional to the perceived possibility that a vital piece of it might fall off.” If she’s wearing a long-sleeve turtleneck and her straps fall off, whatever, that’s not sexy. This is the 60’s, we need shoulder and midriff.
Prints Your Grandma Wore
Season 1 Episode 23: “A Taste of Armageddon”
This is Brenda, your no-nonsense grandma from the Midwest. She makes a mean hot dish and always makes sure you have enough knitted items for the coming winters. She refuses to let her hair go gray and instead gets it done in a subtle, natural blonde.
Season 2 Episode 7: “Catspaw”
This is your spunky grandma from Florida who insists you call her by her first name. She has a Chihuahua named Chico and a Parrot who knows all the swear words. She lives in a 55 and up community and drives a golf cart to the senior center every Friday for bingo.
Season 3 Episode 19: “Requiem for Methuselah”
This is your grandma from New Jersey who gets her nails done in bright red acrylics and lives for gossip. Her house is full of antique cross-stitch pillows and silver cutlery, but she knows how to use a smartphone better than your mom.
Season 2 Episode 10: “Journey to Babel”
While this is a prime example of Mesh Overlay, I’d like to shift our focus here to the bright pink fake fur. This needs feathers; this is a look reminiscent of those long mesh and feather robes worn by rich widows as they tearfully run down their grand staircase when their old husband dies. It needs feathers. Fake fur just doesn’t cut it for me.
Season 2 Episode 11: “Friday’s Child”
I Dream of Genie down there is bad enough, but take a look at that Who Down in Whoville next to her. Maybe this outfit would look intimidating if it was done in black and gray; as it is, that man looks like he just got done playing cotton candy in a school play and then walked onto a Star Trek set. And don’t get me started on that Jojo Siwa-style ponytail (Is she still relevant? I’m an adult, I don’t know).
Season 2 Episode 23: “The Omega Glory”
This is what Star Trek thinks early humans wore. Maybe someone made a vest out of fur, but there’s no way anyone was wearing a mini skirt and crop top in prehistoric times. We all know this, it’s common sense. Forgive me, but Star Trek likes to think every woman was sexy no matter what time period; men could be ugly, who cares. But there was never an ugly woman in Star Trek.
Season 2 Episode 19: “A Private Little War”
Another episode based on early humans, and she’s wearing jean-like material and orange fur. Orange like that does not exist in nature, I don’t care how far into the future it is. I can only suspend my disbelief so far, Star Trek.
The Powerpuff Girls
Season 1 Episode 6: “Mudd’s Women”
Sugar, spice, and everything that looks like a lampshade or a fancy rug from Anthopologie. We’ve got something slinky, Jessica Rabbit-y going on to our left; a green bean in the middle; and the leg lamp from A Christmas Story on our right. This is a classic example of Theiss’ work, showing just enough skin to be sexy and tantalizing while still satisfying the censors.
Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman
Season 3 Episode 20: “The Way to Eden”
He’s walking the street, but he’s his own woman, he doesn’t need Richard Gere to sweep him off his feet. Surprisingly, those thigh-high velvet boots are extremely on-trend for 2019, even if that dress isn’t.
A Baked Potato
Season 2 Episode 16: “The Gamesters of Triskelion”
She looks ridiculous, but at least she’ll cook evenly.
Season 1 Episode 15: “Court Martial”
Fighting evil by moonlight and winning love by daylight, Sailor Moon is here to accuse Jim Kirk of killing her father on purpose. We’ve got a bit of a Spartacus skirt going on here with the separated panels; paired with a sheer schoolgirl top and shiny tights, this is a charming look fit for a court marshal.
Kirk and Spock Go to a Rodeo
Season 2 Episode 21: “Patterns of Force”, Season 1 Episode 28: “The Edge of Forever”
Note Kirk’s bold denim-on-denim in season 2, complemented by Spock’s delicate chambray shirt in season 1. We’ve got Spock, again, setting the trend for tiny beanies that skaters everywhere will eventually latch onto. In season 1, Kirk sports a lovely Buffalo check button-down paired with a handsome corduroy jacket. Together, the boys look like off-duty rodeo clowns or lumberjacks on their day off.
Season 1 Episode 24: “This Side of Paradise”, Season 1 Episode 12: “The Menagerie”
Theiss was in rare form when he designed these two outfits; in both of these episodes, there’s not a bit of skin besides the wrists showing (which could be considered the 60’s equivalent of the Victorian ankle, I’m not sure). In episode 24, the character even gets to wear that same outfit the entire time. Something modest and full-coverage in the time of William Ware Theiss? Practically unheard of.
Season 3 Episode 14: “Whom Gods Destroy”
I have never seen a leotard cut so precariously high. What’s the use of it? Besides sex appeal? That just means more surface area to paint green.
Season 3 Episode 11: “Wink of an Eye”
Here’s a true example of one-legged pants; this looks like something you’d wear to your ice skating competition in seventh grade. Not something you’d normally expect from a character on a television show. But, remember what I said earlier about how Star Trek loves shiny prints that look like bedsheets? Here we have exhibit B.
Season 2 Episode 14: “Wolf in the Fold”
This was difficult to get a still of because this character was constantly moving. Also because she’s dressed in party streamers. This is 100% a plastic table runner from Party City that someone turned into a costume. Nevermind that Party City opened in 1986, I’ve definitely seen this table cloth in the luau section.
So, which outfit is your most ridiculous favorite? I love the luau table cloth look, but that’s just me. Have any knowledge of costume design? Fashion expert? Really, really like one-legged pants? Leave a comment and let us know your opinions on these costumes!