From the unfortunate "Red Shirts" to the revealing unitard of Deanna Troi, Star Trek's uniforms are arguably the most recognizable outfits in science fiction. They're an essential element of both Starfleet and the franchise as a whole, and behind every interesting costume is an even more fascinating backstory.
Throughout the history of Star Trek, the wardrobe department was often asked to boldly go where no wardrobe department had ever gone before. As in the Star Trek props department, innovation was routinely in demand. For example, the skintight catsuit that Seven of Nine wears in Voyager may appear to be a simple, stretchy fabric that Jeri Ryan slid into with ease, but it was actually a complex construction hiding beneath its Borg design features. It was also - like many Starfleet outfits - remarkably unpleasant to wear.
Wardrobe-related discomfort has plagued cast members of multiple Star Trek shows for years. From the bizarre to the painful to the downright gross, here are some Star Trek wardrobe secrets you probably never knew.
In her first appearance on Voyager, Seven of Nine was outfitted in a full Borg drone costume. This proved incredibly dangerous for actor Jeri Ryan.
Unfortunately, the designers failed to consider the practicalities of actually wearing the complicated suit. The collar pressed repeatedly into Ryan's carotid artery and the reduced blood flow to her brain caused her to become lightheaded.
Things only improved slightly for Ryan after she was de-Borged. Her famous silver catsuit was so tight, the actor once joked, "If I got goosebumps, you could see them."
The spandex uniforms on The Next Generation were stinky, sweaty, painfully uncomfortable, and judging by Patrick Stewart's infamous compulsion for tugging on his costume, they rode up into some awkward places. In order to prevent this, the Enterprise's Captain Jean-Luc Picard was continually caught on camera trying to pull the material down.
The gesture is affectionately known to fans as the "Picard Maneuver." Though it's really just a wardrobe malfunction, it became an accepted quirk of his character.
Next Generation fans will be familiar with Deanna Troi's collection of multicolored unitards that she wears throughout the show's early seasons. During an appearance at DragonCon in 2010, Marina Sirtis said she felt the lowered neckline of the garment affected her character's intelligence:
There are certain rules in Hollywood. One of the rules is... if the chick has cleavage, she cannot have a brain. So, [after wearing a standard uniform in the pilot] I got cleavage, and all my gray matter departed. Which was sad, because originally - I know this is gonna shock you - Troi was supposed to be the brains of the Enterprise.
This all changed in the episode "Chain of Command," in which the strict Captain Jellico takes control of the Enterprise and wages an offensive on... Deanna's cleavage. He not so subtly declares, "I'm used to a certain formality on the bridge." To Sirtis's delight, producer Ronald D. Moore had her switch to the standard Starfleet uniform in place of the offending unitard. It was a change that stuck. As Sirtis explained:
I was thrilled to finally be in a spacesuit. First of all, my pips [were visible] - 'cause I had a rank, you know. [...] Suddenly, I was smart again. My cleavage had gone. My gray matter came flooding back.
To fulfill Gene Roddenberry's wish to have the uniforms of The Next Generation be as figure-hugging as possible, designer Robert Blackman deliberately made each costume two sizes too small for the wearer. This had the added effect of putting the cast in a constant state of paranoia about any perceived bodily imperfections. "Spandex is unforgiving," Blackman admitted. "So if you have any sorts of body issues, they are there."