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.
Spandex, the preferred material for all Golden Age superhero costumes, was also the fabric of the future for the Star Trek universe. Creator Gene Roddenberry was completely sold on it. However, according to costume designer Robert Blackman, the material had some pretty icky side effects:
Spandex retains odor, so there is a certain part where if you’re wearing them for a long period of time, you can’t really clean all the smell out, and it becomes a little bit annoying. And it also retains the odor of the dry cleaning fluid. It is, on a day-to-day basis, unpleasant.
Eagle-eyed fans of Star Trek: The Next Generation may have spotted male crew members strolling around the ship in some fetching miniskirts. Considering that female crew members, like Natasha Yar, were often seen sporting trousers, fan theories speculated that Starfleet uniforms were all unisex, with the choice of skirt or pants coming down to personal preference.
This theory was confirmed in The Art of Star Trek by Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens. The skirt/pants combo was dubbed a "skant" and considered "a logical development, given the total equality of the sexes presumed to exist in the 24th century," the book states. It's a pity we never got to see Commander Riker rocking one of them.
To an observer, spandex may seem like the world's easiest garment to wear. Super stretchy, light, and form-fitting, it looks like it should be comfortable. But looks can be deceiving, according to designer Robert Blackman:
Jumbo, or Super Spandex, whatever you want to call that heavier weight stretch, will stretch from side to side or top to bottom, depending on how you cut the garment. So the costume would dig into the actors’ shoulders, wearing them 12 or 15 hours a day.
Blackman explained that pressure from the spandex led to back problems among the cast. Patrick Stewart, who starred as Captain Jean-Luc Picard, was told by his chiropractor that he should sue Paramount for the "lasting damage done to [his] spine."
Possibly one of the biggest wardrobe secrets in Star Trek is that most of its space women have artificially augmented chests. Not in the surgically enhanced way, but rather in the padded bra kind of way. The built-in support for female crew members runs through most of the TV franchise, from The Original Series to Enterprise.
Nicknamed the "Industrial Strength Starfleet Brassiere," it was praised by cast members like Marina Sirtis, who played Deanna Troi. "I used to take it off at night and go, 'Oh blimey, where did they go?'" she told fans in 2010. However, others allegedly rejected the extra padding. Kate Mulgrew, who played Captain Kathryn Janeway on Star Trek: Voyager, is rumored to have thrown hers on a producer's desk and refused to wear it.