Star Trek TOS Men’s Costumes – [Alice] Geeks Out
When people write about/talk about the costumes from the Star Trek: The Original Series, it is usually about either the women’s costumes or the dress uniforms. William Ware Theiss was the costume designer for all three seasons of TOS and went on to design The Next Generation as well. His designs of women’s clothes led to the creation of the Theiss Titillation Theory. The trope states: the sexiness of an outfit is directly proportional to the possibility that a vital piece of it might fall off.
But in this post I would like to talk about the much less discussed men’s costumes, and I am not talking uniforms here.
Although the female stars’ clothes almost always tended to be something you might have seen on the Paris runways in the 1960s, the men’s clothes ranged from “I saw that last week in my kid’s high school production of Oklahoma” to downright wild and crazy. Most of it was NOT something you would see at New York fashion week — even in the 60s.
Re-watching The Original Series for All The [Trek] brought me to a new found appreciation for Theiss’s work with the men’s costumes. I identified several themes to his designs:
One of the things I appreciate about Theiss’s design is how he uses 3-dimensional textures. Coming from a theatre background I know the importance of depth — you need it so there is visual interest from the front row to the very last row. In film you need texture and depth as well but it doesn’t need to be as big. At times his fabric choices seem too big for film but for the 1960s that’s not so surprising.
Oh the joys of fake fur. So versatile. From barbarians to mongols to guys with pony tails or blue skin… Theiss uses fake fur quite a bit and more so for the men’s costumes than for the women’s. Fur can indicate cool conditions to primitive culture to royalty and in TOS it gets used for all of those things and more.
All That Glitters…
Nothing says space like the sparkling stars. And nothing says alien in space like silver, gold and glitter. And nothing glitters like Theiss costumes.
The Ubiquitous Jumpsuit
Thiess’s go-to costume is the ubiquitous jumpsuit. It would appear as if the orange version would be the one that got used over and over. I could not confirm online anywhere but looking at the collars and pockets I will stake a claim that indeed these were re-used. Not surprising, as creating unique costumes for a series gets expensive. They’ve got the re-use factor of the uniforms but if you don’t need to eat up your budget with a slightly different jumpsuit, why bother.
The Tunic, The Cape and The Caftan
Production cycles on TV shows are tight. and some times you don’t have time for fake fur and glitter. In those times you can always rely on the tunic, the cape and the caftan. Theiss relies on them almost as often as the jumpsuit.
In my opinion William Ware Theiss was a clever and inventive costume designer who was supported by a talented costume shop. From 1966 to 1969 when he was designing costumes for Star Trek: The Original Series, he used his training from the theatre mixed it was some thrift and topped it off with creativity. I am not saying that everything he did was brilliant but I loved his playful, sexy style and am glad that he went on to win an Emmy for costume design in 1988 for Star Trek: The Next Generation and was nominated again the following year. The Costume Designers Guild also named their research library after him which for costumers is a pretty big deal.
The images for this post are from Trekcore.
What do you think about the costumes from Star Trek: The Original Series? Are there any key costuming themes you can’t get enough of? Share your thoughts in the comments!