The Original Uniform

For Halloween this year I did a bridge crew uniform from the original 60s run of Star Trek’s original series (TOS). I’ve included some photos of me, but they’re all the way at the bottom, so you’ll have to tolerate my ramblings for a little while first.

The good news is that it’s not all text. I’ve painstakingly taken screenshots of the uniform as its appeared throughout the Star Trek timeline in remakes and reinterpretations, featuring a lot of incredibly beautiful actresses. Lets take a quick tour of the TOS uniform’s history and reappearances throughout canon.

Notably, Star Trek’s original pilot didn’t feature the memorable women’s uniforms that we’ve all come to know – female crew of the NCC-1701 dressed in trousers just like the men of the show. Reportedly, after a request for more revealing costumes on the women from NBC, Grace Lee Whitney (the tall-haired belle in the first picture below who plays Kirk’s yeoman) suggested miniskirts, and they ran with it.

I’d always figured that they must have been quite daring for the time (and they were, for network TV), but the 60s were the dawn of miniskirts. Nichelle Nichols (Uhura) is on record as having no problem whatsoever with dress length:

I was wearing them on the street. What’s wrong with wearing them on the air? I wore ‘em on airplanes. It was the era of the miniskirt. Everybody wore miniskirts.

The Original Series screen cap 01 The Original Series screen cap 02 The Original Series screen cap 03 The Original Series screen cap 04
Some images from the original series. We're lucky (thanks to 35 mm film) that these look so good in modern high-definition.

Take a second to admire how good these screen captures look (and I mean the image quality itself, not just the actresses in them). Viewers in the 1960s would have been viewing the show on tube TVs with resolution on par with a typical smartwatch found today, but nowhere near as crisp. Content streamed in via low-fi antenna broadcast with abundant noise and frequent visual artifacts. None of the detail we see today would have been visible to them – they’d see something more akin to a person-looking thing in a red uniform next to a person-looking thing in a blue one. Imagination did 99% of the work.

Luckily, the series was shot on large format 35 mm film. Unlike a digital source, film doesn’t have a fixed resolution, and larger format film captures an incredible amount of detail. Although no one could appreciate it at the time, when it came to digitizing the sources to be released in high-definition, they could be rescanned with results that look downright incredible. It some ways it looks better than Deep Space Nine, which aired 30 years later.

This was always the best women’s uniform of any Star Trek series. I was so happy when they brought it back for the Abrams 2009 remake with a modernized feel. The new version looks better than ever, although I miss the tights from the original, which are cute, and also a nod to everyday practicality.

Star Trek 2009 screen cap 01 Star Trek 2009 screen cap 02 Star Trek 2009 screen cap 03 Star Trek 2009 screen cap 04
Uniforms from the 2009 remake. Note the dress and non-dress variants for the women, and in the dress version both short sleeve and long sleeve styles (long-sleeved is way better).

The uniform of course made a reappearance for 2009’s sequel, Star Trek Into Darkness (2013). Into Darkness is one of those sequels that’s as good or better than its predecessor – roughly as common in cinema as the last unicorn.

Star Trek Into Darkness screen cap
No major changes to the uniforms between 2009's Star Trek and its sequel Into Darkness.

The TOS women’s uniforms make their wearers look beautiful, which in this day and age, would attract heavy criticism.

To counter some of that: There’s a reason that women’s jeans – theoretically the same item of clothing as what men wear – have a considerably higher spandex content than the male equivalent (and therefore look and wear much closer to leggings), and it’s not a global patriarchal conspiracy as many would suggest. If women want, there are options available in raw denim or a hundred other styles of clothing, but even so, most of them opt for a skinny jean that hugs their curves. It really is as simple as: in general, women like to look cute. Some don’t of course, and opt out, wearing raw denim, or the non-dress version of the female uniform as seen numerous times in the 2009 film. That’s perfectly fine too.

The TOS uniforms are just about the textbook definition of cute. They’re also more practical than they seem at first glance – flexible and not restrictive, with sturdy boots and low soles (I wear platform heels with mine, but that’s totally wrong). I mean sure, you wouldn’t actually design a uniform like this in real life, but that’s why it’s science-fiction.

Before the remakes started coming, there was a single novelty episode of Star Trek: Enterprise in which an evil version of the crew captures a starship from the original series, which for them is future technology because Enterprise takes place earlier in Star Fleet’s history. Jolene Blalock, who plays the vulcan T’Pol, wears it best out of anyone in the episode In a Mirror, Darkly.

Enterprise screen cap 01 Enterprise screen cap 02 Enterprise screen cap 03 Enterprise screen cap 04
T'Pol wearing an original series uniform in Enterprise's In a Mirror, Darkly.

That is with the possible exception of Dax, who gets a chance at it in the DS9 episode Trials and Tribble-ations.

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Dax wearing an original series uniform in Deep Space Nine's episode Trials and Tribble-ations. I would consider sacrificing a small mammal if it'd prompt the gods to give me a long, slender neck like hers ;)

Okay, you made it all the way to the end, so here’s a couple photos of me. I am very much not trying to imply that I’m at all comparable to the amazing actresses above, but hey, this is my blog, so you’ll have to deal with a little self-indulgence :)

Since there’s only a handful of sizing options, I got really lucky with the fit. The dress is obviously way too short for anything even close to civilized decency, but if you scroll right to the top to use the screen caps from the original series as reference, it’s really not very far off from how they actually wore it, even in the more modest year of 1966.

I would have loved to style it with some mid-calf boots more faithful to TOS or the 2009 remake, but I’m not sure I’d ever wear them again, so opted to use the boots I already have. A little bit of platform heel sure looks cute, although I wouldn’t be much use on the away missions unless I was in a position to intimidate someone with sheer height.

Freyyj in uniform for Halloween 01

Freyyj in uniform for Halloween 02

Freyyj in uniform for Halloween 03

Freyyj in uniform for Halloween 04

Freyyj rocking the Star Trek original series uniform for Halloween 2020.

November 1, 2020 (4 years ago) by Frey·ja