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Star Trek: 10 Dirtiest Secrets About the Original Costumes

Star Trek's costumes are some of the most beloved in all of science fiction. In fact, it wouldn't be a sci-fi convention if there wasn't at least one person dressed as a Starfleet officer from the show. The original series that aired from 1966 - 1969 set the standard for all the other costume versions to follow, but it wasn't all smooth sailing. With the small budget of the show and the eccentricities of the cast, the original costumes had a lot of hidden secrets and drama behind the scenes. In part of our continuing series of Star Trek costumes, Geek Twins is here to go over the 10 dirtiest secrets from the costumes of the original series.


Costume designer William Theiss had a big problem. He had to make dozens of custom-made uniforms for the show, but he didn’t have a lot of money to do it. To save cash, he would search fabric outlets for cheap material but even that wasn't enough. That's why he started a "sweatshop." To avoid having to pay union wages, Theiss rented an apartment near the studio where nonunion seamstresses worked overnight to make costumes. In the morning, they would slip them through a back window into the studio.


William Shatner was notoriously sensitive about his role as the star of the show and fought many battles to try to defend it. One of those battles involved his height. Shatner is only 5'10" (5'9" according to some sources) and Nimoy is 6' tall, so Shatner wore 1.5" lifts in his shoes to try to look taller than Nimoy. Unfortunately, the lifts threw off his posture so much that his gut stuck out. Gene Roddenberry forced him to stop wearing them, so Shatner switched to boots with two-inch heels while everyone else wore one-inch heels.


The original uniforms for the first two seasons were made out of velour. The main reasons velour was chosen are that it looked good on camera and because it's cheap and easy to care for, but it has a major problem: velour shrinks.  Union regulations required that the uniforms had to be dry-cleaned every night, so the costuming department was constantly having to do alterations. Even then, the uniforms ended up looking short on the actors after a few episodes.


One of the quirks of television in the 1960s was a ban on belly buttons. For some reason, it was considered too risque to show a woman's navel, leading to such oddities as I Dream of Jeannie's Barbara Eden always having to bring up her waistband. Star Trek broke ground in 1967 with the episode "Mirror, Mirror." In the story of Uhura going to an alternate universe where she had to wear a skimpy outfit, Nichelle Nichols showed her navel. According to the crew, the observer from Standards & Practices was kept off the set with a long lunch so they could get the shot.


In Star Trek, all the uniforms were supposed to be color-coded based on the department they worked in. It's generally believed that Captain Kirk usually wore a gold tunic but also had a green shirt. That's the misconception. In reality, all the Command shirts were olive-green but the lights made the shirts look gold. Kirk's "green" tunic was actually the same color but made from a different material so it stayed green on camera.


In the 1960s, the female crew on Star Trek all wore miniskirts. It was so popular that Uhura wears mini-skirts in the rebooted Star Trek movies, but they weren't as well-liked in the past. In fact, at one point, the show faced major criticism by fans who thought the skirts were sexist. What's not well-known is that it wasn't the men who wanted the women to put on the miniskirts. In the pilot, actress Grace Lee Whitney (Yeoman Rand) didn't like the pants the women originally wore because she wanted to show off her "dancer's legs." They gave her a miniskirt instead and the crew liked it so much the miniskirt became standard for all the women on the ship.


In 1967, the episode "Who Mourns for Adonais" had one of the most famous and memorable dresses in all of Star Trek history. In a story revolving around an alien who had god-like powers and claimed to be the Greek god Apollo, actress Leslie Parrish played Lieutenant Carolyn Palamas. Palamas was a crew member given a dress that seemed to be little more than a strip of cloth draped around her waist and over her shoulder. While it looked like the dress was ready to fall off at any moment, it was actually held up with a ton of double-sided tape. There was so much tape that it tore chunks of skin off Parrish when it was removed.


The pants on the male crew members of original Star Trek uniforms flared out above the boots which gave the male crew a sort of swashbuckling feel, but also seemed like a futuristic version of the bell bottoms popular at the time. Not everyone was a big fan of them. James Doohan (who played Scotty) said in an interview that he thought the flared pants "came on kind of fey." When an unnamed director was running over one script, he said, "OK, our team materializes on the planet in their ballet pants."


Most of the show, Captain Kirk wore his usual "gold" tunic but a few times, he wore what seemed to be a green wrap tunic. It looked pretty dashing but Shatner wasn't a fan. When asked about the alternate uniform in an interview, Shatner said it was too tight, adding, "It was a little embarrassing after lunch to have that tight green thing on you…the more drape, the better." Of course, there are some who have accused Shatner of wearing a corset but we haven't found anything definitive...yet.


Costume designer Bill Theiss had what came to be known as the Theiss Titillation Theory. His idea was that a costume was as sexy in proportion to the possibility that a piece of it might fall off. He became the masters of costumes that barely held on but Gene Roddenberry would make further alterations to make them even skimpier. While wardrobe malfunctions never actually happened on the air, they did happen in "Mudd's Women." In the episode, Maggie Thrett (who played Ruth) had a dress with an open strip running up her chest. It worked well until one scene where she was supposed to reach her arms above her head, causing one breast to become exposed every time. The shot was never broadcast but did end up on the Gag Reel.

What did you think of Star Trek's original uniforms? Let us know in the comments!

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