The cosmic women of Star Trek not only made the series immortal, their powerful sense of style sent space-age fashion to a new frontier.
It’s impossible to think what life in space would look like without Star Trek. The TV and movie series isn’t only a limitless marvel of sci-fi storytelling; it’s a launching pad for some of the most iconic, inventive, even comical costumes we’ve ever seen. Star Trek brought street style to space and back to Earth again. Turtlenecks, spandex and tunics haven’t been the same since the Starfleet donned them, but that's only the beginning of the rabbit hole (or black hole) of fun. Let’s explore the cosmos of Trekkie style!
Star Trek made its impact upon first contact by thematically dressing its cast in skintight clothes that (really, truly) boldly went there. The immortal Starfleet uniforms were like none other onscreen: in The Original Series, men’s uniforms were colourful tunics, while women’s were short dresses with dark knee-high boots.
Made of velour – which looked svelte under set lights – and in a sleek Spartan silhouette, it became the official sign language of fashion’s future.
Trek’s costumes came in fabrics hailed forward for their time: plastic, Perspex, a lot of new polyblends hatched straight from the lab. In the post-Sputnik 1960s, buzzy designers like Mary Quant and Paco Rabanne were working in similar space-age materials. Plus, Star Trek was already pushing gender and racial boundaries – The Original Series featured television's first interracial kiss! – so, androgyny and bodycon styles felt right on (or, rather, perfectly ahead of) time.
Lieutenant Uhura, the legendary African-American character who shared that fated kiss with William Shatner’s Captain Kirk, intrepidly piloted her own red miniskirt onto primetime. The garment flaunted a sense of empowerment, professionalism and team identity ¬– it was a badge of modernity. Actress Nichelle Nichols, who played Uhura, notes cheekily; “I was wearing them on the street. What's wrong with wearing them in the air?” Touché.
“Leonard Nimoy’s portrayal of the half-Vulcan,
half-human commander is at the heart of every
Star Trek fan’s obsession, and that worship comes
with its own special salute – and style. “Angular
in all the right places,” Vogue has hailed
him approvingly. V-shaped, indeed!”
That gleeful sense of “Why not?” permeates many of Star Trek’s bolder style experiments. There were moments where Captain Kirk and his fellow crew resembled members of a ballet troupe at the Big Top. There were sparkle disco ensembles, tin foil bikinis, man thongs, young Wesley Crusher’s inexplicably generous collection of ruffled sweaters – shoulder pads and all. When the Starfleet landed on a foreign planet, new forms of life weren’t the only unknown variables to decode. But the pinnacle of extraterrestrial aesthetics is best captured by one name: Spock! Leonard Nimoy’s portrayal of the half-Vulcan, half-human commander is at the heart of every Star Trek fan’s obsession, and that worship comes with its own special salute – and style. “Angular in all the right places,” Vogue has hailed him approvingly. V-shaped, indeed!
As the series evolved, Star Trek costumes evolved to draw upon an athletic, balletic feel, incorporating stretch fabrics like spandex and Lycra to give the Starfleet look a new physique-enhancing appeal. The Next Generation’s spritely styles have influenced future-facing looks at Versace, Alexander Wang, Jean Paul Gaultier and beyond. But thanks to social media and fan-driven events like Comic Con, Star Trek cosplay strives to heroic levels of creativity, with its most avid participants literally morphing from eyeball to modified toe-claw to capture their most cherished characters in the flesh. When the Star Trek: Mission New York convention debuts later this year for the series’ 50th anniversary, it will not only celebrate a major pop-culture milestone, it will be proof that dressing up like our heroes can keep their story, and our part in it, going forever.