Monday, September 28, 2015

Are you among those who HATED HATED HATED the Santa Claus uniforms that came with Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan (WOK) because they did away with the electronic tummy packs?

I fail to see the problem with the WOK uniforms: They are almost the same as those used in Star Trek: The Motion Picture (TMP). No, really.

Nicholas Meyer instructed costume designer Robert Fletcher that (a) he wanted a naval look to all Starfleet costumes, and (b) that the officer uniforms should look specifically like those in the 1937 Ronald Colman film The Prisoner of Zenda.

Because the budget for costumes in the WOK was even lower than that for TMP, Fletcher re-used the existing uniforms. You'll notice in a side-by-side comparison that the cut of the front panel is identical: All that Fletcher's staff did was add superficial trim from the neck to the right shoulder, and then down the right seam to "indicate" where the uniform could open.

Director Nicholas Meyer then asked that the uniform actually open. This is because an open flap which reveals white fabric will bounce light back up into the actor's face -- allowing far moe subtle facial expressions to "read" on film when the bridge is dark.

To achieve this effect, Fletcher cut open the TMP uniform from the neck to the right shoulder, and inserted a panel beneath it to hide the actor's skin. The right-side seam of the TMP uniform was then opened. Trim was added from the neck along the new seam, and down the right-hand seam to create the impression of a jacket.

Fletcher added a row of small button snaps to the inner part of the trim to keep the uniform flap closed. When these showed up clearly on test footage, Fletcher found some silver chain. Three links of the chain were then sewed by hand to the costume to hide the buttons.

A small change was then made to the lower hem of the uniform. Instead of a U-shaped lower hem that fell in front of the crotch, Fletcher cut the lower uniform horizontal and raised it so that it looked less like a smock or apron and more like a jacket.

The epaulet over the right shoulder was extended and insignia added. The braid on both TMP sleeves was removed, and a new white band with new insignia added to the left sleeve.

Interestingly Fletcher had designed those TMP uniforms -- and hated them as much as anyone else. They were bland and did not stand out against backgrounds. But to save money, they had to re-use thosee existing uniforms. So they did tests with various kinds of dye to see what colors the fabrics would take, and what those colors looked like. Three colors worked out well: blue-grey, gold, and dark red. None of the colors were anything that a traditional dye-master would use (because they mixed with the existing dye in the fabrics). This pleased the costuming crew, as it made the uniforms look "futuristic" (or at least abnormal enough for people to notice).

The high, tight, stiff collars from the TMP uniforms were initially dyed black for WOK. However, this look shitty, so they were jettisoned. Producer Robert Sallin suggested a more turtleneck approach. The staff decided on a collar that used something called "trapunto". Little tube-like areas were outlined with thread in the collar, and then a hollow needle was used to shoot thread into the area to fill it.

New "hero" costumes were made for the seven "Star Trek" stars, as well as Kirstie Alley and Paul Winfield. But they weren't any different in design from the alterations made to the existing TMP uniforms.

So I'm always confused when people lambaste the WOK uniforms. They are, essentially, the same cut and fabric as the TMP uniforms, just with trim, an open shoulder, and a dye-job. (Like any creaky old thing, it needed a dye job!)

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