Discovery Uniforms Perfecting the Look and Feel
The Look and Feel of Discovery
The uniforms from Star Trek Discovery are some of the most complicated uniforms ever created for any Star Trek series. As cool as they look - their intricate nature created challenges for almost every department on set, behind the scenes, for the people wearing them, and when it came time to create our replica.
One example - the superhero-like, smooth, form-fitted costumes presented problems every day for the sound department as there was simply no place to hide the microphone battery packs that every primary actor is fitted with. This often meant that when an actor simply turns around, all action on the set has to come to a stop to reposition a prominent battery pack.
Then imagine being an actor wearing those costumes. Between shots & setups, the costumes are constantly being patted down, smoothed out, stretched, and steamed...with the actors still in them. The look production demanded for all Starfleet personnel is nothing less than a perfectly "squared away" professional military appearance at all times. This meant that as soon as the cameras were paused for even a few minutes, the on-set dresser went to work ensuring the costume department's hard work always looked its best.
One of the hardest components of those uniforms to maintain is the metallic elements. They are constantly cracking and flaking off their highly reflective, metallic surface coating. Take for example the concentric ovals of department-colored stripes that go around the arms of the uniform tunic. The stripes on the original costumes are made of multiple layers of lofted screen printing which has a metallic foil bonded to the surface using a proprietary technique. They LOOK fantastic! But, the thicker the stripes got the more brittle they became.
We spent a long time and more prototypes than I want to remember trying to improve upon the original design, and we HAD to improve upon it. Working with the original costumes, and in consultation with Discovery's costume designer - Gersha Phillips (and her amazing team), it became clear very very quickly that while we could replicate her processes, we couldn't ship a product that used it.
The problem is that our costumes were going home to be used, displayed, and worn by normal folks. People without a whole costume department to maintain their expensive ensembles. The original costume's metallic elements require constant care and maintenance to keep them looking presentable. How could we give someone a costume that after one cycle of wearing and laundering would look shabby? When we perfectly duplicated the originals, they disappointingly performed exactly like the originals. Every time. So we tried new formulations, new techniques, whole new materials. All this research and development took a toll, mostly in time. But in the end, we had a stable, repeatable process, that was finally as durable as the rest of the uniform. That was vital. If you were spending your hard-earned cash on a costume with this caliber of fit and finish, then every element of it had to be something that you could wear time and again without worrying that you would lose some deltas from the compression panels, or your shoulder stripes coming apart.
Another thing about those shoulder stripes. We devised a print medium that had the metallic department color embedded in the ink. This eliminated the bonded foils which led to so many problems for both the original costumes and our earliest prototypes. It does slightly diminish the super reflective, almost 3d look the foils lend to the original costumes, but the trade-off is that you wouldn't have to spend hours with a bottle of touch-up paint between each use. There again, our replica is far superior to the original on-set costumes.
With every product we make, continuity with the original piece is vital and something we work diligently to produce. The challenge with Star Trek: Discovery's uniforms was to take something never designed to live off the soundstage, and improve upon it to make durable, wearable clothing to live in the real world.
Making the ANOVOS Star Trek Discovery Starfleet Duty Uniform a genuine one of a kind!
John is a writer based in Las Vegas, and a product developer for ANOVOS