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
How Discovery compares to TOS
I was talking to a Star Trek uniform fan the other day, and he commented that the asymmetrical collar on the Discovery uniforms really drove him nuts. I thought that was really funny and I told him so, because to my eye the collars of the Discovery uniforms were one of the most "Original Series" aspects of that entire uniform. A uniform incidentally that is filled with little homages to the Starfleet Uniforms worn up and down the timeline of Star Trek.
As those uniforms were introduced in 2256 (a couple of years before "The Cage'' and about a decade before Jim Kirk takes the Enterprise on his Five Year Mission), I really want to compare them with their Original Series counterparts. At a glance, they might appear radically different, but they have more in common than you might have realised.
First, let's acknowledge right up front that they are in fact blue, very blue. A specific color called "Federation Blue," that was intended to recall the blue flight suits of Captain Archer's crew aboard the NX-01. While the color of the uniforms was different, the ensemble itself returned to TOS' familiar tunic and pants combo. The proportions are even similar with a form fitted short tunic over the unifom's pants, and the similarity between the two outfit’s silhouette becomes especially apparent when looking at Star Trek: Discovery’s uniform pattern, made with TOS’ color scheme.
But, the real similarities are found in the uniform's details. The collar for instance is a direct homage to the folded over collars worn by female Starfleet officers in "The Cage" and “Where No Man Has Gone Before.” Discovery costume designer, Gersha Phillips took direct inspiration from Star Trek's original pilots episodes for that aspect of the uniform's design.
More than that, the shape of the collar is taken from all over the Original Series itself. TOS' famed costume designer William Ware Theiss used asymmetry to great effect in a lot of his uniform and costume designs seen throughout the Star Trek series he designed for.
Even the uniform's diagonal zip closure recalls similar closures on a number of TOS era uniforms and costumes including Captain Kirk's distinctive Command Green wraparound tunics.
The first thing I want to know when a new Star Trek series is on the way is - what are the uniforms going to look like? Will there be something I like about them, something I don't? Will I see something of the Starfleet uniforms I have loved in them? With Gersha's Discovery uniforms the answer is a resounding "yes." It's funny. Some look at these uniforms, and only see what's different about them. I look at the same outfit and see echoes of The Original Series uniforms I grew up loving.
The Original Series was only the first influence in the development of Discovery’s Starfleet Uniforms, and we’ll explore that in future blog entries.
Until then...live long and prosper.
John is a writer based in Las Vegas, and a product developer for ANOVOS
Update on Starships: New Sourcing!
The impact of Covid-19 is nothing new, nor are the reasons on how it had affected ANOVOS very acutely with our overseas productions.
What you may not have known is that our Star Trek Studio-Scale starships, while constructed here in the USA, were actually partially printed and sourced in China. Thus, when the pandemic struck we were faced with a brief pause in our production of the studio scale ships.
We wanted to bring you inside on what was going on during this period of uncertainty in this multi-part series. Before we go any further, let me spoil the ending, we started back in full production Studio Scale Starships about a month ago and it's going great starting with the completions of the Studio Scale Discovery : Enterprise then Discovery to quickly follow.
While this is now in the past and we are fully in construction again, a brief reflection on that calamitous period shows a silver lining: The pause gave us the opportunity to really review our 3D sculpts and how we were making these ships to bring out the best ships possible.
In reviewing the most urgent issue, our sourcing for 3D printing of the ships had stopped all together, simply, because there was nobody present in the shop to even hit “go”. The wait had become a week, to weeks, to months and we were really beginning to fret. Right around this time, another option had started becoming available as the company we had previously purchased our 3D printing machines, PEOPOLY, had just unveiled their biggest printer to date… the XXL ! We contacted them immediately and asked to be the first machine out despite it being another three months before delivery.
While waiting for this printer we started reviewing our files, inch for inch, detail for detail. While the original model was outstanding, there were a few areas in which we noted were getting lost in the print and finishing process. Coupling this with what we knew about the resolution of print from the new printer coming in we took on the month long task of sharpening the file.
Bringing it all under one roof...literally.
During this time, we also started training a second team out in Texas, to construct the ships with the goal of transferring manufacturing under one roof. While we waited, they trained on one of the most complicated 'aztecing' beasts of all time, the Star Trek Refit 1701 ! With the help of renowned 'aztecing' guru Gary Chomiak, the young team was able to construct their first studio scale ship complete with lighting.
But, as with all ANOVOS quality, the magic is in the quality and it has to hold up after scaling up. After accomplishing this small feat, they were then tasked with training for scaling up by constructing three ships at a time. What a challenge and more on this later.
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The Importance of Using Accurate Original Patterns
When we got our first glimpse of Captain Georgiou & Commander Burnham’s new uniforms in the run-up to Star Trek: Discovery’s "launch" we said, "OK. That’s a completely different uniform!" From its diagonal zipper & asymmetrical collar, to its metallic printed deltas & embroidered contrast points - Gersha Phillips and her costume team showed us a strange new world filled with her clearly distinctive creations. It was fresh. It was amazing, but it also meant that we had our work cut out for us.
Having built a reputation of being able to replicate our highly accurate costumes from archive reference and access to original uniforms, we were confident that we could make them. But, we also knew immediately that this uniform would be nearly insurmountable for one reason alone - the pattern's cut shapes were atypical. With odd inorganic curves that would need an endless array of testing to get the drape and overall “look” just right.
It can't be emphasized enough that without access to original uniforms we couldn't have come close to the original costumes.
It's lucky then that we were positioned in the right place & time.
Having been friends and partners with CBS Consumer Products from the very start of ANOVOS', we were invited to visit the studio in Toronto where we met Gersha and her team, saw Daniel Hyun Lim's original costume concept sketches, documented several original uniforms, and most importantly were granted access to not only one set of patterns, but four during our trip. This level of access was unprecedented, and we left armed with a range of reference material from Captain Lorca to Ensign Tilly. We felt confident we’d be able to capture the breath of sizing for everyone while maintaining a level of accuracy befitting the fantastic work of the Star Trek: Discovery Costume Department.
Thus armed with terabytes of reference & patterns, our next step was Digital Grading of the patterns. This process captures every size and translates it into what we know are the most requested common sizes in our community of Star Trek fans & customers.
Technical note: What is grading and why is it important?
As most of our customers are aware, the sizing of a typical female lead is pretty small. It is unusual to see a woman depicted on screen that resembles the plus size models that we are seeing on more fashion runways these days. What CBS did in casting Mary Wiseman in Star Trek: Discovery is to introduce us to a modern sized actress. With Ens. Sylvia Tilly’s screen used pattern, for the first time, we were able to reference not just the usual size small and extra small costumes, but a larger sized pattern which gave us a full range of sizes. That made the grading of the patterns more “true” to the Starfleet uniforms’ tailored fit. We didn’t have to rely on the ANOVOS standard grading points to do an overall increase in size for each piece, as we generally do for our costumes. We had accurate reference points to adjust in order to ensure the design remained consistent. This was an extraordinary opportunity to get the fit right not only for our smaller customers, but for the curvier fan base as well.
After overcoming the issues of sizing & refining the pattern to be just as faithful to the original costumes as the right combination of metallic prints and contrasts - we believe this outfit is in the top three of the most stage accurate outfits we’ve ever created. From a combination of getting to work with the original production team, to bringing this to Texas to be watched over directly - it was a magical combination that rarely presents itself.
The creation of an "ultimate wearable replica."
We feel that this piece of wearable art will be a must have uniform in any Star Trek collection. Ordinarily we'd have excitedly unveiled this amazing ensemble at a convention like San Diego Comic Con or The Official Star Trek Convention, but owing to the ongoing pandemic, pictures will have to suffice for now. It's often said that "A picture is worth a thousand words." If that's true then I'll stop, and let our uniform speak for itself.