Friday, November 27, 2009

Wearing the uniform

Over on TrekBBS, a poster discussed the practice of Star Trek fans wearing a Starfleet costume in public to show their allegiance to the franchise. (There was that rather bizarre incident during the late 80s with that woman serving on a US jury panel, who turned up in Starfleet uniform, complete with communicator pin and toy tricorder - and then wondered why she received so mych adverse publicity.)

"Where's my fluffer?"

I have worn a Starfleet uniform in public many times since 1980, but I've always been dressed for an event, not because I've had a whim to wear weird, attention-getting clothes that day. Not having a car, I've even traveled on public transport in uniform, sometimes with a group (heading for a ST movie premiere or Halloween party) and twice I have worn a uniform on a plane, alone, going to an interstate Star Trek convention, and needing to travel light, with only carry-on luggage.

Comments are almost always positive, but I cannot fathom the need to wear a Starfleet uniform just for the heck of it. They simply aren't practical for life in the 21st century. No pockets, the need for hidden zippers, no helpers to ensure the uniform is continuing to hang properly.

On TrekBBS, someone else asked: So, what gives? Are the Starfleet uniforms really complicated and difficult to duplicate? Is it a matter of them being prohibitively expensive?

I have many Starfleet uniform incarnations, but if you compared any of them to an actual costume you'd find a few nits to pick. The main difference is that when you wear a uniform in public you don't have the entourage of "fluffers" that an actor making the show would have. During breaks between scenes, the wardrobe people are on hand to tug, pull and pin. The makeup people do touch-ups. The lighting person tweaks the angles of the lights to prevent weird shadows. And a studio photographer takes hundreds of photos and hopes to use just one, which he may then need to airbrush.

Why do you never see one of the actors turn up to an event in a Starfleet uniform, and stay in it all day? Because a fully tailored costume is too damned uncomfortable! For those early TNG spandex numbers, your back would ache, the undersoles of your feet would ache due to the stirrups, you couldn't sit down (because the fluffers weren't on hand), and you'd sweat like crazy - and no one would be around to hold the air blowers under your armpits.

Not to mention toilet breaks! Many Starfleet uniforms, especially authentic ones, require almost-total nudity just to go to the bathroom.

Floor costumes for a convention need to have comfort built in and, for that reason, collars are a bit looser, shoulders a bit saggier, emergency escape hatches have less-hidden zippers, and the amateur designers use fabrics that are much lighter weight (and may photograph differently to your intentions, too). And you have to maintain the same build every time you put on that particular costume. And "suck in your gut" for photos all day, which may be taken by other con goers who don't warn you when they are about to take a photo!

Commercial costumes always end up looking like they are one-size-fits-all.

Also, most of my homemade uniforms were created from sneak peaks in rare publicity stills (for then-unreleased incarnations of Star Trek). Inevitably, on premiere night, we'd discover that our uniforms had a few nits (see above) but, by then, it is too expensive to remake them, so you end up living with a few faults, fixing a few problems where you can.

The above pic is from the premiere night of "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan" - and, yes, my badge and belt buckle have my own variation of an insignia, assuming ST II would follow the lead set by the original series. The women have Enterprise (and Reliant) insignias. Our collars were knitted from wool the night before the premiere and the badges were made from gold-painted cardboard and plastic ice cream containers, eventually replaced a few months later by commercially-available metal versions.

No comments: