ST09 Costume Designer Talks Star Trek – Then And Now

For costume designer on the new Star Trek movie, JJ Abrams went to someone he hadn’t worked with before, Michael Kaplan. In a new interview in SciFi Now the veteran designer talks about what it was like in that first meeting with Abrams, how he put together the film’s costumes, and more. Excerpts below.


Kaplan: new eyes – but did his Trek homework
Michael Kaplan is an award winning costume designer who has worked in Hollywood for three decades, starting off with the landmark sci-fi film Blade Runner in 1982. Yet when he went in to his first meeting with JJ Abrams, he wasn’t sure how it was going to work out. In my interview for SciFiNow, Kaplan said:

I went into that meeting thinking I had a huge problem and disclosed to him that I hadn’t seen any of the Star Trek movies and knew the TV series, but just because I was growing up during that time, not because I was an avid fan. He felt that was a plus, because he wanted something really fresh. He wanted new eyes.

In their early discussions, the costume designer expressed his feelings regarding many “futuristic movies,” and the fact that he simply didn’t buy it when a new colony of people would be dressed in Biblical, Greek, Roman or Egyptian costumes. Kaplan noted:

I told him it would be really fun to create a whole new world, yet do an homage to the TV show, because that’s where our world in Star Trek would end. There were certain things we wanted to be recognizable. Updated, but not done away with, like the Enterprise costumes. There’s a ‘60s sensibility I thought was important to keep intact. It was really about finding a balance. I would do some sketching and say, ‘I love this costume idea, but it doesn’t feel like Star Trek,’ and we would abandon it. A design could have been more Star Wars, for example. There’s a vocabulary that was needed, and, of course, I studied the Star Trek Encyclopedia.

Kaplan wanted to keep that ’60s sensibility’ with the crew uniforms

Star Trek’s new costume designer also went into detail on creating the new version of the classic TOS uniform:

I wanted to do something more sophisticated than they had done on the TV series, so I created a new fabric where a pattern of the boomerang logo was utilized. You’ll also see that there is now a black shirt that’s a part of the uniform. Back on the TV show, it was all one piece. This is like the undershirt and uniform is on top of that. It made sense to me that the uniform would have an undershirt, and that it would still be consistent. The shirt is a dark charcoal gray, as are the pants, and the color of the jumpers describe what that person’s job is.

For more of my interview with Kaplan, pick up a copy of SciFi Now #24 (available for to purchase online).



Edward Gross is a sci-fi journalist and contributor to multiple magazines, including Geek Monthly, SciFi Now and SFX.

Visit Ed’s new website, with all the latest news on “V,” both then and now. The 1980s’ science fiction phenomenon “V” is returning on two fronts, first as a pilot for a proposed ABC series produced by The 4400’s Scott Peters, and then as a feature film in development by concept originator Kenneth Johnson.

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SciFi Now?
Looks almost real!

i love the new uniforms :)

away team jackets like in the Cage?

“Edward Gross is a sci-fi journalist and contributor to multiple magazines, including Geek Monthly, SciFi Now and SFX. ”

If he hasn’t contributed to “Nacelles Monthly”—-he’s a hack! Anybody who’s anybody gets at least one article there.


the new uni’s kinda look like Nike Dri-Fit workout shirts…

Michael Kaplan seems to care a lot about respecting TOS style. I appreciate that!

One comment: There was a black t-shirt under the TOS uniforms, as seen in The Naked Time. It seems it was only a personal habit of Kirk to wear nothing under.

be nice, this is Ed’s first article at TM….and Ed was interviewing ST folks before some readers here were born, so he is certainly qualified to write for Nacelles Monthly

boomerang logo…

Oooh the cannonista’s aren’t gonna like that now, 2 shirts instead of ONE? BLASPHEMY!!!!

Cool. Is this a different guy than the article you were working on from the source I sent you Anthony?

@3: I hope so. I love that idea.

I’ve started to see a running trend with UK mags that come from the same publishing group(Imagine Publishing)…all of the mastheads have the same or similiar sans font used for the title of it. I started noticing this when I was buying from their stable of mags, but it works because I automatically know who publishes it….maybe that was the point all along…

#6 – Man, that just makes me sound SO old. Anyway, Nacelles Monthly won’t return my calls. What’s up with that?

Welcome Ed!

First of many… I hope.

#8 they shouldn’t get too ballistic over it because in some of the early TOS episodes, they showed them wearing a dark charcoal undershirt as well.

I wonder how much an influence Bill Theiss’ style was? Classic designs.

The new uniform is about the only thing I’m totally on-board with, though, honestly, the screened on “boomerang” as he called it is a bit too predominant for my tastes(from what I’ve seen). It just reeks of the brick pattern on Spiderman’s jumpsuit or the over-use of the Superman S symbol on the chest S in Superman Returns(where it was an embedded texture).

Oh well, at least this guy gets when something doesn’t look or feel Star Trek. It’s too bad that sensibility couldn’t have been brought to the new phaser.

Let me geek for a while and say that TOS actually, if you watch the episode “The Naked TIme” demonstrated the black collars on the old uniforms were in fact a black undershirt. So, intentionally or no, he is conforming with the original.

They continually refer to the outfit as the “Enterprise Uniform.” I wonder if they stuck with the idea of individual emblems. Maybe other fleet uniforms have their specific emblems worked into the fabric as well, and not everyone has delta shields…

Well, he’s right that the boomerang logo was the Starfleet logo of the TOS era, but that’s not what’s in the uniforms. The uniforms have the Enterprise “arrowhead” badge woven into them (which looks really, REALLY stupid, by the way), added to the fact that this movie uses the Enterprise arrowhead as the TOS Starfleet logo (when it was the boomerang!).

I don’t mind the black-shirt-under-the-tunic thing, because that’s how I always interpreted the TOS uniforms anyway. I just don’t like that cheesy logo-weave.

Wonderful article Ed. Was a great read.

#20 – Thanks! I appreciate the compliment.

Next time call my cell, Ed!

Its too bad the prop guys aren;t as skilled. Has anyone seen THIS on the bridge..its a BAR CODE scanner..they didn’t even try to dress it up/down:-S
Im APPALLED at how lazy they got here..I wonder what else we’d see..totally ruins it for me…

I always thought the key to the TOS uniforms was the calf-high pants and high zippered boots.

The high tech fabric with the boomerang logo looks like it’s descended from ENT MACO uniforms.

It also seems like they’ve reverse-engineered the TWOK military-style uniforms by making ‘Rust Red’ the color of a Starfleet Academy.

Yeah, black undershirts are nothing new and I love it that they are incorporated into the new design, intentional or not. Don’t care for the mini “boomerangs” but it’s a minor quibble.

And as far as Edward Gross goes, his Captain’s Log was one of the best, most informative and unbiased books on the Trek series that I’ve ever read. Welcome aboard Ed, here’s to many more contributions to this site!

#23 –

maybe they need the bar code scanners for ‘quick check out’ when somebody buys an iPod…??

17: The black collars were actually sewn on the uniform tunic, the t-shirt collar was invisible under the tunic.
Just google some pics of the original props, there you can see it. You can also see in the actual TV footage that the shoulder zipper goes through the collar.

Actually, the two shirt style isn’t unheard of…McCoy wore one in TOS.

They got the straight-edged rank braid right for the time period…the cut of the tunic…the departmental colors and insignia inside the delta…just don’t know why they couldn’t go with gold instead of silver. One small thing…

My only real peeve is the delta logo all over the shirt…smacks of Brandon Routh’s costume in “Superman Returns” with all the little “S” emblems all over it.

#23 “Im APPALLED at how lazy they got here..I wonder what else we’d see..totally ruins it for me…”

Too bad, for millions more, like myself, who don’t know a barcode scanner from a protomatter disconbobulator, they won’t think twice about it.

The practice is really nothing new. One of the props from Ghostbusters was a shoe polisher. The silverware on TOS was nothing but airline flatware and we all know about the salt shakers. No big deal really.

The Playmates toys copy the Uniform Delta pattern on the boxes, btw…

And about those barcode scanners,
the most famous german SciFi series,
“Raumpatrouille, 1966”, featured Electric Irons
on the bridge!

#29. Yes I know ILM has kitbashed for years starting on Star wars, but at least they should add a few thingymabobs onto it to disguise it, this is literally right off the shelf!!! I mean at least add a Star Fleet logo to it or something for goodness sake. They’re paying this prop guys a lot of money, so they take the $1000, keep $980 for themselves and spend $20 on a bar code scanner..for a MULTI MILLION $$ MOVIE…c’mon

#24 It’s too bad the prop guys on TOS weren’t more creative, either. McCoy’s salt shakers TOTALLY ruined it for me.

Seriously, dude. Most movies with very few exceptions sample real world items for props. It’s called budgeting… besides, without staring at them for a long time is a screen cap, who would have noticed?

#25 – In all honesty, I had a GREAT time co-writing Captains’ Logs with Mark Altman, and I’m glad my love for the subject came through.

Love, love, love the look of the costumes. I hope somebody puts out a sewing pattern so I can have one for next Halloween.

The pitnicker in me hopes there’ll be an explanation of why the ladies have short sleeves and the men long (won;t one of them be either too hot or too cold all the time?), but the rest of me can live without it if it doesn’t happen!

#12 – They’re probably going by the Romulan calendar or something.

#31. Thats nice, but this is 2008, you’d think they would METICULOUSLY design something as iconic as the BRIDGE of the USS Enterprise with custom detailing..not off the shelf products. Now I wonder too that this is ‘out’ if the company that produces the bar code scanner would be happy about their copyrighted product just being stuffed onto the bridge ‘as is’?

Every single detail on this bridge which will have considerable screen time now and in the future should be CUSTOM designed, I dont care so much about the romulan dudes stuff or misc background junk..but this is the BRIDGE..this is the CON..come guys whats up with that? No one could be bothered to think out a cool prop that has some function instead of an off the shelf bar code scanner????

#33. isn’t this a $135 MILLION budget..

$20 Bar code scanner..


Boomerang logo?!? As much as I think the new uniforms look better than the old ones (though they still should miniskirts, even though they look hot) you FAIL for calling the Starfleet delta a boomerang. Actually the symbol from the TOS Defiant was closer to that than the Delta.

Does anyone recall that TOS crew DID wear black undershirts? (except for Kirk, of course, particularly when he got in fights) they showed up in a few episodes.

Holger, you are right about the zippers, in the 60’s, velour was the “futuristic fabric of choice” for sci-fi, Lost in Space costumes used it too. Velour fabric does not stretch, hence the zippers.

As for the ‘boomerangs’ it’s not that off-base: modern-day Marine-Corps utility uniforms actually have the signature ‘eagle-globe-and-anchor’ insignia randomly embedded in the camoflage pattern.


The Bridge of the 1701 features Personal Habitat Fields that create the persons favored environment. In cases of emergency the temperature will be lowered to counteract perspiration or raised bloop pressure levels.

thorsten….here they are… :-)

#42. yea thats great, so your happy a 135 mil movie cant compete with a crappy obscure german film? congrats..


Time that we start that reboot, Mark…
Maybe we should use Philips this time!

This brings up something I have been looking at when it comes to the new bridge design. The bridge overall looks way to fragile These bar-code things, the L-shaped lamps, the tall glass panels, etc. A couple of good hits from a Romulan phaser, and the crew flies around the bridge…knocking this stuff all off and flying every wear.

TOS had the long “intercom” lamps, and after the pilot, removed them.

Also, many of you have commented that the uniforms are fairly well done (I am not crazy about the delta shield pattern myself), But do they look like they belong on this ship, with all the white and lights?

TOS had almost no white in the color scheme…even the walls were gray. Granted this was the age of the color TV, but that is also why the uniforms worked as well as they did. Color on Color…

just MHO

#38 138 Million isn’t exactly a sky’s-the-limit budget. Yes, that’s a heck of a lot of money, but when you consider how many different things they had to spend that on, from SFX to sets to location shoots to salaries to scoring to etc etc, you can imagine the amount of money saved by picking up a few of these for $20 a pop instead of paying a propmaster for hours of designs, multiple prototypes and manufacturing. Hundreds of dollars if not more, plus I would rather have the propmasters spending their time and energy into developing more iconic things like communicators, phasers and tricorders.

those barcodes shatter the illusion.but not as much as the ashtray in the middle of them!

Great article, thanks Ed. Good to see an interview with costume design, since we have so many questions. Any chance you could draw some followup questions from here at and get a few questions more to him?

I’d like to know if the use of silver striping and boomerang is a subtle indication of difference from the gold striping and boomerang of the original series. Sort of a ’66 Trek is “golden era” and ’09 iTrek is “silver era”.

#23 Indeed. Perhaps they can CGI them OUT and de-clutter the iBridge.
#26 iPods, iCorders and iCommunicators, oh my! I was thinking more that they could quickly scan any bumpy-headed aliens and they’d ring up on that fancy viewscreen what their price is. I’m sure the Binars would love it! I just want to know why there isn’t a red LED digital clock above the viewscreen. That was Nick Meyer’s best idea in TWOK!

If we have to retcon those scanners, perhaps we can say they’re only there for this “test mission” and they’re doing an inventory count?? I mean, call in RGIS, and let’s scan the bridge tonight, and then move on to Deck 2 tomorrow.

Its $150 million. So they had to fly coach to Seoul…

barcode readers