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Tuesday, May 19, 2015


Mixing skill, patience, imagination

Outfitting an entire starship and visiting aliens can be a daunting task, but the wardrobe team at STAR TREK CONTINUES employs sleuthing skills and huge doses of creativity and patience to meet the demands of each episode.

The costuming process starts even before a script is finished, with Executive Producer Vic Mignogna sharing details with the costume designer months before filming begins.  The collaborative process of identifying costuming needs, designing for specific actors, and accommodating a dizzying array of last-minute requests takes a team of experts to make sure that filming can be accomplished on schedule with “just the right look” to emulate 1960’s TV.

For Ginger Holley, who started as a wardrobe assistant on STC Episode II “Lolani” and managed costuming for Episode III “The Fairest of them All,” a passion for costuming began in the Renaissance period.   

“I got into costuming in 2006.  My friend had a Renaissance wedding and it was so much cheaper to make the pieces she wanted rather than buy them. That led to Renaissance Faires and then anime and sci-fi conventions, and then cosplay (costuming play.)  I wanted to do it for a living, so I pursued a bachelor’s degree in Fashion Design.  That training has proved to be invaluable, because for STAR TREK CONTINUES I frequently have to draft patterns and grade costumes into different sizes.  It’s all very technical and those are things are very difficult to teach yourself,” Holley says.  She graduated the week after filming wrapped on “Lolani” and she started working almost immediately with Executive Producer Vic Mignogna on what would be needed for the ambitious “mirror episode” shoot that started a few short months later.

Mirror Mechanics

“Since most of what we do on STAR TREK CONTINUES takes place in the third season, we’ve been grateful for the support of uniform licensee Anovos.  They’ve supplied Starfleet uniforms for our principals and extra players,” Holley explains.  But mirror episode “Fairest of Them All” required both a return to second season velour uniforms and the additional adornments that clearly mark them as part of the “Terran Empire.”

“We worked from November through March to bring that episode together from a costuming standpoint. One of the biggest challenges was pulling it together over the holiday season.  We were sourcing fabrics from what felt like every website on the planet!”

Holley picked up a new skill while preparing for the mirror episode shoot – learning how to dye large quantities of fabric just the right shades of STAR TREK gold and blue. 

“We finally found the right cotton velour about two weeks before filming began, and so all of the dyed tunics for the main cast and for extras had to be cut and assembled very quickly.  I had never dyed anything before, so I watched a lot of YouTube videos.  I ended up dyeing the fabrics in my bathtub. It was a lot of trial and error.

"The gold mix I can now dye with three different recipes.  Blue was a little trickier because it’s hard to accurately photograph the blue.  When you look at the original reference photos, the color looks different from photo to photo.  But we ended up very pleased with our choices.  Onscreen and under studio lights, those velour tunics look just like the originals,” said Holley.

The most difficult vintage piece to construct was the sleeveless gold vest worn by Kirk in the mirror episode.  Holley found vintage mid-century woven gold metal lurex fabric for Kirk’s sparkly vest, building two identical versions so that the production wouldn’t be slowed if one was damaged during fight scenes.

“The way the light hits this 60 year old fabric is magnificent.  It sparkles just like the original. Vic had photos of the actual vest for reference purposes, and we spent a lot of time researching the fabric properties.  A lot of the stitching was done by hand so that the metal fibers weren’t damaged,” she explains. 

Episode IV Challenges

Holley manufactured 12 new costumes for the upcoming Episode IV, including a few original designs, recruiting friends to finish the projects in time for filming. 

“Throughout the year I source, run the budget, research, order, maintain the inventory, and design for upcoming scripts pretty much on my own,” she said. “When it comes to crunch time, I call in my pre-production team. They are vital to the success of each episode. For Episode IV I was thrilled to have several fellow graduates from my school’s fashion program come on board to help with all the new costume builds.”

For Dorothy Booraem, serving as Wardrobe Supervisor for Episode IV meant keeping track of myriad details.

“The most difficult thing about being a wardrobe supervisor is experiencing the difference between your carefully organized plans for changes and upkeep to costumes and the beautiful chaos of actual production,” Dorothy explains.  The role of wardrobe supervisor is primarily one of organization, time management and problem solving.  “You'll face challenges like how to costume four extras with three costumes, how to dress 15 actors while prepping the costumes for another scene, and how to clean makeup off of a Starfleet uniform when you can't take it off of the actor!”

Dorothy, Ginger, and Hannah ham it up

The costuming team needs to make sure that the costumes are clean, in good repair and in the costumer's desired shooting condition - free of wrinkles - exactly when they are needed. 

“In the sci-fi genre actors may have to get into costume first and THEN go to makeup. Depending on their makeup call time, which is often very early, you and the costumes will need to be ready beforehand. So it helps to be an early riser as well,” Dorothy explains.

“I was fortunate enough to have Ginger Holley and Hannah Barucky on the STAR TREK CONTINUES wardrobe team. They are experts in Starfleet uniforms, Starfleet casual wear and alien sportswear of all kinds. The system we used to costume big groups was to schedule the actor times, make a lot of lists, organize the costumes and then be motivated, optimistic problem solvers.”

Episode IV wardrobe assistant Hannah Barucky has worn many hats for STAR TREK CONTINUES, including general production assistant and Uhura’s wig stylist. 

“We had quite a few new pieces that needed to be created for Episode IV, including a Cage-era uniform and some other very specific costuming.  I studied a lot of screen captures to get things just right,” said Barucky, who is studying fashion design at Ohio’s Ursuline College.  “My drapery teacher helped me with patterns and things we haven’t even done in school yet,” she explains.  “I’m excited to help with costuming for STAR TREK CONTINUES because that’s exactly what I want to do in my career.”

“It’s interesting that the uniforms in STAR TREK are so varied.  You’d think that they would be a lot more ‘uniform,’ but when you go back and look at old episodes you can see how things were assembled and finished.  A lot of things were stitched just for a particular scene, and we end up doing a lot of those same things in our productions,” Barucky says.

STAR TREK CONTINUES’ wardrobe team feels that they are doing the same kind of frenetic work as Bill Theiss, the original STAR TREK costume designer. 

“It’s such a big responsibility to follow in his footsteps.  Obviously, there’s a specific look and feel that we’re working hard to emulate.  My goal as the designer is that I never want to distract from the story.  We just want it to look ‘right’ like STAR TREK should.  You have to get into that ‘retro’ mindset, even though it’s now 2015.  We take a lot of care to use the same methods and materials that Theiss would have used in the late 1960’s,” said Holley. “It’s a challenge, but we love it. TOS was very special, and we hope that everyone watching STC can see how much we all appreciate that.”

Fans interested in pursuing costuming as a career need to focus on organization and “people skills.” 

“Both are absolutely necessary in any kind of production - stage, TV or film.  As far as where to find wardrobe work, depending on where you live, a community theater is a great place to start or on local independent film where you are likely to be the costume designer as well.  You won't get paid, but you will get experience and will probably have a great time,” says Booraem.

1 comment:

uRwhatUr said...

I love articles such as these. The attention to detail and quality is commendable. Makes me appreciate the production even more.

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