The man who created almost every iconic costume for “Star Trek” is a legend in fan and designer circles. William Ware Theiss made the uniforms for the Enterprise crew, the look of everyone on all the planets the ship visited and much more. The only costumes that Theiss did not create himself were the monster and alien suits made by Wah Ming Chang.
In fact, his designs were so iconic that J.J. Abrams modeled the uniforms of his reboot movies after the ones created by Theiss in the 1960s. Same for the upcoming “Strange New Worlds,” which will take place before “The Original Series,” according to the storyline. Writer and producer Akiva Goldsman told The Hollywood Reporter in April 2021 that the uniforms for the new show, set to launch in 2022, are a “reach-back” to “The Original Series.”
According to Herb and Yvette Solow, Theiss was an incredibly hard worker and could be quite private. In their book “Star Trek Sketchbook,” the Solows describe him as “solitary.”
“The one characteristic often remarked upon by those who worked with him was that his work ethic consisted of one almost fanatical and inhuman premise: ‘Stop when all work is done — and not before,’” wrote the Solows. “This did not endear him to many of his former wardrobe men and women, as might be imagined, although it did earn him the respect of his colleagues.”
Herb Solow would know precisely how Theiss operated, as he served as the executive producer of the first two seasons of “The Original Series.”
Since Theiss was under crushing pressure to create those suits and uniforms for a weekly television show, he used nonunion workers, according to the Geek Twins. This sort of thing is controversial in Hollywood, as the 2008 Writers’ Strike demonstrated. The Geek Twins wrote that Theiss “rented an apartment near the studio where nonunion seamstresses worked overnight to make costumes. In the morning, they would slip them through a back window into the studio.” Right or wrong, this technique worked.
‘What Are Little Girls Made Of?‘
While the show was on the air, Theiss created some of the most unique looks for those who guest-starred on “Star Trek.” High on the list was one worn by actress Sherry Jackson on the episode “What Are Little Girls Made Of?”
Much has been written about this particular suit. Redshirts Always Die reported that the costume was “skimpy.” In contrast, Jackson said it took “some mechanical engineering job” to make the suit work.
Jackson’s role in the episode was as an android named Andrea, one of many artificial life forms that Captain Kirk (William Shatner) encountered.
She told StarTrek.com that she actually modified the suit herself.
“I invented the slit up the front of the leg on it,” said Jackson in the interview. “I’m only 5-foot-4, and I wanted to look taller. That made me look taller. The outfit just became magical. Also, hip-huggers weren’t around at that time, but apparently, after that episode, hip-huggers came into fashion. I’m sure it was because of ‘Star Trek.’”
Jackson Landed a Role, Thanks to That Costume
In an interview with The Spectrum, Jackson shared that before her appearance on Trek, she had been remembered for her sitcom roles. And most of those parts were child roles, like her part in the 1950s show “Make Room For Daddy.”
“I took the role very seriously and gave much thought to what an android might think and feel,” she told writer Nick Thomas in the interview. “I was only 24 and at the peak of my attractiveness. The outfit also helped make the episode memorable!”
Jackson Says Captain Kirk Is a Flirt
Jackson told StarTrek.com that Shatner was a “nice person.”
“And Shatner … well, what can I say?” said Jackson in the piece. “Of course, he was kind of flirting with me. But overall, I enjoyed working with Shatner.”
She also said that he helped her keep that costume in place and getting them all in trouble. In an interview with HollywoodChicago.com, Jackson described how Shatner helped her to a unique solution.
“[The costume] was made out of ski material, and it kept stretching after every wear,” said Jackson in the interview. “We had a censor on the set; they allowed for the cleavage in the front, but nothing on the side. We used William Shatner’s toupee tape to keep it in place.”