William Ware Theiss drew heavily on his previous work from The Original Series while designing the new uniforms for The Next Generation – his conceptual approach seeming to have been to explore what his 23rd-century uniforms might have evolved into over the following century.
Ideas such as unisex uniform options and three division colors, motifs like asymmetry and lower limb accents, and the “sprayed-on-clothing” aesthetic all manifested into his TNG-era uniform designs.
Like his other TNG-era uniforms, the TNG jumpsuits were primarily made of jumbo spandex, “dull” side out, although strangely they were cut with the spandex stretching vertically (rather than around the wearer’s body). The exception was that at least some of the sleeves were cut on the fabric diagonal.
These jumpsuits were a constant work-in-progress; not only did their fit and construction generally improve as the costuming department gained experience and refined the process, but Theiss experimented with and revised many of the uniform details over the course of the season.
Broadly speaking, the initial batch of cast uniforms were used for the first few episodes, but then a second round of uniforms – with different detailing on some cast members’ uniforms – was rotated into the production and used for most of the season, until the early uniforms rotated back into use for the final stretch of episodes.
These changes and variations primarily included:
- Captain Picard and Commander Riker’s necklines changed from V-shaped to rounded, then back again.
- The neckline/yoke trim appears to have slightly widened to a more consistent 3/16”.
- The yokes inconsistently grew deeper at the center front, although with the exception of (at least?) one of Captain Picard’s uniforms, the yoke trim usually remained vertically centered.
- Some of the later yokes (most notably Captain Picard’s) dipped lower onto the sleeves than they had previously.
- Captain Picard’s yokes loosened over the course of the season, with the extra fullness being filled out with additional padding. (His jumpsuits also loosened in general.)
- The lower yoke/body seam was straighter on some cast members’ and more steeply curved on others.
- The hidden zipper closures were somewhat unsightly at first but gradually improved over the first handful of episodes as the costuming department refined the process.
- The asymmetrical front waist seam was lowered and the apex shifted outward on Captain Picard’s, Commander Riker’s, and Dr. Crusher’s second batch of uniforms.
- The asymmetrical back waist seam angles varied among the cast.
- The lower diagonal and center front seams were more fitted on the women’s jumpsuits than the men’s.
- The height of the lower pant leg slits varied, as did the quality of the corresponding trim installation.
- The elastic stirrups were fastened to the bottom of the pant legs in different ways.
- Captain Picard’s and Commander Riker’s armscyes (“armholes”) were tightened on their second round of uniforms. Geordi’s may have been as well.
- Tasha’s sleeves tended to be baggier and more ill-fitting than other cast members’.
- Data’s sleeves were usually looser around the wrist than others.
- The specific sleeve/pant leg hem allowances varied.
Overall Captain Picard’s uniforms underwent the most changes, followed by Commander Riker’s. With the exception of Picard’s uniforms gradually loosening, they shared most of the same design revisions (necklines, armscyes, waist seams, etc.).
There were a few other curious uniform variants during season one which I haven’t mentioned yet, but we’ll take a look at those (amidst many other strange outliers) in part four of this analysis.
William Ware Theiss won an Emmy for Outstanding Achievement in Costuming for a Series, although this was specifically for his work on the episode, “The Big Goodbye” (which primarily featured costumes set in the holodeck world of Dixon Hill, rather than the 24th century).
Despite this recognition for his work – and after having thoroughly established an initial aesthetic for the TNG-era uniforms that would continue to resonate throughout not only the remainder of the show, but its subsequent spinoffs – Theiss didn’t return for season two of The Next Generation.
Most of his TNG uniform designs would continue to be used in some capacity for years to come, and adapted by his successors … the first of whom would be Durinda Rice Wood.