There were three different costume designers over the course of The Next Generation, the first of whom – and designer of the TNG skant – was William Ware Theiss.
Theiss had been the costume designer on Star Trek: The Original Series and the aborted Star Trek: Phase II.
Fast-forward twenty years or so …
If you’re interested in the Starfleet uniform timeline over “The Lost Era” (from the TOS movie-era uniforms to those Theiss designed for TNG), check out this blog post and its corresponding video:
And of more direct relevance, see this post (and its corresponding video) on the topic of the TNG-era uniform paradigm – why I believe TNG’s uniforms were conceived and designed the way they were:
As I mentioned in both of the aforementioned posts, William Ware Theiss’ approach to designing the TNG-era uniforms appears to have been to simply “pick up where he left off” with The Original Series and Phase II, almost entirely disregarding Robert Fletcher’s movie-era costumes.
Although obviously different uniforms, Theiss TOS-era and TNG-era “skants” shared several design motifs, and their overall similarities are easily observable:
Another subtle design motif from The Original Series was the V-shaped tunic necklines, which Theiss definitely seems to have favored by season three.
His TNG-era uniforms would have similarly V-shaped necklines, albeit without the collar.
And as I mentioned in the aforementioned “TNG-era Uniform Paradigm,” the unisex TNG skants seem to have been an attempt to better portray gender equality in the future.
Rather than male Starfleet crew wearing full-body uniforms (tunic + trousers) and ladies wearing mini-dresses, it was apparently decided that both genders should have the same uniforms and variants.
This may be part of why the TNG skants are fondly remembered (and even celebrated) by many today – perhaps not necessarily as much for their specific design aesthetic, as their ideology and “statement.”
Theiss may have already been moving toward a more unisex uniform paradigm with the aborted Star Trek: Phase II, prior to the movies and long before The Next Generation.
It appears that in the abandoned Phase II, women would’ve finally been permitted to wear pants with their Starfleet uniforms, as evidenced by the uniform trousers below (presumably for wear by Janice Rand):
While not a literal inspiration for the unisex TNG skants, I believe this was perhaps a notable shift in the psychology of Theiss’ Starfleet uniform paradigm.
Ladies were no longer limited to “skants,” dresses, and mini-skirts, but they could dress in uniforms more analogous to those the men wore.
Although we may be reading a lot into the abandoned Phase II uniforms, we do know for sure that the uniforms Robert Fletcher designed for The Motion Picture and subsequent three movies were essentially unisex.
The Next Generation took things a step further by demonstrating that in the future, not only was it acceptable for women to wear the same uniforms the men wore, but that men could wear the same ones that the women wore!
As a side note, a unisex mini-dress may seem like an unnatural development following the woven, structured, and tailored TWOK-era uniforms.
However, we should bear in mind just how much, and how fast, mainstream fashion can change; just look at the past few decades … we really have no idea what will be fashionable centuries from now!
In Star Trek Costumes: Five Decades of Fashion from the Final Frontier, Theiss is quoted saying, “… It’s also fashionably probable that four hundred years from now men would wear skants.”
(This quotation was, itself, from “Bill Theiss: The Lost Interview.”)
Of course, his prediction was rather far-fetched … in that he thought it would take four hundred years, rather than forty. 🙂
Here are some TNG skant costume sketches by William Ware Theiss, which are even more bizarre than the uniforms that actually wound up being used for the show:
Observe the contrasting yoke panel colors (instead of all black), as well as the asymmetrical front paneling generally analogous to that on the corresponding TNG jumpsuits.
Also note the long sleeves, although we can only speculate as to why the lady’s uniform on the left has long black sleeves while the gentleman’s on the right has (presumably) division-colored sleeves. (Considering these elements and the different colors of decorative trim, I believe Theiss was simply experimenting at this point.)
FYI, these sketches are from The Continuing Mission (Star Trek: The Next Generation), which is a very interesting book chronicling the production of TNG. If you’re interested in an engrossing, detailed narrative on the making of the show (with hundreds of accompanying concept sketches and photos), then I’d highly recommend it! 🙂
The TNG skant’s most notable appearance was by Counselor Troi, who wore this uniform style during The Next Generation’s pilot.
She also wore the TNG skant during the “past” sequences of the series finale, which took place during and immediately prior to the events of the pilot.
The only other instance of a main character wearing the TNG skant was by Tasha Yar, for the final (interior) shot of the pilot episode.
The TNG skants were consistently worn by many women throughout The Next Generation’s first season – nearly every episode, albeit mostly by extras/background performers.
Male crew wearing the TNG skant were more common earlier in the season.
There were quite a few male extras rocking the TNG skant in the pilot, the first of whom was seen in literally the second (interior) shot of the show – immediately after the introductory shot of Captain Picard.
(For whatever it’s worth, I’m pretty sure that was the same extra walking by in the upper two examples.)
After the pilot, though, men were seldom seen wearing the TNG skants.
Several episodes later, this male crew member was prominently (albeit briefly) seen wearing the skant.
A few episodes after that, this guy was chilling by the door during Deanna’s pre-wedding reception, apparently ready to bolt the moment things got uncomfortable – and who can blame him?
And a few episodes later, we again saw a familiar male crew member rocking the TNG uniform skant, but it appears to just have been recycled footage from a previous episode …
Obviously, the whole “unisex skant” idea was immediately toned down after the pilot and fizzled out pretty quickly after that …
To the best of my knowledge, the only other appearance of a male crew member wearing the TNG skant was this fellow’s brief appearance in the season’s penultimate episode.
Durinda Rice Wood took over as costume designer for The Next Generation’s second season, and the TNG skant appearances were further reduced to infrequent, “blink and you’ll miss them” moments in the background.
And incidentally – either by Wood’s decision, the producers’, or both – the skants were always worn with pants that season.
We first saw her take on the “skant” uniform styles on this extra, early in the season premiere:
I’d previously believed that with the exception of the series finale, that was the final appearance of the TNG skants in the show.
It turns out the TNG skants did make a few more scattered appearances throughout season two – always worn with pants – and I’d again like to thank Jörg Hillebrand for bringing these to my attention. 🙂
A few episodes into the season, this lady was hanging out in Ten Forward while wearing the skant.
A couple episodes after that, this extra wore the skant for multiple bridge scenes.
And nearly a dozen episodes after that, a couple skant-wearing extras walked by in the background.
As best as I could determine, those were the only appearances of the TNG skant in season two.
Read my in-universe theory as to why the TNG skants disappeared here: