Why Star Trek: Discovery's Costumes Are So Different From The Original Series

Michael Burnham Star Trek: Discovery

Despite taking place a mere eight years before the original Star Trek series, Star Trek: Discovery has a different look and feel than the first entry in the long-running franchise. Part of that is by design, thanks to costume designer Gersha Phillips, who has shaped the looks of Discovery's crew and other species on the show since its beginning.

For Gersha Phillips, who spoke to CinemaBlend recently about her time on the show, a goal has been to find ways to honor the traditional Star Trek, while still remaining consistent with the modern times. This meant breaking from tradition, and creating a look entirely new as opposed to the classic uniforms worn by the Enterprise crew in Star Trek. Phillips explained why the design team strayed away from the classic outfits for Discovery's crew, and created a style all its own:

Nobody wanted to do what they did, and it works for that at that time obviously. And it was great then, but I think going forward something that is non-binary and inclusive is the best way to go.

The Star Trek costumes worked with the time, but showing female officers strutting around bare legged in short dresses wasn't going to fly on Star Trek: Discovery. Gersha Phillips wanted the women dressed the same way the men were, and one would presume, outfits that are more functional than they are flaunt-y.

Some may have seen Star Trek: Discovery's OG costume snub as disrespectful, but Gersha Phillips' mindset in keeping things gender neutral falls in line with Star Trek tradition. As she mentions below, the franchise has gotten increasingly progressive with each show following the original series, and put the men and women both in appropriate clothing depending on the situation.

As Star Trek progressed the look of the show was to keep it non-binary. I don't know if that was intentional by the other designers or not, but for us it definitely was, and I feel that even our approach to the mirror universe, we did a very non-binary more empowering look for females and males at the same time, which I think for me it was very important because I didn't want to do that sort of sexy girl for women and not for men. I felt like if I was going to do something, it would have to be for both. And that's sort of the way we sort of approached what we do now.

Star Trek: Discovery did the "sexy girl" look in Season 1, specifically in the bar Georgiou was hanging out in on Q'onoS. As Gersha Phillips pointed out, however, the sexy women were accompanied by men who were wearing equally as provocative attire. It's all about balance, and it's something that Phillips says will continue to be her mandate on the program going forward.

With that said, does it mean the Discovery crew's uniforms will never reflect rhoaw of the original Star Trek? Gersha Phillips won't rule it out entirely, or the fact that the Discovery crew members will always be stuck in those leather pants.

So we will be introducing tunics for men as well as the girls...We don't have the bare leg. I'm not saying we'll never do the bare leg, we may, but we haven't done it so far. We did it with a leather pant that way when we do it with a guy it will be a leather pant as well. That's always going to be sort of like our, our sort of mandate.

The bare leg dress look could be coming eventually, although Star Trek: Discovery's mandate may mean it's not necessarily happening with a woman. Hell, with Discovery's future looking like it will take place in the far-off future, perhaps pants-less is the way folks roll in the future! Whether it happens or not, one can rest assured that Gersha Phillips and the Star Trek team are working to ensure it's both necessary and equal across the field for both genders.

Star Trek: Discovery airs new episodes on CBS All Access Thursdays at 8:30 p.m. ET. Keep up with CinemaBlend as the season progresses for updates on the series, as well as updates on other shows premiering during the spring season.

Mick Joest
Content Producer

Mick Joest is a Content Producer for CinemaBlend with his hand in an eclectic mix of television goodness. Star Trek is his main jam, but he also regularly reports on happenings in the world of Star Trek, WWE, Doctor Who, 90 Day Fiancé, Quantum Leap, and Big Brother. He graduated from the University of Southern Indiana with a degree in Journalism and a minor in Radio and Television. He's great at hosting panels and appearing on podcasts if given the chance as well.