Crafting the Wardrobe of Strange New Worlds: An Interview with Costume Designer Bernadette Croft

 Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, a show that takes place on the Enterprise before Captain Kirk took the ship’s helm in The Original Series, had to strike a difficult balance between honoring the look of TOS while also make the show appear fresh and “modern” to our contemporary eyes.

Part of that effort includes the costumes that Captain Christopher Pike, his crew, and other Strange New Worlds characters wear. Everything from the design, to the materials used to create everyone’s wardrobe starts with the show’s costume designer, Bernadette Croft. I had the chance to interview her about her work on Strange New Worlds and how she created the specific look for characters like Pike, T’Pring, and Nurse Chapel.

Check out that conversation below, but be warned! Mild spoilers through the first six episodes of Strange New Worlds lie below!

This interview has been condensed and lightly edited for clarity.

Credit: Paramount+

One of the first things that jumped out to me, especially when watching the first few episodes of the show, was how the costumes did such a great job of blending the look and feel of the original series, but also how it was updated to look more “modern,” so to speak. What was your creative process for bringing this new-yet-familiar look to the uniforms?

We did want to pay tribute to the nostalgia of the original series, but update and modernize the silhouette construction techniques, and obviously the fabric choices have advanced a lot in the past 56 years. So yeah, I definitely am inspired by The Original Series. The costume designer was William Ware Theiss, and I’m also inspired by Gersha Phillips, who is the designer on Discovery, because Strange New Worlds is essentially in between the two shows—we’re at about 2256 and TOS is at about 2266, so there has to be a visual continuity between the three shows.

So yeah, it was a creative challenge—the uniforms that were established on Discovery were a little more formal, they had that high neck collar. And in Strange New Worlds the producers wanted to have a bit more of a casual, friendly, colorful vibe that was more reminiscent of The Original Series.


Credit: Paramount+

One uniform that  I think was especially an exciting moment for Trek fans was in episode five when we see Captain Pike wearing the green tunic similar to the one Kirk wears. How did the idea to include that look come up, and also have it be a diplomatic uniform?

Good observation, because that’s how we’re treating that—that particular tunic is more of something that Pike can wear on diplomatic meetings, or if he has to go to a planet and communicate with different leaders.

Akiva Goldsman, who’s one of our showrunners and producers, is a devout Trekkie and he requested this green wrap tunic, and we modernized the cut and made it reminiscent of our uniforms on Strange New Worlds, so it has a bit more of a structured shoulder. We also updated the fabric and we use custom painted leather as the accent details on the sleeves and the tops of the shoulders. It was just so the tunic didn’t look flat and it had dimension and visual interest under the studio lights. But yeah, we were given this honor and this treat of modernizing these iconic costume pieces from the past, and although it’s intimidating, it’s just so fun at the same time.


Credit: Bernadette Croft/Paramount+

You mentioned the fabric a couple of times. I actually interviewed Anson Mount during the Strange New Worlds junket they had earlier and one of the things he said about the costumes, in addition to giving props to you, was how in a show like Strange New Worlds you’re making clothes from scratch, so to speak—you can’t take contemporary clothes off the rack and modify them, you have to make things whole cloth, for lack of a better phrase. How did you approach selecting the raw materials for making the costumes?

Yeah, so we had a lot of help and advice from Gersha Phillips, actually, who’s the costume designer on Discovery. And we went with companies that dealt with sportswear a lot, that had like a tech kind of fit to the fabric—it’s wrinkle-free, it’s moisture-wicking, so actors don’t get too sweaty. Our particular uniform has been bonded with a microfleece to just give it a slightly bouncy look, so it just looks like these uniforms have been printed from a machine and fit the person perfectly.

And then our microprint, which is this cool feature that we’ve done, and I think fans have really picked up on it and have loved it, we have this silicone printed departmental symbol on the tops of the shoulders and the sleeves of all our Starfleet uniforms. And it’s subtle at first, just this little bit of shine that reflects in those close-up shots. But it’s just a nice element that links all of the uniforms together.


Credit: Bernadette Croft/Paramount+

On Strange New Worlds, we get to see some other characters from TOS that we haven’t seen in this sort of recent iteration of Trek shows—I’m thinking specifically of Nurse Chapel and T’Pring.  I’d love to hear how you approached taking their specific looks from The Original Series and translating it to Strange New Worlds.

 For Chapel’s uniform, we base that on the medical uniform from Discovery and combined it with the uniform from TOS. So the doctor’s smock that Bones wears, that’s what our Dr. M’Benga wears. So we used both of the different shows together, and with the use of the microprint linked it all together. But for Chapel, she’s so much more vivacious and she has so much character in our show, and the white jumpsuit, I think really reflects her energetic character.


Credit: Marni Grossman/Paramount+

It seemed almost a tie over to her casual wear. I think it was in episode 105, “Spock Amok,” when she was wearing a black and white dress at the bar. It looked like that look translated to her casual wear.

Yeah, the date look was a little bit ’60s inspired, just with the bold lines and the black and white. And even the way her hair was, we just had a little nod to the ’60s. We tend to do that from time to time, just because The Original Series was released at that time.

And then we have T’Pring, who’s another iconic character that was first played by Arlene Martell. She was a very fashion forward kind of character—she wore this incredible silver dress and had all these elaborate decorations in her. And our younger version of T’Pring played by Gia Sandhu, for the “Spock Amok” episode we worked with this incredible designer Iris van Herpen and we were able to use this really beautiful, dreamy, alien, silver, reflective dress. And for us it really reflected T’Pring’s confidence—her intelligence and her regal demeanor.


Credit: Bernadette Croft/Paramount+

In episode 106, “Lift Us Where Suffering Cannot Reach,” the people on the planet of Majalis, a civilization that is advanced but, as we find out, had a dark underside—the characters wore very ornate costumes. What was your approach to conveying what sort of civilization Majalis was through their dress?

The Majalian people lived in this utopia-like society. They were very ethereal and whimsical, and we wanted to reflect that in the way that they were dressing. So that was evident in the color palette, which was jewel tones and long flowing fabric, embellished jewelry, lots of gold. And we just wanted to have that be a stark contrast to the sinister undertones of the episode.  We worked with another incredible designer called Hassidriss for Alora’s ceremonial gown. It was this beautiful ombre gown that looked like a sunset. It was pleated, hand dyed, and it was just like so ornate and special.


Credit: Bernadette Croft/Paramount+

I know I’ve asked you about specific characters that jumped out to me when watching Strange New Worlds, but do you have any specific characters or costumes or even a detail on a costume that you just really enjoyed bringing to the screen?

For every episode, we have this incredible opportunity to create new characters, or aliens, or I get to elaborate on a uniform variant, so it’s just been such a joy and a privilege.

I would say that [the species living on the planet Persephone III] has been a very special alien that I got to design. They are desert-dwelling nomadic race, and they have this earthy organic quality, and we needed the costumes to reflect the alien’s environment. Through their adornment, the audience can notice that there were these cultural family, social, and religious status elements.

Our key textile artist Anna Pantcheva and her team used all these amazing techniques such as ice dying and rust dying, silicone-covered fabric, and they also did boiled wool sculpting. Our key effects builder Jennifer Johnson and her team pleated and sculpted those beautiful traveling hats, that were again inspired by the incredible designer Iris van Herpen. We were able to really infuse the whole team’s creative thought history in those aliens.


New episodes of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds drop on Paramount Plus on Thursdays.


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