Tailoring to Starfleet 1701st’s Steve Thomas

For this blog, I’d thought I’d direct some focus on the costuming aspects of Star Trek and Starship Farragut.  Much of what Farragut Films does with respect to producing the online series, Starship Farragut could be considered a “period piece.”  Just as American Revolutionary War reactors take pride and attention to detail with their military uniforms, so do we with the Starfleet uniforms of 1960’s TREK.  We’re talking about a TV show that is over 40 years old and we’re going for accuracy of the same patterns, fabrics, and colors of the 3rd season of Star Trek.  No detail is overlooked – whether having the fabric professionally dyed to match uniform swatches dating back to the original series, having the exact pattern of the rank braid embroidered, or having each costume tailored fit for each actor and background actor – every painstaking detail is applied to making this production as accurate to the exact look and feel of CLASSIC TREK.  After all, we pride ourselves on making, “CLASSIC TREK NOW.

We strive for authenticity with our Starship Farragut productions for a couple of reasons.  One, we’re fans ourselves, which means that we’re meticulous about details of Star Trek just as other fans are.  It is out of great respect and homage to the show itself.  Second, we know that if we don’t make every effort to go for the same look and feel – regardless of costumes, but including the sets, props, ships, etc. used, we will get pinged on this by the fan community.  Despite not having a Hollywood budget, we are committed to doing all we can realistically do make quality new episodes of Star Trek.  However, after almost five years now, I tend to think of ourselves as our own identity.  Gene Roddenberry often described Star Trek as “Wagon Train to the Stars” – I think we’re more like “Space Gunsmoke!

Anyway, I digress – getting back to the topic of costumes; I thought I’d interview someone who has been key to me in terms of providing support to me on the costuming front.  I should quickly point out that there are several other people have been instrumental on this front, including James Cawley, the Executive Producer of Star Trek New Voyages/Phase II, Tony Lawrence of the Star Trek Uniform Guide – an online resource that I became acquainted with years ago, Kathy Pillsbury who supplied me with my first few Star Trek costumes in the late 1990’s prior to me learning how to sew and make them myself, and lastly – the private collectors of original Star Trek costumes that allowed me to document/picture their collectibles for reference.  In time, I hope to also interview these folks for a future blog post.

Steve Thomas runs the Starfleet 1701st forum, dedicated to Star Trek fans desiring accurate replicas of Star Trek uniforms.  This website covers the entire gamut of Star Trek – from the uniforms in the initial two pilots, the original series of Star Trek, the movies, and other TV spin-offs, his forum provides a clearinghouse of information of folks exchanging information to assist each other.

Its good to speak to someone who appreciates the costumes of Star Trek.  You’ve truly taken an active stance managing the Star Trek 1701st forum with countless hours researching information and providing to the public.  Why do you think you’re enamored by the uniforms of Star Trek?

And thank you for your interest! First though,  I must correct you in that; the forum is an aspect of the “club” “Starfleet 1701st”. Inspired by the Star Wars club “501st Legion”, the Starfleet 1701st is helping members and fans make accurate recreations of the Starfleet uniforms, for gatherings, clubs and events! I believe our board is the first dedicated solely to Star Trek “Starfleet” uniforms!

As to the uniforms, I wouldn’t say “enamored” but appreciative of the work and thought that went into (most of) them. When I joined “Starfleet International” which was prior to the release of TWOK, I knew I wanted to have a uniform of some type. With that club, chapters are “starships” and the members “crew”. Thus we usually dress for the part which means “uniforms”. When the TWOK uniforms were revealed, at first I recoiled because they were so radical to the TOS design, even the TMP design. After seeing the movie, I decided I liked them! So was the start of my journey into Star Trek “Starfleet uniform” fandom!

I’m always fascinated by the fandom of Star Trek!  So, do you consider yourself a fan of the original series or all things TREK?

“TOS” very much so! It was the first that fired the imaginations of so many. I do appreciate the other incarnations, but I’m most fond of TOS. The other Treks, even TNG, don’t have the magic that TOS did. Of the other series, I liked “DS9” best. It showed another aspect of the Star Trek universe not seen before. “Voyager”  had an anthological aspect to it that I liked.

Do you own any original costumes?  If so, what are they?

I do not possess any as of yet. Actually re-creating the outfits has been more of interest. I’ve had opportunity to examine some of the actual outfits, but really have no desire to own one… unless if I can wear it in addition to displaying! It’s one thing to have it, another to wear it! Of course with Anovos preparing to commercially offer accurate recreations of these outfits, I will be happy with those too, but mainly, I’ve been keen on recreating the outfits as so many of us do.

I do collect mostly toys and memorabilia. I have about a $10-12K collection from over the years.

Some of Steve's Costumes (TNG-Style)

I learned that you do not sew, which surprised me.  You have a wealth of information through your forum, so I have to ask where you get your own costumes made?

No, I don’t sew but am fortunate and wise enough to find people who do and can assist. I’m like the “mission commander” of the club. I am president of the club and maintain the board, but it’s our “mission specialists” (our “Quartermasters”) who have specific sewing and/or uniform knowledge.  I have been fortunate to know a couple of folks in my area who are quite talented when it comes to these outfits.

Shoreleave 1987, Steve in Front & Center

You’ve seen episodes of Starship Farragut – what are your thoughts on our series overall and in costuming specifically?

For Farragut specifically, I like that it’s the stories of another ship of the fleet versus just the Enterprise; same for Exeter. It would be nice if all the original 12 could be represented! Your uniforms are quite well done! They fit well and it’s nice to see the Farragut insignia in addition to the familiar Enterprise. I’ve always liked that concept of each ship having its own distinctive insignia, just as each aircraft carrier has its own logo. Those field jackets were a nice touch too!

As I am a TOS fan, I really like and appreciate “Starship Farragut”, as well as Cawley’s “Star Trek Phase II”! I was sorry that “Starship Exeter” went under, though I understand “Star Trek Excalibur” is making a comeback after their misfortunes of past. With all your productions, I especially like the faithfulness that you’ve put into these productions. It’s what I call “heart”, something the Hollywood productions lack, even though they had fans working them.

And John, you must tell me who makes your unis! I can certainly send business their way if they’re amenable!

Thanks for the compliments – I’m the main costumer, but do have a couple of costume assistants that help me.  I’m not interested in taking orders – filming Starship Farragut adventures is a full-time job!

With last year’s JJ Abrams film of Star Trek – how did you like the homage to Bill Thiess’ original uniform design?

What I didn’t like was the mish-mosh of styles that didn’t really make sense (especially those butt-ugly Academy staff outfits!), though I understand Kaplan was paying homage to what went before. I hope that the ’12 movie will be more consistent concerning those uniforms.

The duty uni is not bad. Just little changes I would’ve made: using gold iron-on braid instead of silver and placing the ranking higher on the sleeve like TOS; blousing the pant leg over the top of the boot; tucking the shirt in when wearing the equipment belt.

I appreciate your time Steve; thanks for your hard efforts in providing a resource outlet for Star Trek costuming.

You’re welcome John! I’m happy to do what I can to help folks make the best-looking and most accurate Starfleet uniforms possible; getting away from “good enough”. Because so many now own the actual outfits from auction, there’s no need or excuse for “good enough” anymore.  I invite folks to look our board over and if they like what they see, to join the “Starfleet 1701st”club and help us in our on-going mission!



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