The past year has been incredible for the universe of Star Trek! We’ve seen so many great costumes come out of shows such as Star Trek: New Worlds, Star Trek: Discovery, and of course, Star Trek: Picard. We were excited to learn that costume designer Christine Bieselin Clark was nominated for a 2022 Emmy® for the costume design of Star Trek: Picard in the Outstanding Fantasy/Sci-Fi Costumes category! I spoke to Christine about the nomination, collaborating with Sir Patrick Stewart, and being a part of the Star Trek legacy.
Elizabeth Joy Glass: Congratulations to you, Christine, and your team on the Emmy® nomination! How does it feel, and what does this nomination mean to you?
Christine Bieselin Clark: Thank you so much! It was a wonderful surprise really, unexpected and so thoroughly appreciated. This was a particularly challenging show with a really high bar for the visuals, so it’s very, very special to be recognized by my peers.
Elizabeth: For season two, you redesigned the Starfleet Uniforms. What prompted you to make this decision, and what were you trying to convey with this new uniform?
Christine: Our Starfleet Uniforms of season one were admittedly created in a bit of haste and, though they are perfectly lovely designs, me and our producers felt we could deliver something more grand for season two. With Starfleet playing a much more featured role in season two, I wanted to pick up where we left off but create a sleeker, more sophisticated design for 2400.
Christine: The new uniforms use the same materials, division colors, and delta print in dimensional ink as our season one designs, but the asymmetrical silhouette is most definitely a nod to the designs from Wrath of Khan and the delicate piping details, so meticulously sewn, are a really beautiful detail. We also added cadet uniforms this season, and I particularly love the shape we created for the yoke, which gives a little “pocket” for the combadge to live.
Elizabeth: What was the collaborative process like between you, Sir Patrick Stewart, and the other very-talented cast members?
Christine: Our cast has always been a source of light for me – they are all truly generous collaborators who graciously gave me a welcomed voice in the visual narrative. I’m very grateful for their constant support and appreciation for my design perspective.
There was a day, early in filming the season, that Alison Pill was on set for the first time. Our full team of heroes, including the new Borg Queen, were beaming in on the transporter pad of La Sirena, and Alison was seeing everything for the first time. She was just shining her light on me, and the whole cast took a moment to appreciate and acknowledge the costumes. It was lovely.
Elizabeth: For the Borg Queen, I heard that you got to collaborate with creature designer Neville Page and makeup artist James MacKinnon. How did this collaboration work with having to create such a complex design?
Christine: The design and build of a creature costume must be collaborative to be successful. From concept art through fittings, prosthetic testing, camera tests and on to the first day of filming, it is a carefully choreographed dance. I simply had the BEST dance partners in Neville Page (Lead Creature Designer), Dorothy Bulac-Eriksen (Key Specialty Costumer), Vincent Van Dyke (Prosthetic Designer), Imario Susilo (Costume Concept Artist) and James MacKinnon (Makeup Department Head). Neville and I go way back to our work on TRON: Legacy and getting to collaborate again in season one was like putting the band back together.
Tackling the Borg Queen in season two was like going back to school with your besties after a great summer. Neville and I started our process sharing our conceptual point of view, loads of reference images and samples for texture, color, etc. We are like two parallel adventurers that eventually meet up and join forces once our design paths are more fully formed. So much of my design is following the example of the intricate details in the creature design – and like any great partnership, communication is key. In the end, the overall look is hugely successful and there’s a small army of talent behind that success.
Elizabeth: One of the most exciting parts of this season was the return of Q! What was your process for redesigning such a beloved and iconic character?
Christine: Whenever I’ve been given the opportunity to design for a returning legacy character, I take that responsibility quite seriously. As a costume designer, you want to have connectivity to the visuals and iconic imagery that the fan base is familiar with and be respectful of the costume designers that created those looks. There is also the need to contemporize the design to meet the audience’s aesthetic appetite, which has changed in the decades since we last saw Q.
My first meeting with John de Lancie was simply to try on shapes that would
inform the right silhouette for Q. This was a much more dramatic and serious arc for Q on Star Trek: Picard and my design needed to reflect that. We chose
midnight blue for the color palette – to lean into the darker tone of the narrative
while still retaining some optimism in color. The silhouette is elegant and operatic, impeccably tailored by Michael Sloan who worked with me in creating all of Q and Picard’s costumes this season. I also wanted to create a motif for him that had line language inspired by the gorgeous jewels Q wore in TNG – Concept Artist Imario Susilo helped me articulate artwork that was used in the motifs on the back of his coat and also in the custom jewelry pieces we 3D printed for him.
Elizabeth: Whoopi Goldberg also returned to the Star Trek universe in season 2, reprising the role of Guinan in multiple episodes. She wore a great red costume with a matching hat that was very striking. What was it like working on the costume for this returning character?
Christine: Working with Whoopi was a kick! She’s just a powerhouse of a lady and I was over the moon at the chance to continue Guinan’s sartorial storyline, both in 2024 and 2400. My point of view was the same as it was with Q, to respect and continue the visuals from past, but contemporize them. I had an early Zoom chat with Whoopi who was on the East Coast and showed her some artwork of different design directions. She loved the direction and the choices of color to connect with Guinan’s TNG palette. We talked about details, hats, fabrics and she was so complimentary it made me giddy!
Our amazing Textile Artist Tÿra Youland, hand dyed every piece of fabric and we used a devoré (burn out) technique with custom designed art deco graphics. We had our first fitting with Whoopi at the hotel the night before she filmed – myself, my phenomenal Assistant Costume Designer Alison Agler, Dorothy Bulac-Eriksen (Key Specialty Costumer) and Sharon McGunigle (Cutter/Fitter) were like a traveling circus setting up, then running back to get everything ready for the next day. We had a check fitting with Whoopi in the morning and then went right to camera!
Elizabeth: Watching this show, I noticed you have a strong connection with fabrics and textiles. How important were your fabric and textile choices to the costumes and the overall story?
Christine: A beautiful design on paper can take a devastating turn for the worse in construction if the fabric choices aren’t working. It’s an intricate process of
acquiring samples of fabrics that could work aesthetically, then consulting with
your costume makers on how each fabric can lend itself to or hinder the design
results, then making sure you can get enough of it when the supply chains are
broken! Thankfully, I had the extremely knowledgeable and ever persistent Allison Agler (Assistant Costume Designer) working alongside me to cull the most perfect specimens for each design. I have a great love for textiles, but they often are missing one attribute, so I’m very big on manipulating, enhancing, dying, fusing, layering and transforming the fabrics I choose to achieve each design.
Elizabeth: Seven of Nine is another beloved and iconic Star Trek character they brought back for Picard. What has your approach been when updating her wardrobe?
Christine: Jeri Ryan is Star Trek royalty and Seven is such a beloved character, I knew I had my work cut out for me, but I was ready for the challenge! It was important to me that we updated Seven’s look in season one to meet her where she was: a Fenris Ranger—the Robinhood’s of the galaxy if you will. Her costume had to be physically adept, battle worn and still have a nod of the silhouette from Voyager, but I distinctly wanted a point of view that celebrated Seven’s physical attributes in her strength and agility – which we then further updated in season two. Every garment has a little backstory in aging and breakdown – alien scratch marks, blood spatter, the marks in her boots – it was a labor of love to create looks for such an iconic character.
Elizabeth: We love a good red dress at The Art of Costume! Jurati (played by Alison Pill) wears a beautiful red dress with so many layers to it. Tell us about this look?
Christine: I knew the dress had a storyline of its own and had to hit a lot of beats through many episodes. To begin, it needed impact, drama, style and WOW factor – which clearly meant it must be red! It is charming and quirky, as we would expect from Agnes Jurati, with classic lines and little bit of Audrey Hepburn charm, but it also has a super dramatic neckline that was stunning on Alison.
We used a combination of silk fabrics to layer for movement – one of the layers in her skirting has a custom printed foil design we created in house to lean into the style lines of the Borg Queen costume she would eventually wear after shedding the red dress. At the beginning, when she is singing on stage, that’s just a twinkle of a layer in a beautiful dress, but as she comes undone, slowly assimilating, the dress takes a beating, losing layers and revealing that graphic geometric foil print. It’s a fan favorite!
Elizabeth: Star Trek: Picard is a show in a long, incredible legacy that is the Star Trek universe. How does it feel to be a part of that legacy, and do you feel that weight when designing these costumes?
Christine: To be given the opportunity to plant your feet in the history of a franchise that has opened minds and hearts for generations – that’s a gift that I will cherish for a lifetime.