The Costuming Origins of Bernadette Croft
In this article, Bernadette Croft — the costume designer for Star Trek: Strange New Worlds — looks back on the first season of the show, a subject I’ve interviewed her about before, at roughly the start of Season 1. This article serves as more of a short overview of her work on the first season, from the perspective of its conclusion. We also discuss her earliest experiences related to Star Trek and the origins of her career in costume design.
What sort of education have you had in costume design, in general?
I have my BA in Design for Theatre and Television. I went to a rural university called Charles Sturt University in Wagga Wagga, Australia. It was a great foundation but I feel like the best experience is in the field. I used to do as much work experience as I could on different TV shows and films. I’ve been working in TV and film for about eighteen years. It’s a hard industry to break into but once you get that first paying gig, it gets a lot easier.
What are your earliest memories of Star Trek?
To be honest, I’m a new fan and I didn’t watch Star Trek growing up. My mom watched The Original Series, so when I got this job, she was extremely happy, but I kind of was introduced to Star Trek when I worked on Discovery with Gersha Phillips, who’s the costume designer. She kind of opened up the world to me and from then on, I was hooked.
I know there’s like over 800 hours of Star Trek, so I definitely haven’t watched that much and am still, like, going through everything, but I definitely was inspired by The Original Series. Currently, my favourite is obviously Strange New Worlds, but also Lower Decks.
Oh, cool! How did you get hired onto (a) Discovery and (b) Strange New Worlds?
I was working as an Assistant Costume Designer for Meredith Markworth-Pollack on a show called Reign, which was about Mary Queen of Scots in the 16th century. After that wrapped, I headed over to assist Gersha Phillips on Discovery, which is based in the 23rd century. It was quite the genre shift! I was Gersha’s ACD for several episodes in Season 1 and co-designed some episodes in Season 3. I was then given this amazing opportunity to work on Strange New Worlds — this beautiful world-building show.
What are some of your favourite costumes in the first season of Strange New Worlds?
There’s so many. I actually really loved the Deleb in episode 2, which were these desert-dwelling aliens. We did a lot of textile manipulation to their costumes. So, Anna Pantcheva, who’s our key textile artist, and her team kind of treated the fabrics with a few different processes. There was bleach dying, there was ice dying. She did embroidery, covered things with silicon, hand-beaded things, made little tokens and little charms, and just things that were very organic and otherworldly. Because we could really world-build with those aliens and they’ve never been seen in Star Trek before, it was a real kind of honour to do something for canon. So, you never know, maybe they’ll come back; we don’t know. But it was really cool to see those.
I feel like the fantasy episode in Season 1, “The Elysian Kingdom”, was definitely a highlight as well. It was a highlight for the whole crew. We were giddy with excitement. It was just such a fun premise to have a fantasy story in space. I told the story through the eyes of Rukiya, who is M’Benga’s daughter, and really tapped into the kind of vibrancy of a child’s imagination. It was really fun to imagine the most fantastic versions of these characters that I could possibly think of. And luckily, Amanda Row, our director, and our writers, Onitra Johnson and Akela Cooper, were really on board with being fantastical. So, it was a really fun process. It was a lot of work for the team, but I think seeing that episode was just such a highlight, so I’d say those costumes are a highlight too.
Do you have a particular costume from “The Elysian Kingdom” which you’d cite as your favourite of them all?
We 3D-printed and chromed the flowers around the neckline and waist. The sequinned fabric was ombre, painted by our key textile artist, Anna Pantcheva. The skirt was seven feet across and all that fabric and the crinoline was quite heavy.
Chrissy is an ex-dancer, so she carried the gown like a pro. We had a special change tent on set because her gown was too big for her trailer and she would get stuck going through doors. She would also unintentionally gather sticks, leaves and debris in her skirts from set. I also loved how breathless and whimsical Chrissy played the princess, completely opposite to her usual military, no-fuss security officer, La’an. We gave Chrissy her costume illustration and she wrote to our team, thanking us for fulfilling her inner child’s dream.
Sweet! Can we talk a bit about Admiral Pike’s uniform in the Season 1 finale?
Sure. For that particular uniform, it was The Wrath of Khan that we looked at, the monster maroon. We got sent a jacket from the archives, so we could really see how it was constructed, what the fabrics were. So, that was really cool to see in the flesh, and then, because we are a reimagining, we kind of did our version of it.
We used our uniform fabric, which is more tech. It’s like a Polytechnic with a micro-fleece backing. We put some silicon 3D printing over it, for the arms and the tops of the shoulder, kind of like our Starfleet uniforms. But yeah, it was really nice to pay respect and give homage to such a classic uniform from one of the films that was made famous by William Shatner.
What about the Romulans in the first season finale, inspired by The Original Series episode “Balance of Terror”?
For the Romulans, the triangle motif was an important feature. We made our own textile by fusing metallic and velvet triangles to the fabric. We also wanted the silhouette to be a bit sharper and to show a ranking system amongst the crew.
We learned that — back in the ’60s, when “Balance of Terror” was made — they didn’t have the budget to have all the performers in prosthetic ears, which is why Bill Theiss had to make all of those helmets to cover the actor’s ears. Fortunately, we now have the budget, so our helmets were able to see the prosthetic ears in all their glory!
Was there any consideration to creating wardrobe for the Gorn and styling that or those after the outfit which the Gorn captain is wearing in The Original Series episode “Arena”?
Ha! That was such a classic little mini dress.
The team at Legacy [Effects] were responsible for the incredible Gorn creature on Strange New Worlds, so there were no costume requirements for our department.
Editor of WarpFactorTrek, Dan is an avid Star Trek fan who lives in Aberdeen, Scotland. Dan has loved Star Trek ever since discovering it in his childhood. He worked as an administrator, for six years, on the encyclopedic Star Trek website Memory Alpha, which involved studying the making of the various series and films. He has been mentioned in the official Star Trek Magazine, has qualified from a Star Trek course taught at Glasgow Clyde College, and coordinates the SubSpace Chatter (formerly The Scotch Trekker) YouTube channel, which regularly features live interviews with the cast and crew of Star Trek.