Star Trek Dress!

Woo!  Star Trek was amazing!!!  And… I’m going to leave it at that, because if I start saying more I’m going to start giving away spoilers.

I will say, though, that Benedict Cumberbatch is welcome to come read anything to me, at any time.  Damn.  Can’t wait for the next season of Sherlock to come out (in January…).  So yummy.  He rivals Alan Rickman for voice (and looks), and that’s not something I ever really thought I’d say.  Wow.

Anyway, on to the dress!

You know, they look really simple from afar.  Some kind of stretchy textured fabric, a simple flared short dress, with a little bit of trickiness with the exposed seam bindings in the raglan sleeve cut.  That simplicity is DECEIT.  Deceit in two ways.  (Sources:  An awesome set of posts that LJ user LaughingMagpies put together in 2009 that did very detailed analysis of fabric and design of the Star Trek uniforms of the new movie.)

1.  The fabric is actually not textured, but a dyed design on what is most likely jumbo spandex (2 way stretch, 90% nylon, 10% spandex, 10 oz).  The design is a bunch of tiny Star Trek swoops, with a two-tone background.  The jumbo spandex part isn’t that hard (though must be ordered online if you’re not in the few select places like NYC which have spandex stores) but the design requires custom screen printing.  I debated whether to get this done, but it would have cost at least $50 (though I haven’t called the four local screen printing shops to find out…) and I didn’t want this outfit to get that expensive, even if it would be neat.  Instead, I picked a blue I liked in the correct fabric (I ordered swatches from a couple companies to choose from), and then just made the pattern and everything else super correct and the dress is close enough to accurate for me!

2.  This sucker has TWENTY-NINE PIECES.  That’s right, you read that correctly.  29.  The exposed seam bindings on front and back at raglan sleeve edges add 8 pieces (two per seam).  The bottom half of the dress actually has six neat swoopy seams in the front and back, which means the bottom half is 14 pieces.  Then there’s the neck binding and two sleeve bindings, and the sleeves and the top half of the dress (another four pieces).  8 + 14 + 3 + 4 = 29 pieces.  I made a muslin out of some thin dark red knit fabric I have sitting around, and it’s a neat dress, but also somewhat intricate.  Jeez.  And then there’s all the decorative top-stitching over all the bottom seams, etc…

Oh, and then you have to make the sleeveless undershirt/dress (which is most likely a cotton/lycra blend, says others on the internet).  I also whipped up some leggings, too, because those dresses are short.  So, yeah.  Complicated.  But I have a Star Trek dress, which makes me kind of gleeful for all sorts of reasons.

This first image (above) is not mine – I found it while doing the above research.  But you can see how many pieces there are – a LOT.  If I had done it correctly, the finished garment would have 29 pieces.  I had to add a panel, so mine actually has 33 (it cut another panel in two, and added two other panels in order to make the new seams look like they belonged there).  I’ll get to that in a minute.

Because of the very precise nature of the pieces and seams in this dress, there was little room for error.  I made a test dress out of a thin knit fabric I owned, which helped some, but when I switched to the jumbo spandex, which is a lot heavier, the fit was still wrong (hence the extra panel).  Jumbo spandex is the same material they use in the movies.  I just bought a royal blue piece, as I didn’t have the time to do a custom dye and screen printing job, though I was tempted.  If I had a couple more months I might have looked into it.  Part of me is sad that it isn’t the right color and pattern, because it just doesn’t look quite the same.  It’s pretty close, though.

Alright!  So, above you can see my pattern pieces that I made.  I had cut out the entire shape of the dress, then cut that piece into the individual panels, and then retraced those panels with seam allowances added in and cut those out into the pieces you see above.  The leftmost piece is the extra panel I added into the back of the dress, which I then extended the seams going upwards towards the armpits so that it wouldn’t look out of place (this will make more sense when you see the picture of the dress below).  The raglan sleeves (sleeves with the diagonal connection across the upper torso from neck to armpit) were hard – never done those before.  They also have to be very precise, or else the dress won’t hit correctly under the bust.  I had to redo the sleeves three times before I finally liked how they turned out, and even then I had to put more of a dart into the top of the shoulder than I wanted to.  Also, I completely spaced on under-bust darts, and they aren’t in my dress.  The material stretches, so I don’t really see this as a problem.

Front of the dress!  As you can see, the raglan sleeve connections have the funky added seams to them.  This is created by having extra pieces sewn to the right side of the pieces, then flipping them up and around and sewing them together to make the seam, leaving the extra seam-binding exposed.  Jumbo spandex is shiny on one side, and the exposed seam binding is just the wrong side of the fabric – you can see that the inside of the dress is also shiny.  The neck and arm holes are also bound in a similar fashion, but with only one piece per binding.  I learned how to do a proper V-neck binding when making this dress (scroll down to Drawing 5).  The neck binding wasn’t hard – I used my regular technique when binding knits of making the binding be about 3/4 of the length of the opening so that it tightens and doesn’t bubble up.  But the sleeve bindings were really tricky, because they aren’t tight to the arm if you look at pictures from the movie.  I ended up doing the binding three times before I was happy with it, and essentially the binding was almost exactly the size of the arm opening – about an inch tighter on a 14 inch circumference.

Back of the dress!  You can see the extra panel I added into the middle of the bottom half.  Because the jumbo spandex was so much heavier than the other knit I had used for my test dress, it was unusable before putting in this panel – waaaaay too tight.  At this point I did not have enough fabric left to re-cut new center panels that were wider, which is what I would’ve done if I had the fabric.  I did order more fabric than I needed to, but I used it up already because I actually had to cut out the entire dress twice – I cut it out the first time with the stretch going in the wrong direction, and it mattered.  Now I know how to cut these out in the future.  Without enough fabric to re-cut panels, I either had to pay another $24 to get another yard of fabric ($12 shipping… overpriced *angry mutters*) and risk not being able to finish the dress on time, or improvise.  In order to make it look like it belonged, I cut the center panel in half and added another panel in the middle, curving the seam up near the top to fit the look.  Then I continued those seams on the top half of the dress up to the armpit.  I think it looks quite nice, and I highly doubt anyone who wasn’t a costume designer would see the difference at all.  Adding the extra panel made this dress just big enough to fit.  I wish I could’ve put a couple more inches in it even from this, but the fit isn’t bad now.  (And this is yet another incentive to keep my current figure, because I don’t want to grow out of this dress!)

Oh, and all of the seams that are bound with the shiny fabric have two decorative lines of stitching on either side of them.  Gah.  I tried to use a twin needle, but it was bunching up the fabric really badly, so I ended up just doing a straight stitch on them.  On the more up-and-down seams it doesn’t matter at all, because the stretch is horizontal, but I’ve already have had a couple of them break where the seams curve to be horizontal as I’ve been pulling the dress on and off.  Oh well.  That’s pretty easy to fix, if I want to get anal and go back and tack it down.

Voila!  Dress!  The pin is an all-metal pin that I bought online – it’s really nice.  It’s the pin for science and medical.  Oh, and I went with blue for science and medical because I felt that was a lot closer to what I am as a biomedical engineering researcher than I am to a Starfleet engineer, which seems to be more electrical/mechanical engineering (based mostly on Scotty… could be broader and I don’t know it because I haven’t seen enough of the original show yet).  Also, it doesn’t have the ‘red shirts’ connotation, haha.  And while I don’t like either red or blue much, I like royal blue better than fire-engine red.  But I mostly went with it because I view myself mostly in science/medical professionally.  Though, really, I wouldn’t be a member of Starfleet if we were in Star Trek times – I can’t imagine myself going on five year missions away from my home planet.  I’m too much of a hobbit for that.

I also made the black knit shift dress and the black leggings.  This dress is so short I can’t sit down without most of my butt touching the chair – no way was I wearing that without leggings.  I have no idea how this is a uniform (yeah, yeah, sex appeal of television…).  The 2009 movie uniforms technically have a charcoal grey undershirt/dress in cotton lycra, but I couldn’t find it.  I found heather grey and black, and several friends agreed with me that black would be a better fit.

And because one of my favorite bloggers, Cation Designs, uses this summary, I’m going to steal it from her.


Pattern: Made it myself, based on sketches online.

Fabric: In the final dress, about 1.5 yards of royal blue jumbo spandex, two yards to black cotton lycra (very thin bolt), and 1.5 yards of black thin knit (leggings).

Notions: 2 spools of thread (probably only needed one, but I bought two to use with the twin needle that I ended up ditching).

Hours: Guh… a lot.  At least 30.

Will you make it again?  There is a tiny part of peeping that it could be more accurate, and I could do a custom dye job and learn how to screen print and then re-make it with really accurate fabric and then also adjust the fit so that it would be exact and perfect… but in all likelihood, I will probably not make another one of these.  Maybe if my body changes a ton after pregnancy someday and I really want another dress that really fits, I’ll do it.  But probably not.  This one is pretty awesome, and I don’t think I need more than one Starfleet uniform.

How accurate is it?  A hell of a lot more accurate than anything you can buy online.  With the exception of the extra panel in the back, it’s as close to accurate in the stitching as I can make it without examining a real outfit from the movie up close.  The fabric choices are off in color, but correct in material type, so agian it’s as accurate I can make it without spending a lot more time and money on it.

Total cost:  Thread was $5, black knit was about $20, the jumbo spandex was about $50, and the thin black knit for the leggings I bought a long time ago but was probably $5 or so.  About $80, all told.

Final thoughts:  This dress was more expensive and harder to make than I had any idea it would be when I started on the path to making it, but I’m pretty happy with it.  People who’ve seen it in person seem to like it.  I’m happy to have a really nerdy dress that I can wear to conventions (assuming I make it to one one of these years they don’t overlap with a beloved SCA event) and movies and just to be super nerdy.

Wow, this post got longer than I thought it would.  But this dress was the hardest thing I’ve ever sewn, so I suppose that makes sense.  Hope you enjoyed it!


Author: Wynter

I'm a scientist from Ann Arbor, MI! Leatherworker. Sewist. Exuberant gardener. Board game addict. SCAdian. Huge nerd. :)

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