Designing costumes for the entire cast of a highly-anticipated season of television is a daunting task. Taking on the same assignment for a series that is part of a beloved franchise with a long, rich history that spans decades, numerous television series and films is a much bigger challenge. Star Trek: Picard Costume Designer Christine Bieselin Clark was up to the challenge of dressing the cast of the Patrick Stewart led series – so much so that it led her to a well-deserved Emmy nomination for the second season of the Paramount+ series.
Bieselin Clark spoke with Awards Radar about the level of research and thought put into every thread used to dress Picard’s crew in a manner that would even impress the Q Continuum. The costumes for Season 2 include tons of nods to previous Star Trek series/films, exquisite custom designs, hand dying and painting, elaborate patterns, and custom built 3D printed costume pieces. Learn the details about how Bieselin Clark aimed for the stars with her costume designs in our conversation, below:
Awards Radar: First off, what is your relationship with the Star Trek universe? When did you become a fan? What was it about the series that drew you to it?
Christine Bieselin Clark: My Dad introduced me to Star Trek – we would watch TOS (The Original Series) reruns together in the late 1970’s. Seeing women in uniforms, at the controls, working alongside their male equals was huge deal for me as a little girl!
AR: Designing the costumes for a beloved franchise that’s had multiple iterations over the past 4 decades has to be challenging. How did you tackle it?
Christine Bieselin Clark: I came to the table with a tremendous amount of respect for the franchise and a great understanding of how important my contribution as the Costume Designer would be. At the onset, when I first was entrusted with Season One of Picard, I began a deep dive crash course in educating myself on the characters, their backstories, the history of Starfleet uniforms…. I spent as much time as I could reading and rewatching source material so my design point of view would be firmly grounded.
AR: Did you pull inspiration from an unsuspecting place? Were there any designers or fashions throughout history that inspired your approach?
Christine Bieselin Clark: I have thousands and thousands of reference images in my digital library! I pull from historical garment references, pop culture, high fashion runway looks, past films and television sources, patterns in nature, insects – it goes on and on. Depending on the look I am designing, I might start in one of those areas first, but there is an ocean of inspirational imagery out there.
AR: What kind of materials or fabrics do you use to represent the 23rd century? How does that affect the process?
Christine Bieselin Clark: Very early on, in creating my frame of world-building for Picard, I decided not to abandon anything in fabric or fasteners. Often in Science Fiction, there is a notion that zippers, and buttons no longer exist, and certain natural fibers might be extinct. This creates a sleekness in tone that I wanted to step away from in Picard. I liked the optimistic perspective that the simple engineering of a traditional zipper would still work at times, and that Jean-Luc would have regard for that.
AR: When it comes to alien wardrobes, there really isn’t a roadmap. How does that process work? Are you pulling ideas directly from the scripts? How do you research that?
Christine Bieselin Clark: When scripts or a director called for aliens in speaking roles or even as background performers, I would always work with my Assistant and our team of Costumers to gather as much reference imagery and information for that alien race so everyone would be on the same page for context. From there, we would decide how best to represent their origin story through color palette, textures, etc.
AR: What was your relationship like with the cast when designing – especially a legend like Patrick Stewart.
Christine Bieselin Clark: Patrick is simply a wonderful man. He is incredibly skilled in his craft and really pushed me to bring the best possible version of myself to work each day. SPS, as the crew called him, was so supportive of my point of view as a Costume Designer that I had to pinch myself sometimes. We both come from a theatre background and approach the collaboration of Actor and Costume Designer very similarly, in mutual respect. My fittings with Patrick, and morning chats at base camp, are some of my fondest memories from the show – he has a mischievous sparkle that is so infectious.
AR: Picard Season 2 takes place in modern times. How did she balance future designs and modern aesthetics?
Christine Bieselin Clark: Season 2 felt like three distinctly different worlds – our natural timeline of 2400, the alternative universe in that timeline, and the “near future” Los Angeles of 2024. It was such a joy to create the colors, textures, and silhouettes for each character’s arch through those worlds. So much of the narrative is about where the clothes come from (StarCorps Lockers, Tallin’s Vault, Teresa’s Clinic Donation Bins), then shaped by what each character would need to do or achieve while wearing them.
AR: When planning wardrobe, how much access do you have to creative materials such as set designs, story, and concept art to inform your selection better?
Christine Bieselin Clark: World building in Science Fiction is thankfully very collaborative. The Production Designer and Costume Designer work closely together in crafting the colors, shapes and textures of that world. Dave Blass (Production Designer) was very, very generous in sharing source material and references, and we would constantly talk about what was up next and our design ideas. My office was connected to the stage that had housed Guinan’s 10 Forward Bar – and Dave and I would often meet there to review concept artwork from our departments and share ideas.
AR: Are you restricted in your choice of color pallets to keep the series more cohesive with the rest of the Star Trek universe?
Christine Bieselin Clark: I definitely kept our Starfleet colors in line with the traditional division colors of Star Trek, though we did mute those colors slightly to keep them in a more dramatic tone.
AR: This season saw some time travel and multiverse hopping. From a design perspective, is it more fun to work on the distant future, the not-so-distant future, or a distant totalitarian future? Which is more challenging?
Christine Bieselin Clark: Designing the costumes for our alt timeline, which we called “Wake Up World” was a compelling and exciting challenge. There is a long history of current events commentary in the world of Star Trek, and I think that continues in our alt timeline episode. My goal was to create a sinister look for those in power – using a rich palette of greys and blacks to strip the optimism away. Our showrunner, Akiva Goldsman, called it “high fascist style” and I think that is a great description of the look for that world.
AR: Which character was the easiest to design a wardrobe for? Which was the hardest? Any favorite character to design for?
Christine Bieselin Clark: The most complex costume to design was by far the Borg Queen. Our Creature Designer, Neville Page, had such a gorgeous take on the updated design and we really had to marry our aesthetics to support the design of the creature. So many of his design lines informed my choices in textures and patterns while pulling from our season one Borg color palette and the BQ of First Contact. I worked closely with our Key Specialty Costumer, Dorothy Bulac-Erikson, our Concept Artist, Imario Susilo, and our Key Textile Artist, Ivory Stanton. We developed each layer of fabric printing in her base suit and carefully articulated pieces through her corset and the 3D printed spine and port details. It truly was our love letter to Star Trek and what was achieved should not have been possible in the timeline!
AR: Easter Eggs are everywhere nowadays in every facet of production it seems. Were you able to add any Easter eggs? Any favorites?
Christine Bieselin Clark: In S2, we first see Agnes Jurati (Alison Pill) at the Raritan bar, a little tipsy, wearing a fabulous, belted cocktail suit. I knew that costume would take her up to the Stargazer and eventually into a seat on the bridge, next to Captain Rios, a place where Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis) once sat next to Picard. My color choice for that costume was directly related to Troi’s costumes in TNG, a bit of a sartorial connection for the two characters.
AR: Any other interesting tidbits that Trekkies will eat up that we did not touch upon here?
Christine Bieselin Clark: In Season One, I was fitting Patrick Stewart in his Vashti black jacket. He looked in the mirror and said in a sing song voice, “I smell an Emmy!” with that wonderful sparkle of his and I had to pinch myself – did Jean-Luc just say that to me, about my design?! Well, we didn’t get a nod for S1, but here we are now, nominated for Season 2 and I hope that little gem of a moment was foreshadowing.
You can see some of Christine Bieselin Clark’s Emmy-nominated work in the gallery below or watch it in action on the first two seasons of Star Trek: Picard streaming on Paramount+.