Star Trek, miniskirts and the 1960s: What was so groundbreaking about them

By: H&I Staff     Posted: September 1, 2017, 9:27AM

There is no denying that the Starfleet uniform is one of the most iconic costumes of the 1960s, if not of all time. The bright colors, the mod styling, the fabric — these uniforms had everything that embodied the '60s, while still being futuristic. Possibly the most fashion-forward aspect of the uniform, though, was the length — or lack thereof — of the women's dresses.

Born out of Swinging London and the designer racks of Mary Quant, the miniskirt was rather new in the mainstream fashion world in 1966. However, tiny skirts had been a staple in science fiction since the 1940s. One of the first TV shows to feature such short skirts was Space Patrol in 1950. The show has been lauded for not only being family-friendly despite the women's hemlines, but also for portraying these women as experienced and empowered, which was a rarity in the 1950s.

Star Trek: The Original Series followed in the footsteps of Space Patrol when it came to portraying women being just as capable as their male counterparts. This is most clearly exemplified in the casting of Nichelle Nichols as Nyota Uhura, a woman who's the chief communications officer of the U.S.S. Enterprise. She was also one of the first black actors cast in a regular role on a TV show that wasn't a servant. In Nichols' autobiography, Beyond Uhura: Star Trek and Other Memories, she spoke of the female officer's miniskirts, saying:

"In later years, especially as the women’s movement took hold in the seventies, people began to ask me about my costume. Some thought it 'demeaning' for a woman in the command crew to be dressed so sexily. It always surprised me because I never saw it that way. After all, the show was created in the age of the miniskirt, and the crew women’s uniforms were very comfortable. Contrary to what many may think today, no one really saw it as demeaning back then. In fact, the miniskirt was a symbol of sexual liberation. More to the point, though, in the 23rd century, you are respected for your abilities regardless of what you do or do not wear."

The website Comparative Geeks made another interesting point about the women's costumes on The Original Series. Due to the fact that women were rapidly beginning to accomplish more in the professional world — including going into space — there was an underlying sense of unease in the 1960s and gender roles were falling by the wayside. These dresses "reassured an anxious public that femininity wouldn't disappear in the space age." Even if women are piloting the space ships.