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I was watching "Cause and Effect" (the one where the Enterprise gets caught in a time loop), and I noticed something odd. In one of the sickbay scenes, we see Geordi from behind, and it appears that his uniform zips up in the back, which is rather impractical for one person to put on without help. Most of the crew wear uniforms with no visible seam in front. However, at one point we also see Picard wearing the top section of his uniform like an open jacket, with the red tunic open in front, showing a gray shirt beneath. Both men were officially on duty at the time.

It appears that there are two distinct uniform styles, but the one that's solid in the front is far more common. Do we have any information on how the crew put on uniforms that appear to zip up in the back, presumably by themselves?

  • 2
    It's the 24th century. The proper response is TechnoBabble – Derek Dec 14 '15 at 3:00
  • Out of universe it was a nightmare. – Athena Widget Dec 14 '15 at 3:12
  • They used the Liz Lemon Method. If I had found a better video I may have added it as an answer ;) – Keeleon Dec 16 '15 at 4:42
  • 1
    They reversed polarity, duh!? – Get-HomeByFiveOClock Dec 25 '15 at 6:42
  • One leg at a time, I imagine. – Broklynite Jun 10 '16 at 22:13
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In fact there were two different styles of uniform, originating at different times. From this article:

The jumpsuit uniforms created for the first season had zippers on the front. When the newer uniforms (which zipped up in the back) were introduced in season 3, the older style uniforms continued to be used by background characters. Sometime after that, these uniforms were modified to more closely resemble the newer uniforms, however, they retained their front zipper. Interestingly this is also why some of the Science/Medical uniforms are a different color than others, as the new uniforms were made using a different fabric than the old ones.

One at least one occasion, a combination of the two styles (and some fancy camera work) was used to allow a crew member to open a uniform that appeared to be of the newer style from the front, as if by a hidden 24th century closure.

The short answer is that in-universe, they had an invisible zip up the front. Technology had advanced a long way by the 24th century, including apparently the ability to have invisible clothing closure. From Memory Alpha:

William Ware Theiss's original first and second season uniforms reportedly caused the cast discomfort as the tight-fitting (and revealing) spandex pulled down on the actors' backs. With his arrival at TNG during season three, costume designer Robert Blackman's first charge was the modification of the existing design to make Starfleet-wear more bearable. Experimenting with different materials, Blackman utilized a jumpsuit-style form-fitting wool gabardine material in the early days of season three, before ultimately settling on looser-fitting versions consisting of a jacket and trousers.

The Theiss-designed costume remained unmodified for use by background actors until season four, when they were altered to reflect the new look. They are easily spotted next to the two-piece uniforms, distinguished by their prominent front zipper.

In keeping with Gene Roddenberry's idea that there are no zippers or other contemporary closures by the time of Picard and company, the TNG-style uniform demonstrated the miraculous ability to open from the front like a jacket in the episode "Ensign Ro". To achieve this illusion, producers used both a jumpsuit-style uniform and a two-piece jacket and trouser combination, indicating amazingly undetectable closure technology.

For more details about the complaints generated by Roddenberry's Spandex uniforms, and the improvements made by Blackman, see this article. (Previously I quoted it at length in this answer, but - although it's interesting - I decided the Memory Alpha quote is good enough.)

  • Any sufficiently advanced technology appears to be magic. – AncientSwordRage Jun 10 '16 at 22:31
  • 'the miraculous ability to open from the front like a jacket in the episode "Ensign Ro"' - is there, by any chance, a photo of this to further improve this answer? – O. R. Mapper Aug 17 '17 at 20:07
  • @O.R.Mapper Like this maybe? – Rand al'Thor Aug 17 '17 at 21:02
  • @Randal'Thor: No, that's a type of flag officer's uniform. Note that on the regular TNG Type B duty uniforms, the collar is a part of the outer uniform, not of the undershirt. – O. R. Mapper Aug 17 '17 at 21:09
  • @O.R.Mapper Ah. I just found it by an image search (I haven't actually watched the episode). Can't find anything better, sorry :-/ – Rand al'Thor Aug 17 '17 at 21:15

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