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Weird Sci-Fi Fashion & Glamour in Film and TV

Rik is a physics teacher and engineer with a passion for all kinds of sci-fi movies and TV shows (particularly those that are just weird)!

Max Von Sydow and Ornelli Muti in the 1980's movie "Flash Gordon"

Max Von Sydow and Ornelli Muti in the 1980's movie "Flash Gordon"

When Taste Goes Out the Window

I'm fascinated by bad fashion, and one of the the best places to find weird fashion and glamour is in science fiction shows and movies.

Give a movie set designer an alien world to create, then throw in some frustrated costume designers, hair stylists, and makeup artists, and ask them to open their creative minds to the possibilities of other worldly sci-fi fashion. What you end up with is often strange and sometimes just plain weird.

Flash Gordon

Let's begin in 1936 with the movie Flash Gordon. The costumes were a wonderful mix of the then pre-war fashion, Startrek, and traditional Chinese national dress (before the days of the Cultural Revolution). The movie has a marvelous phony melodramatic quality which reminds me of British pantomime.

Melody Anderson as Dale Arden in 1980 Flash Gordon

Melody Anderson as Dale Arden in 1980 Flash Gordon

The 1980 Flash Gordon remake was really cool. It captured much that was weird in the 1930s original but in glorious technicolor. The costumes were totally over the top and the whole outrageous, camp enterprise was topped up with a generous dash of cream (sorry, that should be Queen!), so the soundtrack really rocked!

However, you can detect a subtle 1980s influence. If you look at the picture of Melody Anderson, the shoulder pads are reminiscent of Dallas and Dynasty and the 1980s power dressing thing.

Finally, let's not forget the great British actor Brian Blessed hamming it up for all he was worth as the winged warrior, Vultan. Great stuff. Weird sci-fi glamour at its best!


Forbidden Planet

The movie Forbidden Planet, made in the 1950s, is a parody of William Shakespeare's play The Tempest.

In other words, the beauty and the beast theme. In this case, Miranda, the beauty, is Anne Francis and Caliban, the beast, is a robot called Robbie.

The costume designers went for the miniskirt long before it was invented in the 1960s.

This could be because the 1950s were pretty drab and sci-fi is always a good excuse to reveal more flesh than current fashion allows.

I guess that the tiny skirt did no harm at the box office, hence Forbidden Planet equals weird sci-fi glamour.

Ann Francis in Hidden Planet being 'taken for a ride' by Robbie the Robot

Ann Francis in Hidden Planet being 'taken for a ride' by Robbie the Robot

The Fifth Element: More Weird Sci-Fi Glamour

Now The Fifth Element was really weird. But anything designed by Jean Paul Gaultier was bound to be pretty strange.

Bruce Willis was deliberately out of place in this movie with his scruffy orange tee-shirt and his testosterone action-hero personae. A great contrast to all the weirdly dressed, androgynous co-stars.

Quote from Bruce, a future New York flying taxi driver, "Whoa, lady, I only speak two languages, English and bad English."

The excuse for Leeloo's infamous costume? (see below). Not futuristic fashion but what she happened to be wearing when woken from suspended animation.

Milla Jovovich as Leeloo in the Fifth Element

Milla Jovovich as Leeloo in the Fifth Element

The Tardis

A recent 'Doctor' played by David Tennant with the Tardis

A recent 'Doctor' played by David Tennant with the Tardis

Doctor Who

Doctor Who is a long-running BBC TV science fiction series originally aimed squarely at children. In the early days, it was full of bad costumes, dodgy sets (typically located in the basement of the BBC) and poor acting.

The premise of the show is that the Doctor is a Time Lord who travels through time and space in a ship known as the Tardis, which looks like an old fashioned British police phone box. This made a tiny bit of sense in 1970 when a few such boxes still existed on the streets of London.

Why the Doc has never upgraded his ship to look like a hot dog stand or mail box we'll never know. The actor of the Doctor frequently changes as the years roll by (excuse: regeneration in a new body).

Doctor, Companion and Metal Pooch

Louise Jamison and Tom Baker in Doctor Who

Louise Jamison and Tom Baker in Doctor Who


Companions - A Dodgy Relationship?

The really disturbing thing about the Doctor was his adoption of young 'companions'. They were usually of school age and invariably female. Each companion would travel with the doctor for a whole series.

This worried me greatly. Was there a shower and a toilet in that tiny ship? Did she have her own room with Barbie wallpaper? Most importantly, what did her parents make of her strange relationship with a man old enough to be her grandfather?

What about the weird sci fi glamour? As the years rolled by and the show got a little more grown up, the Doctor abandoned schoolgirls and took on a more raunchy companion called Leela.

She was a warrior of some kind he had picked up on a primitive planet and the costume designers dressed her in animal skins and strapped a big knife to her thigh. Unfortunately, it appears animal skins were in short supply at the time (BBC cutbacks?).

I can't imagine Leela having Barbie wallpaper in her bedroom. The metal dog? He had the totally original name of K9 and trundled along unconvincingly powered by a small electric motor.

In contrast, the new Doctor Who series in really swish. Lots of CGI and a smartly dressed cast. So no dodgy costumes and no more weird glamour.

New-style Daleks

New Doctor Who Daleks (These guys fly so stairs are no longer a bar to world domination!)

New Doctor Who Daleks (These guys fly so stairs are no longer a bar to world domination!)


Star Trek

Next we come to the classic US sci fi TV series Star Trek. Forgive me, but this is the ultimate example of bad fashion. Those dreadful long-sleeved tee-shirts in primary colors. The crew boldly went across the universe in cheap clothes fit only for kids.

I feel particularly sorry for Lt. Uhura, played by Nichelle Nichols, who spent most of her middle age in a bright red mini-dress. I'm surprised she didn't change departments just to try another color.

So what did the crew wear when they were off duty?

Off Duty

Star Trek Evening Wear - "Just something I threw together for you Captain."

Star Trek Evening Wear - "Just something I threw together for you Captain."

Councillor Deanna Troi, looking very blue in an uneven bra, wishing there was a hairdresser onboard

Councillor Deanna Troi, looking very blue in an uneven bra, wishing there was a hairdresser onboard

Councillor Deanna Troi - Feeling Blue?

In the Next Generation, they tried to improve things. The crew had more recreational moments and counseling was encouraged (Deep Space can be stressful).

Unfortunately, the uniforms, including the underwear, didn't improve with time. Come to think of it, nor did the hairstyles.

No wonder the councillor looks a little blue. How would you feel if you were stuck on a Star-ship with an uneven bra, wearing a top like that and with no hairdresser on board?

And resigning your commission isn't really an option when you're several light years from home.

Barbarella (1968) - Seriously Weird!

Feather from a feathered friend

Feather from a feathered friend

Barbarella makes Star Trek and all the other movie and TV sci fi look regular and tame. Barbarella was really weird. It was kitsch. It was kinky. It was strange. Come to think of it, so was 1968. Weird sci fi glamour at its best!

It also had an unlikely star in the lovely Jane Fonda. A woman of considerable intellect and a highly developed political savvy. Jane was a controversial figure in terms of the anti-war movement in the US and was nicknamed "Hanoi Jane" on account of her visits to the enemy capital. Jane was also a champion of women's rights and women's liberation.

Why then did she agree to make a science fiction movie in which she performed a slow, weightless striptease during the opening credits? A movie in which the set designers went nuts and made everything green, furry, or feathery including the lead characters and their costumes.

Barbarella with Feathered Friend



Barbarella has all kinds of bizarre adventures and ends up in the orgasmatron, an organ-like seduction machine designed to kill with an overload of sexual pleasure.

Fortunately Barbarella is made of sterner stuff, and it is the machine, not Barbarella, that blows its top.

1980 Flash Gordon Trailer

1968 Barbarella Trailer

Princess Leia - Ultimate Weird SciFi Glamour

The Princess Leia Slave Look Never Goes Out Of Fashion!

The Princess Leia Slave Look Never Goes Out Of Fashion!


Jeanette Carnell on November 14, 2017:

I loved the uniforms and wild clothes on Gerry Anderson's UFO series. The silver cat -suits and purple wigs were priceless,as were the Lead mens Nuru jackets and jumpsuits.As were the Skydiver crews see-through tops(Women too!).

PaperNotes on February 13, 2011:

Entertaining hub. I actually sometimes find costumes worn by actors and actresses in TV programs and films to be weird and funny. I guess it really is hard to design costumes and props.

Pierre Savoie from Canada on February 08, 2011:

In the very earliest DOCTOR WHO episodes (1963!) the Doctor really WAS the girl's grandfather, or posing as the grandfather, I forget which. And it's spelled just "Daleks" by the way!

You should have a look at the bad, low-budget movies that came out just after STAR WARS, where the weird sets and costumes were caused by a less-than-stellar budget. Movies like STAR CRASH (aka The Adventures of Stella Star, made in Italy) have a cult following to this day.

arthurchappell from Manchester, England on January 18, 2011:

The original film version of Logan's Run had some amazing costume design, The Rocky Horror Picture show spoofs a lot of horror and SF costume ideas, notably the Bride Of Frankenstein look, Xena Warrior Princess was very good on sexy costumed warrior folk, Farenheit 451 did well to make Firemen into fascist policemen in their totalitarian regime.

TehClay on November 23, 2010:

I loved Flash Gordon the movie. I think the absurd fashion adds to the 'out of the norm' mindset. Would the sci-fi genre be as interesting if you didn't have the costumes to support the 'wierd-ery' ? I for one would think Captain Picard or Baron Harkonnen would be silly if they didn't have their tasteful getups. Picard would look like an insurance sales man and the Baron would look like a 'big and tall' vendor. :)

vhwang7 on April 26, 2010:

Lol, funny hub. Interesting clothing designs 0.0!

Rachael Lefler from Illinois on April 07, 2010:

Barbarella = best sci-fi movie. Ever.

Rik Ravado (author) from England on March 11, 2010:

Glad you enjoyed bat115 and loveofnight!

Loveofnight Anderson from Baltimore, Maryland on March 11, 2010:

leeloo's outfit was one of the strangest for me,i never could wrap my brain around how or why they came up with that one because most costumes are suppose to flatter the body and this did nothing for me,although the blue creature had one of my best parts in the movie when she was singing...nice list none-the-less......thx 4 share

Tim from Los Angeles, CA on February 11, 2010:

Very entertaining read.

Rik Ravado (author) from England on January 25, 2009:

Patty - glad you found this interesting!

Patty Inglish MS from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on January 22, 2009:

Wonderful Hub! I'd forgotten about some of these gems. Too long between sci-fi conventions!

Rik Ravado (author) from England on January 22, 2009:

Jessie - glad you enjoyed it! - I like your choices - particularly Red Dwarf! Yes you're right about Rose McGowen and it should be out during 2009.

Jessie Desmond on January 22, 2009:

You should do this as a blog. This is GREAT! I probably would have mentioned 'Tank Girl', 'Bladerunner', 'Firefly' (tv show), 'The Jetsons', and 'Red Dwarf'. For that new 'Barbarella' movie, isn't Rose McGowen playing Barbarella?

Rik Ravado (author) from England on January 22, 2009:

Glad you enjoyed it bgamall.

Gary Anderson from Las Vegas, Nevada on January 22, 2009:

Very entertaining walk through the history of sci fi glamor.

Rik Ravado (author) from England on June 04, 2008:

Mark - nice to meet you on Friday Traffic Report. Good point about Dorsi's Sexy hubber Hub! (Princessa take note) Thanks for the encouragement.

Doncarlin - Glad you enjoyed it

Rodney - Yes its nice and nostalgic putting something like this together - its stuff that is really 'bad' that you remember enjoying the most (like the 'A' team!)

Rodney Fagan from Johannesberg South Africa, The Gold Mine City on June 04, 2008:

great hub, there a real blast from the past

doncarlin from Tempe Arizona on June 03, 2008:

Hehe, that was a unique and interesting hub to read. Thanks for writing it. Thumbs up from me!

Mark Bennett from Citizen of the Globe on June 03, 2008:

You'd definitely make a splash on Dorsi's next Sexy Hubbers expose if you did!

Nice work, Rik - you must spend ages doing research to find all those pictures ...

Rik Ravado (author) from England on June 03, 2008:

Princessa, I see a very hot Hub you could write. Try both the Leia and the Barbarella look, post a few photos and then get your fellow Hubbers to vote for the winner!

Wendy Iturrizaga from France on May 31, 2008:

Thanks for your approval Rik :) Now I'll just need to find the costume. If I don't find it, Barbarella would be the next choice... loved that wild hairstyle!

Rik Ravado (author) from England on May 31, 2008:

Princessa - sounds like a memorable avatar - I approve that you're planning to dress up in the costume rather than just steal an image from somewhere. I must confess my avatar isn't me. I think I'll do the same as you and post a real picture eventually (but not in a Princess Leia costume - I think it would suit you much better!)

Wendy Iturrizaga from France on May 29, 2008:

I loved Leeloo's costume and I have been looking for a Princess Leia costume for my next avatar :)

Rik Ravado (author) from England on May 28, 2008:

Hovalis - glad you enjoyed. Flash Gordon takes some beating. New Dr Who is pretty polished so not so weird. (Donna makes a cool assistant - less love interest and more a Mum to the Doctor.)

Hovalis on May 28, 2008:

Hee! You got me with Flash Gordon. It's my favourite bad movie of all time. Who can compete with those costumes and that soundtrack?

My other not so guilty indulgence is Dr Who. I'm trying to imagine any of the companions as a fashion plate. Maybe Rose comes the closest. Certainly Donna, the latest companion, and not a bright young thing like most of the others doesn't. :-)

I think Classic Trek has by far the best costumes. The 1960's had a certain glamour, even if most of the time the costumes were held on with double sided tape (ouch!)

Rik Ravado (author) from England on May 27, 2008:

Woody - glad you enjoyed it so much.

rmr - Yes. Old technology special effects are great fun in old movies. I love rockets travelling slowly along a wire and tiny ships sinking in a bathtub etc. Now even the rubbish movies have fairly realistic effects.

rmr from Livonia, MI on May 27, 2008:

I remember growing up watching the Flash Gordon re-runs. The fashion may be questionable, but I can never get enough of the outdated special effects!

Woody Marx from Ontario, Canada on May 27, 2008:

FUN is the word! I loved this! Camp and old movies, Dr. Who and Star Trek! All in one hub! Five thumbs up! :)

Rik Ravado (author) from England on May 26, 2008:

Many thanks DB for your approval. I keep telling myself I should do some serious writing but this stuff is such fun!

desert blondie from Palm trees, swimming pools, lots of sand, lots of sunscreen on May 26, 2008:

WEll, was getting pretty disappointed until I saw that you DID include Barbarella! This is the kind of info. that we all need in our lives...thanks for making sure it was available to us! LOL Fun hub!