The Perfect Fit

With season four signaling so many changes for Stargate: Atlantis, Val Halverson sensed the time was right to give our heroes a bit of a new look. In fact, creating the team’s new outfits was one of her very first duties when she joined the crew.

“I was coming on as a new designer, so it was an opportunity,” explains the costume designer, speaking from her office on the Stargate: Atlantis lot in Vancouver, BC. She adds, “also, one of the big reasons for change was Amanda Tapping. With Amanda coming on to the team we were able to just freshen it up a bit, and address some of the concerns that the producers had about the look of the team.”

Though a complete redesign was out for practical reasons, Halverson was keen to produce a variable, yet cohesive look.

“We had to work with the old designs because of all the background [actors],” she explains. “There are hundreds of uniforms that have been made, and we only changed the lead cast. So it had to work with the existing uniforms. We used the same fabrications I just wanted them to be sleeker. I wanted the girls to look sexy… and the guys can look sexy too!”

To come up with the perfect look, Halverson familiarized herself not only with the original costumes, but how they had appeared on screen during the previous three years.

“I did some homework on the last three seasons and really felt that we could individualize them more: bring out the ‘Athosian-ness’ of Teyla, and Ronon – he’s such a warrior. I wanted to separate them a bit from each other. We wanted to give them a few more layers in their look, because they were basically in their uniforms most of the time.”

Using her research and these new ideas, the designer went to work developing a variety of possible new outfits.

“We came in a month early, because we changed everybody, and we changed them by two outfits each. And of course, with our lead cast, we have to make between two to six of everything. I went into my first meeting with the executive producers. I wasn’t sure what they wanted, but I had gone in with four design options and they were able to make their choice. They just went with one of them, it was very lucky.”

That design utilized many of the elements from the existing uniforms, including using the color scheme to designate each character’s particular specialization. Halverson even kept the same fabric.

“What they used to have was a looser fitting bomber jacket with a matching pant. So we used the same grey fabric and used the same colors to designate your job, but we took it into more of into a tailored look. So the difference, for example, with Teyla is that instead of a bomber jacket she now has a fitted blazer, with a zip front. It has a little bit of color at the bust line, it’s off the shoulder, and it’s just a little bit sleeker and sexier.”

The crew’s black leather jackets, though, are completely new. “As a designer you’re always looking for an opportunity to have some fun and do something creative,” says Halverson. “They used to wear the uniforms off-world and by the third season there was sort of a mishmash of what they wore. Some were going into military gear, and some were wearing their uniforms. I wanted to pull it all together and give them what we call their ‘off-world look’. So what I did was I designed a leather jacket or outfit for each of them, trying to keep in mind what their background was and what world they were from.”

These stunning new jackets were first seen in ‘Doppleganger’, which, although screened third, was the first episode of the season to go in front of the camera. “You couldn’t see as much detail on the small screen as you would like, of course,” says the designer. “But Teyla had a very rich, hand-tooled leather and suede jacket that was very fitted on her and very sexy but had the richness I felt worthy of an Athosian queen. And whereas Ronon’s long leather jacket was still black in keeping with the black ops look we were going for, it had skins and metal pieces on it, because he’s more of a trapper and a hunter. McKay had one that had a bit of a circuit board on it!” Halverson laughs. “We tried to introduce a bit of their personality into the designs. If the detail isn’t there, it looks flat on the screen. So even though the fans may not see the exact detail, they can sense that there are some layers and some richness to it. And hopefully the actors are happy with it so they feel good. That’s our job.”

Designing the new outfits wasn’t the only challenge Halverson faced during her first year on Stargate: Atlantis. As the season progressed, actress Rachel Luttrell’s pregnancy became woven into the year’s arc, but to begin with, the costume designer was charged with keeping it under wraps.

“We had so much fun with Rachel, because she was changing constantly,” laughs Halverson. “We made so many outfits for her! That was quite a challenge. She was just starting to show there for a while, so we had to transition earlier than we needed to so that the fans would not see a drastic change. We made things longer on her, so you couldn’t see the belly – longer tops and more detail up around the bust and the neckline to downplay the abdomen a bit. The Athosians are definitely one of the fun [races]. They’re very earthy, and yet they are elegant and they have so much pride. And her being the queen just brings a lot of opportunity to the costumes.”

News Article Courtesy of Mgm