As the man who devised the fashion look of Starfleet and other classic 23rd century apparel on the original Star Trek, costume designer William Ware "Bill? Theiss also provided the first look at how those designs evolved into the 24th century for the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation.
Born in San Francisco, Theiss graduated with a degree in art from the Art Center College of Design at Stanford University, and got his first Hollywood job as a personal assistant to Cary Grant. Early on he designed the wardrobe for Ray Bradbury's plays and worked on the wardrobe design crew for "Spartacus!," but eventually sported Oscar nominations with 1976's "Bound for Glory," 1979's "Butch and Sundance: The Early Years," and 1983's "Heart Like a Wheel." Other film credits include "Pretty Maids All in a Row" (with Gene Roddenberry and Herb Solow), "Harold and Maude," "Goin' South," "The Man With One Red Shoe," and uncredited work on Disney's "Pete's Dragon."
But it is his Star Trek work that is Theiss' trademark, from the first pilot "The Cage? onward through all three seasons. With outfits like Vina's Orion slave girl, Lt. Palamas' Greek robe and so many more, the original Star Trek became famous for what author Stephen (Whitfield) Poe called the "Theiss Titillation Theory?: "the degree to which a costume is considered sexy is directly dependant upon how accident-prone it appears to be.? Like the rest of the design staff, he was also renowned at utilizing odd or unconventional fabrics or approaches in his field — and with little time or budget — to heighten the "alieness" of his contributions: using the "wrong" side of fabric, going against the grain, unconventional connectors or fasteners, etc.
Theiss was among his old guard that Roddenberry gathered around him when in relaunching the franchise with The Next Generation, starting work in late 1986 for the premiere airing the next fall. Like those other veterans Theiss did not stay with the series more than a year, in his case due to the fatiguing effects of his advancing AIDS. Ironically it was the first-season TNG episode "The Big Goodbye? that finally netted Theiss a major award, the 1988 Emmy for Outstanding Costume Design for a Series. He was also nominated with TNG successor Durinda Rice Wood for Season 2's "Elementary, Dear Data.?
Theiss died of complications from AIDS on December 15, 1992.