The Doctor’s New Clothes
I am a massive fan of Doctor Who, have been since I was a kid (though I spent quite a lot of my childhood in the wildness years and actually started watching Doctor Who when it restarted in 2005 and then went back and watched all of Classic Who that I could get my geeky little hands on) and the announcement of Jodie Whittaker as the 13th Doctor was one of the most exciting things that has ever happened to me. A woman, playing one of my all time heroes?! Amazing! I have looked up to the Doctor for so long and not only was that character now the same biological sex as me, but I’m pretty sure I can now say that timelords (bleugh gendered) are nonbinary af and no one can take that from me.
But of course, like many, I was worried that they would play up the “The Doctor is a woman now!” thing and it could get all complicated and unnecessary, when, in my opinion, The Doctor should just be The Doctor no matter what weird flesh suit they are wearing. For me, I felt there needed to be a balance, not denying femininity but also not making that the only feature of her personality. Yes, we have not see her in action yet, but the costume was a big stepping stone for how the character would be, after all, The Doctor has always been one for interesting and outlandish fashion – I base a lot of my own wardrobe of them. So when this picture appeared on my twitter feed I was ecstatic. It is everything I could dream of and more! Which means you are now going to have read my breakdown of this costume, so sorry, not sorry.
Let’s start with my favourite bit, the coat. It’s beautiful, but not only that it is a staple of The Doctor. Having a coat is something that The Doctor does with panache in every iteration (apart from 9, which is upsetting). It’s a dramatic swish and means you enter a room with style. This long coat echos the Edwardian style that The Doctor often favours as well.
Though we can’t see that much of it, the cuffs and decal on the coat scream of that Edwardian period but the hood and the trim down the front (which I will come to in a minute) bring it bang up to date with modern fashion. This is the sort of coat you could see in a high end high street shop (though I bet it’s considerably more expensive).
It’s actually got a lot vibes of that 70s/80s parkers, I can actually see Sarah Jane or Romana wearing something like this – which is actually a really nice touch. Since we haven’t had a female Doctor before, I think reflecting the clothing of important female characters from the show’s past shows not only The Doctor’s respect for those characters, but also the respect of the team working on the costumes.
As for the trim, it’s a bright rainbow of colours falling down the front of the coat. It’s fun, it’s exciting, and it’s such a call back to the Fourth Doctor’s scarf (and the nightmarish Sixth Doctor’s…everything). It’s this cute little nod to the most iconic of all Doctor Who costumes. In the same way that Capaldi’s coats reflected the 3rd Doctor (John Pertwee) and Tennant was an up to date version of Five (Peter Davison) the coat, especially with the trim, is harking back to the days of Tom Baker. It’s a clever move, reminding people of something they love when you are taking a bold new step with a show like Doctor Who.
Since we are talking about that scarf, let’s move onto her top. When I first saw it my brain went off like the cloister bell. I knew those stripes, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it and then it hit me, they are the stripes from the scarf! In fact they are exactly the stripes from the scarf, the pattern is identical. It’s honestly such a lovely piece of design. To put that iconic pattern into a piece that is both modern and vintage at the same time is classic Doctor Who design.
Again, it’s piece of clothing that would not have looked weird in the days of Classic Who, but it’s completely on trend (in fact I think I own a jumper very similar). It’s feminine and cute and fun, without being, and I hate this term, too girly. She’s clearly in charge of her femininity but it’s not in your face. It’s an incredibly difficult task that has been taken on here, which sounds so weird, it’s just clothes, but dressing the first female Doctor, balancing all the issues with fans and editors and show runners and everything else is not a task I would wish on anyone, but they have done an amazing job.
Right! Let’s move on! The trousers, or are they culottes? Honestly I’m not sure, but whatever, I love them. Super practical but again these are really reminiscent of older versions of the Doctor, the high waist, the braces, that’s so Doctor Who is hurts. I’m pretty sure most versions of the Doctor have had braces; in fact in Classic Who they were very much part of the look, with those question marks and all. But at the same time this isn’t a rip off of any of the old costumes, it’s little details that play with your subconscious to make you go “oh yeah, that’s The Doctor, they look like The Doctor”. For me, the trouser/braces combo is tying in with the coat and it’s Edwardian feel, it’s so typical of fashion, yes men’s fashion, of that period. I keep going on about it, but The Doctor does really like that Edwardian vibe, it’s a look that comes back again and again starting right at the beginning with Hartnell, so it’s no surprise that they are have gone for a modern, up to date, version of that look.
The thing I really love about the trousers is the wide leg and the 3/4 cut because it’s so much more feminine. It looks like it could be a skirt, on first glance I thought it was, but it’s a style that completely belongs to feminine fashion at the moment and that’s so great. It’s something that we are seeing worn day to day, typically by women, so showing The Doctor wearing that is saying “yeah I’m practical, yeah I can get the job done, but I’m going to do it my way”. Like the jumper it’s not denying femininity, it’s embracing it and showing that femininity can be strong.
The jumper and the trousers, neither is a feminine item of clothing but they are cut and style in a way that you would be unlikely to see a man wearing in your society as it is. The whole outfit is proclaiming itself as new and exciting look while style keeping hold of the past. It’s something you could really only do in Doctor Who because of the wealth and breadth of personality and character and costume that you have in one person. To be able to reflect on past selves while creating a new look is something that we should all learn from The Doctor I think.
There is one thing that is entirely unique to this version of The Doctor. The earrings. I always think that each version has a little thing that could go unnoticed but is very much part of them, Capaldi has a ring, Tennant has the glasses (not that you couldn’t notice those) and Whittaker has gone for the earrings. It’s quite a youthful item, with the earring in the top of the ear, and nice bit of bling, and for me it’s very alien feeling. It reminds me of Star Trek and High Fantasy with these ring cuffs on the ear. It’s extremely different and I love that it sets Whittaker apart so subtly from the others.
I just have one more thing to say before I conclude this strange ode to costume design and stop drooling over this look, and that is THEY ARE WEARING PRACTICAL SHOES! I could cry. Look at that. Boots with thick, old walking socks. That’s what you want to save the galaxy in. Very sensible. And they are really nice ones too.
I’m very glad to see that The Doctor has not lost their Doctoryness in this new version – not that I thought they ever could – and that this new era of Doctor Who is being ushered in with such style. The costume department never fail to amaze me and this look has blown me away. The weaving of modern fashion with vintage style to make something timeless (or should that be timelord?) while bringing a new, uniquely feminine look to the whole thing is beautifully balanced. And most of all, she looks like The Doctor.
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If you want more please check out my last articles:
- Is That On The Record? (Or Some 80s Detective Realness)
- What’s in the Design
- An Ode to the Onesie
- The Universe in my Eyes
Written by Holly Rose Swinyard