After the recent reveal of the thirteenth Doctor’s new costume, many fans have been questioning the thought process that went into choosing the colourful ensemble. Ray Holman, Doctor Who costume designer, has explained how dressing a Time Lord works.
Holman is the genius behind Matt Smith’s series 5 costume and Peter Capaldi’s series 9 look. Both of these series’ costumes had callbacks to past Doctor Who looks, which is always a joy for classic fans. From bow ties and braces to red coats and layered loose fitting hoodies, a lot of thought goes into coming up with the perfect look for a character who has lived for hundreds upon hundreds of years.
First and foremost, the costume designer doesn’t just come up with an idea on their own and force it upon the character. Previous actors have played a huge role in deciding what kind of clothing their version of the Doctor would wear. Remember the old ratty Converse shoes worn by the tenth Doctor? Those were actually Tennant’s shoes that he brought to the role. He wore them until people got so tired of them that they forced him to throw the shoes away and had to get a new pair that they made up to appear soiled and old.
“For Doctor Who, it’s a massively collaborative process between the actor, costume designer and show runner, […] ultimately, we’re all trying to do the right thing for the actor and script.” – Holman
The idea between the costume for the eleventh Doctor, played by actor Matt Smith, had to do with the idea of what Steven Moffat described as “an old man trapped in a young man’s body”. Smith, who was only 28 at the time, liked the idea of a Tweed jacket as he wanted something that would make him “feel a bit older”, as Holman recalls.
“I really wasn’t keen on the idea of the bow tie at first – that was solely Matt’s idea. […] I didn’t think it would work, but I knew something was missing from the outfit. But then Matt put it on and that was it: we all instantly knew it was right. […] There’s a lot of pressure dressing this 2,000-year-old alien, but my secret to designing a new Doctor is dressing the actor appropriately – doing the right thing for that person. It’s all about making them feel good.” – Holman
Though the costume is a collaboration, there is one small detail Holman likes to add to each of his creations. Think of it as a signature or a master stroke. What is this detail? A red button or red button hole. Smith’s tweed jacket and Capaldi’s series 9 jackets had the red button detail. Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock coat also has a red button hole, thanks to Holman. He suggests, “it inspires fans to go looking for red buttonholes and buttons – it’s a bit of fun.” We aren’t yet sure where Whittaker’s secret bit of red is hiding but it is hard to tell with just the one photo so far.
In some past series the Doctor has had a few different looks. For all we know Whittaker has more than one new outfit to wear on her travels through time and space. Whatever the case, a lot of thought from a lot of people went into creating the look she has in the new series 11 promotional photo. Everything chosen has a reason and every detail serves a purpose. Sadly, we wont understand until the new series premieres. But that is all part of the fun, isn’t it?