DWM 472 Time to Change

Peter Capaldi’s costume has been revealed. ‘Ooh la la!’ said Non-Fan Twin upon seeing it, although I wouldn’t take that too seriously as a verdict as recently he’s been saying ‘Ooh la la!’ to almost everything. ‘I hoped he wouldn’t have a tie,’ he continued. ‘I don’t like ties.’ He has to wear a tie to school, you see. Back in 1979 Lalla Ward opted to dress Romana in pinafore and boater to make girls feel better about school uniform; Turlough doesn’t seem to have had the same effect for boys. Costume designers, if you happen to read this, a red-and-black striped tie for Mr Capaldi might make all the difference in our house on school mornings.

Fan Twin thought the costume was ‘really good’. He especially liked the red lining for the coat, even though he had to concede it almost certainly wasn’t that colour because the Doctor supported Manchester United.

Husband thought it looked like a magician’s outfit, a verdict that was seemingly shared by every fan on the internet who had Photoshop. He – a one-time menswear assistant (as in clothing department, not Britpop group) – thought the top-buttoned shirt needed a tie, although I didn’t canvass his opinion on whether red and black stripes were the way to go. And me? Oh, I loved it. I’ve heard a few sneers about the cardigan, but that’s probably my favourite bit. I love a good cardie. I like to think cardie-fan Barbara knitted it, lying back on her strange faux-ergonomic bed between adventures, and the Doctor found it at the back of the wardrobe after all these years.

Of course, the Twelfth is not the first be-cardied Doctor. Our watchthrough recently took in The Ark in Space, and there’s the Fourth Doctor merrily wandering around in diamond-patterned knitwear. And you know what? It looked really odd. The Fourth Doctor without that long coat – his silhouette was all wrong. It’s funny how much we associate a certain ‘look’ with each Doctor. ‘Clothes maketh the man’ and all that. Nowhere is that more in evidence than the early Fifth Doctor period, where it seems the TARDIS wardrobe must have accidentally got jettisoned along with the Zero Room leaving behind only a pseudo-cricket costume, a pair of space pyjamas, a velvet trousersuit and a mauve air-hostess uniform. Many jokes have been made about TARDIS laundry facilities, but actually the consistency is probably comforting for the child viewer – I suspect I’m not the only parent who’s had to endlessly wash the same top when their small child decided it was the only thing they would ever wear. Probably sensible, practical Nyssa sneaked Adric’s mustard-and-khaki outfit off the bottom of his bed every night and gave it a quick spin in the TARDIS washing machine (remembering to remove his badge for mathematical excellence first so it didn’t make a hole in the top), and returned it neatly ironed ready for when he woke up the next morning.

There are some amazing outfits in Doctor Who. I am particularly fascinated by the hilariously ridiculous cake-like hats that crop up every now and again (Samantha Briggs and Maren of Karn, I’m looking at you). And there I am, being something I hate. It was the BAFTAs last week, so cue the usual ‘hit or miss’ newspaper/online/tv reports judging everyone’s clothing choices, and I find that loathsome (even if less harmful than the judgements on people’s appearances overall). In the real world, laughing and pointing at someone’s cake-shaped hat can only cause hurt feelings. (Slight tangent, but one of my favourite stories about Jon Pertwee is his insistence that Caroline John be allowed to wear trousers to go into a mine in Doctor Who and the Silurians, rather than the (more ‘attractive’) miniskirt the production team were forcing on her. That certainly increased my respect for him.)

Of course, most people are guilty of some form of hypocrisy along the cake-shaped hat/not judging line. I guess it is contradictory telling your children that appearances don’t matter while at the same time coming out with the parental cliché line ‘you’re not going out looking like that!’ (mainly in relation to dirty faces/ketchup stains/T-shirts accidentally tucked into pants in our case). But sadly we know that the world judges and that after tabloids and women’s mags, other children are the ones who will judge the most and be the cruellest. We can’t change that, so we try to ensure there’s no reason for our children to be picked on even while telling them not to care if someone sneers (although one of the things about having twins is the reassurance that if you send them in to school in a rubbish costume for World Book Day, or if you haven’t got them the trendiest trainers, they won’t be alone – and there’s always someone who’ll stand up for them if ridicule comes their way. Speaking of ridicule, my current assignment is to make a chicken costume for a music festival, and if I produce something that’s even half as good as the Ergon Fan Twin can consider himself lucky.)

So I really, really get what Lalla Ward was trying to do back in 1979.  What a brilliant thing, to try to make children feel more comfortable, less conspicuous in their hated school uniform. Some other kid catcalls on the bus? You can ignore them, because you look like Romana. Hurrah also for the Sixth Doctor, wandering the streets in a frankly hideous (sorry, judging again) outfit and not caring a jot what anyone thinks. Woo for Victoria, who happily throws off the conventions she’s been brought up with and puts on a miniskirt (which if you think about it is pretty much like a 2014 girl running around topless because she’s been told it’s OK in the future). And an especially big cheer for Doctors who wear cardigans. Tie or no tie, just do your own thing.