Fifth Doctor Cosplay

Today, I will discuss putting together my Fifth Doctor costume. This post took a couple of days to write, because creating the costume was a very long and involved process. Almost every item required special work to make it right.

First, here’s a repeat of the online sites I used to help me with the costume.

  • Doctor Who Cosplay and Costuming: This page goes over every part of the Fifth Doctor’s costume and provides a lot of detailed information about Peter Davison’s wardrobe in each of his seasons. However, many of the links no longer work.
  • Making My Fifth Doctor Costume: This blog has links to the same person’s blog for each Doctor. He makes high-quality (and usually expensive) costumes, so it may not be useful if you want a cheap or quick costume. Also, his blog is full of posts about other tangentially-related things, so it’s hard to find the real information.
  • How to Dress Like the Fourth Doctor / Fifth Doctor: Anglophenia’s breakdowns are very superficial, giving you some suggestions on what might work without giving any real details (and is sometimes wrong). This is more useful for the Fourth Doctor than the Fifth Doctor.

And now, allons-y!

The Fifth Doctor

Unlike previous Doctors, who wore clothes that would generally fit into the times that they (the clothes) came from, Mr. Davison sported a very specific look: an Edwardian coat over a cricket get-up, with very specific colors and decorations, and a distinctive hat. Almost none of his costume is buyable off the rack, and so it required a lot of searching for the right base and then alteration to make it look even remotely like what it should be. Thus, each item has to be addressed separately.

The Hat

The hat is an Optimo panama hat, which, when I looked for it, cost about $80. That was far more than I wanted to spend on the hat, so I found a similar hat for $40 atPanamaHatMall.com. This was still more than I wanted to spend on it, but I sucked it up. The hat was a women’s hat and its brim is a bit wider than Five’s, but it was good enough.

Wear slightly cocked.

Wear slightly cocked.

Warning: PanamaHatMall.com is located in Ecuador, I think. They sent out the package very quickly, but it landed in a post office or customs office in New Jersey and sat there for two weeks before it was shipped to me. If you need your hat quickly, make sure to buy from somewhere within the U.S.

Most panama hats come with a black hat band, so I had to get red material to make Five’s hatband. If you can find a cheap red material with small paisleys squarely arranged on it, wonderful, but I couldn’t. Spoonflower offers special printed cloth and has the Fifth Doctor’s exact pattern on their site, so I ordered that, but I warn you that the cloth they sent was printed lightly, not a true red.

I created the hatband by ironing the band ribbon into the shape I wanted, then hiding the ends in the vertical part (see a picture of Mr. Davison’s hat to see what I mean), then gluing that part closed with fabric glue, making sure that it was sized correctly so that it was snug with the hat. I made it slightly conical so that it hugged the hat’s contour, and I found that I could slip it over the original black hatband and hide it, so now I can take the Doctor’s hatband off and wear the hat with the black hatband whenever I want to.

The Coat

The front is easy. The back shows the correct vent.

The front is easy to find images of. The back shows the correct vent.

This was the most difficult part of the outfit. The style of the coat is Edwardian, and not only is it difficult to get an Edwardian coat, they are usually not tan. Unless you’re a talented tailor, making a coat would be difficult, since you won’t easily find a pattern for it and would have to design it yourself.

Luckily, the page at the first link above had a good suggestion: use a lab coat dyed tan (well, they suggested taupe Rit dye). It required a lot of alteration, and the lapel is not really like the Edwardian coat (it’s too high), but it’s an affordable and easy alternative. This is what you need to do to turn a lab coat into the Fifth Doctor’s coat.

  • Try to find a lab coat that has lower pockets but no breast pocket. I used this one. The princess seams helped give it a bit of a tailored look.
  • Get some white cotton material to make into the flaps for the pockets.
  • Dye the lab coat and the flaps before attaching the flaps, so you can try to get them to match. I dyed them after they were attached and it turns out the flaps dyed darker than the rest of the coat. Once the piping was put on, though, it wasn’t really noticeable.
  • For the edge piping, I used 1.5-in. orange-red ribbon, cut to 1-in. width (for some reason, ribbon doesn’t come in 1-in. width). I “glued” it on using 3/8-in. fusible tape. Note that the piping on the coat is orange-red, while the red on the hat and shirt are a true red.
  • For the piping on the sleeve, I used 3/8-in. orange-red ribbon.
  • I removed the white buttons from the lab coat, then sewed on two brown buttons for the front, leaving the other buttonholes without partners.
  • I cut the back vent up to about the small of my back. The vent is not centered (you can see this if you watch the beginning of “The Caves of Androzani” when the Doctor is walking around looking at rocks), but instead about an inch right of center, with the horizontal piping at the top of the vent about 2 inches long. I added piping to the left edge of the vent (slightly extended from the edge so that it would cover the right edge) but not the right. Unfortunately, the vent didn’t close properly while wearing the coat, so I used fabric glue to glue the top 1/3 or so shut.
  • I sewed two brown buttons on the cuffs of each sleeve and one brown button to either side of the horizontal piping at the top of the vent.
  • I starched the coat well so that the fabric would have some stiffness. While doing this, I ironed the lapel so that it was longer and wider.

The Shirt

Buying the base shirt was easy. Well, relatively easy. I’ve found previously that white collared shirts appear in and disappear from women’s clothing stores depending on the season. Luckily, I was in the right season and I found a perfect, plain Liz Claiborne shirt right away.

The Fifth Doctor’s shirt has red (or green, in Season 21) lining under the collar, down the front behind the buttons, and under the cuffs. To create that, I bought red cotton material, cut and folded it so that it matched the area it was going to be under, ironed it so that it lay correctly, and glued it in place with fabric glue.

The collar lining and the patched-up question mark.

The collar lining and the patched-up question mark.

The last thing to do was to add the question marks to the collars. Here’s where I made a mistake: I glued the red cotton under the collars first. If I hadn’t, I would have been able to embroider the question marks with satin stitch, then glued the red cotton over the ugly backside. Unfortunately, I had to make do with fabric paint.

I printed out appropriately-sized question marks from the first link above, cut them out using an Xact-o knife, traced the template onto the collars using a fabric pen, then painted them in. The biggest problem I had with this was finding the right color fabric paint. Apparently, their “red” is more of an orange-red, and they didn’t have a good red other than the paint that was intended to be fluffy or glittery. There wasn’t anything I could do about it, so I had to just use the orange-red. It didn’t look that bad, but I’m kind of a perfectionist and everything else was looking so good, it was disappointing to not have a really good deep red paint.

Two tips: First, fabric paint takes hours to dry! Don’t try to work with a piece too early, or you’ll smear the paint all over the nice white fabric. I had to buy some white fabric paint to cover up the smears; luckily, you couldn’t tell from a reasonable distance. Second, the fabric pen does come out easily with water. Don’t be shy – just rinse the collar in water, but make sure the fabric paint is dry first!

The Cricket Jumper

A cricket jumper is a knitted sweater with a v-neck, usually with stripes around the neck and waist, worn by people playing cricket. Women, at least, can sometimes get sweaters similar to cricket jumpers in department stores, usually in a single color with no stripes, and I have one, in fact. However, it was very thin and flimsy and I didn’t like its look. I searched on eBay and found that there were tons of white or cream cricket jumpers for sale from the UK, but they all had stripes of the wrong colors on them.

I eventually found a place that sold white sleeveless men’s cricket jumpers, and I bought the smallest one they had. This turned out to be a great purchase. The material was very substantial, and having no sleeves meant that I didn’t get too hot wearing the entire costume. If you look at pictures of the Fifth Doctor that shows him wearing the coat, you mostly see the white shirt sleeves with the red lining peeking out at his wrists, not the jumper sleeves, so that worked as well. Also, the only time that the Fifth Doctor spent an extended amount of time without the coat was in “Planet of Fire,” and he went without the cricket jumper as well.

But what about the stripes? There are two main versions of the cricket jumper. Season 19’s jumper had three stripes at the neck: a thin dark green stripe separated by a bit of space from a thick red stripe and a thin black stripe. Season 21’s jumper had five stripes at the neck and the same motif at the waist: black, red, black, red, black. I chose to imitate the Season 19 jumper, since most of my costume was based off that season, and I didn’t care to do the waist. I created the stripes by painting them on with fabric paint. The dark green stripe required a mix of green and black paint, but the other two stripes were straight out of the bottle.

Apparently, the actual jumper was knitted with green and black yarn, with red piping sewn on afterwards. I at first tried simulating the stripes with glued-on ribbon, and while it looked fine, it made the neck un-elastic and I couldn’t get the sweater over my head. So, I had to tear it all off and paint it.

The Pants

I expected this to be the most difficult part of costume to acquire, but due to the fact that I’m female and an extreme stroke of good luck, it was the easiest. You see, the Season 19 pants are cream colored with vertical tan and red lines. While a man would normally never wear such a thing nowadays, it’s not unheard of for a woman to do so. And, in one of the thrift shops, I found just the pants. The stripes were not thick and varied like they were on the Doctor’s pants, but they were the right colors and worked perfectly. I wish you the best of luck with them.

As a side note, you can simulate later seasons’ pants with fabric paint pretty easily. Refer to the first link above for ideas.

The Suspenders

I fell in love with these. I should wear braces more often.

I fell in love with these. I should wear braces more often.

In “Planet of Fire,” the Doctor went without coat and cricket jumper, revealing that he wears suspenders (or, as the British apparently call them, braces) – cream with red question marks. His pants were actually high-waisted and designed to use Y-suspenders rather than a belt, but my pants had belt loops (and they couldn’t be easily removed), so I bought a pair of X-suspenders (ok, “braces” is easier to type) at a thrift shop. They were men’s braces that were tan with a blue pattern on them, but I found that if you turned them over, they were cream – just perfect.

I had to remove the findings to turn them over and then shorten them so that they would fit me. I then printed out correctly-sized question marks from the first page link above, used an Xact-o knife to cut them out, and drew the templates on using a fabric pen. And then, fabric paint. The first page link above also has a link to a great guide on how to position the question marks. The real suspenders also have brown vertical lines outside of question marks, but I chose not to reproduce those.

The Shoes

The Fifth Doctor wore white high-top leather cricket shoes, which apparently haven’t been made since the 70s and were difficult to get even when he was currently on the show. I substituted white high-top canvas sneakers.

Note that the Fifth Doctor also wore bright red socks, probably knee-high. I was amazed that I couldn’t find simple red socks in any clothing store in my area, and I had to order a pair of soccer (sorry, football!) socks from an online sporting goods store. Now I’m getting sporting goods catalogs in the mail every two weeks. Bleah.

The Celery

And look at me, I sculpted a vegetable!

And look at me, I sculpted a vegetable!

The decorative vegetable is essential to the Fifth Doctor’s costume. You don’t want to use real celery, because it will wilt and it might stain your coat. I found a knitting pattern for the celery on Ravelry, but my copy did not look good at all, not to mention that the local yarn stores didn’t have a good celery-colored yarn and I didn’t want to buy a whole ball of yarn for four inches of finished product.

So, I created my celery out of Fimo. I took green Fimo, and added white and yellow to it until I got sick of kneading plastic and the color was close enough. I then rolled out a thick strip of the plastic, curved it around a thick pen, gently pulled it off, and used a plastic clay knife to cut off the bottom end and draw vertical lines down the outer surface. I added two branches at the top and baked the piece, then glued some dull green leaves from a fake leafy thing I bought from a craft store, using epoxy. And then I glued on a pin backing. It worked out well: I had three or four people come up and make remarks that told me they thought the celery was real, and they were amazed when I told them it was plastic.

The Hair

I haven’t mentioned this before on this blog, but I’m Asian. Thus, I’m not the best choice for cosplaying the Fifth Doctor, but what the hey, it’s all for fun anyway. Getting a reasonable blond wig was easy enough. Non-real-hair wigs cost about $40. The length wasn’t too important, either, as long as it didn’t go past my shoulders: apparently, Mr. Davison would get a haircut at the beginning of a season and never cut his hair through the season, so the Fifth Doctor’s hair length varied wildly from episode to episode (since they weren’t necessarily broadcast in filming order).

The big problem was hiding my own hair, which is visible at the edges of the wig cap. The lady at the wig store suggested using cover-up makeup to brush into my eyebrows to make them look blond-ish, and spray-on blond for the edges of my hair. The cover-up makeup worked well, but the spray-on blond didn’t: it didn’t get in deep enough, and it came off very easily. Since I was at work for the first time I wore the costume, my black keyboard kept getting covered with gold powder. And, as the photos that were taken prove, you could easily see my black hair.

So, the second time I wore the costume, I brushed cover-up make up into my hair, at my temples and under my ears. This worked marvelously, as the hair looked almost blond. However, a lot of the stuff got onto the collar of the shirt, so I had to hand-wash it out (I don’t recommend using a washing machine for the shirt, as the red cotton lining might bleed all over the white). Also, the stuff doesn’t come out with shampoo, so you’ll have to wash your hair with regular soap.

The Props

Props make the costume!

  • Sonic screwdriver: The Fifth Doctor lost his sonic screwdriver early on, in “The Visitation,” when the alien-of-the-week destroyed it, and it was never replaced. Thus, a true Fifth Doctor cosplayer shouldn’t carry one, but if you decide you want to, you’ll want the Fourth Doctor’s screwdriver.
  • Cricket ball: This is the Fifth Doctor’s iconic prop. It fits easily in a pocket, and the Doctor is shown holding it occasionally. Also, other Doctors have had a cricket ball, too. The Fourth Doctor pulled one out of his pocket in “The Ark in Space,” and the Tenth Doctor used one to knock over some scaffolding in “Human Nature.” Well, ok, technically he stole that one.
  • Cricket bat: The Fifth Doctor has been shown playing cricket and carrying the cricket bat, but I wouldn’t include it in the costume, only because it’s big and heavy to carry around.
  • Half-moon specs: The original “brainy specs,” the Fifth Doctor wore them when he needed to inspect something closely, much like the Tenth Doctor did with his horn-rims in similar situations. You’d think that with Albus Dumbledore wearing half-moon specs, they’d be easy to get, but I only found one online shop, in Australia, that sold them.  At least they were very inexpensive.

In Conclusion

As a quick estimate, I think I spent a total of about $300 dollars on this outfit, including the trim, crafting, and sewing supplies. It took me about two months to do everything, though I would estimate about 5-10 hours a week during that time – I started two months early because I wanted to make sure I could finish everything while working at a leisurely pace.

The main thing is, though, I had an absolute blast doing this. I learned a lot about what kinds of things can be done to achieve a certain look, how to view a piece and figure out what shortcuts can be taken and what might work (especially with the tip on converting a lab coat into the Edwardian coat), and where to find supplies that you might not think of. I am very much looking forward to the next project, which may be a Tenth Doctor costume sewn from scratch, or I might do Firefly outfits for next year. 

Who knows? I think the main thing is to have fun with it. Molto bene!

Edit: Ok, I’ve been convinced to post a pic. Here I am as the Fifth Doctor, my husband as the Forth Doctor, Tara as the Weeping Angel, and her partner Nate as the TARDIS. That Weeping Angel costume was just amazing. It also took her 30 minutes to scrub off the gray stuff, and left the bathtub covered in it.

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