Sunday 22 September 2013

Ultimate Sixth Doctor Frock vs
Cloth Ears Six Frock Coat


I have to confess, that when Steve first made known his interest in producing a replica sixth doctor frock coat - back in late 2009 / early 2010 - I was mildly sceptical that it would actually reach fruition.

Not, I hasten to add, because of any doubts regarding his skills or attention to detail, but simply because of the scale of the challenge: the logistics, the expense, the complexity. It’s a colossal project, from researching fabrics and potential suppliers/manufacturers right through to the assembly.

The fact that so many of the fabrics can’t be closely matched with anything ‘off the shelf’ necessarily suggests the need to have them made bespoke – which, of course, involves painstaking development and sampling, not to mention phenomenal expense. Steve appeared undaunted by any of these considerations and bravely forged ahead, tackling the project methodically, little by little. Three and half years later… and I find myself taking delivery of the result.

Steve’s journey seemingly began when he was blessed with an opportunity to closely inspect one of the three screen-used examples of the coat (coat number 2). Some years previously I’d enjoyed a similar chance to inspect the same coat. So I can judge Steve’s replica from the standpoint of having briefly handled a “real” one.

I can also judge it from the standpoint of owning one of the replicas offered by Clothears, who were responsible for certainly the most commendable replica up until that time. Clothears, like Steve, had enjoyed access to a screen-used original (coat number 3), and, like Steve, had gone the route of having several of the fabrics custom made. At the time, the results were pleasing. The fabrics they’d had made were a reasonable match to the originals, not perfect, but reasonably close, and the overall effect certainly left me with the impression that this was pretty good – and probably as good as I had any business hoping for.

Without wishing to take anything away from the level of research and workmanship that went into the Clothears coat, I’m delighted to be able to say that it has now been surpassed … and by a quantum country mile. In many ways – and in fairness – each caters to a slightly different audience (and budget).

Clothears are best described as ‘costume-makers’, providing their services to the cosplay market. As a cosplay accessory their Sixth Doctor coat remains an excellent piece of work and (barring Steve’s) knocks any other replica into a cocked hat. In contrast, what Steve has produced goes beyond mere cosplay tomfoolery and ventures deep into the territory reserved principally for the ‘serious collector’. It’s a serious piece of art, a serious piece of craftsmanship and comes with a serious price tag to match.

So, out of the box… the first thing that strikes me… is that nothing is glaringly wrong. The cuffs are fashioned from exactly the right pillow ticking (which proved elusive even to Clothears), dyed yellow. Nice, rich, red tartan/plaid, with deep maroon cross threads (no sign of the conspicuous green threads present in Clothears’ red plaid fabric, which looked okay in certain lights, but which would occasionally catch the light/camera-flash in a way that just didn’t ring true to the original coat).

The multi-check fabric on the collar exudes all the subtle and subdued hues seen in the originals without any hint of the vivid, over-saturated blues and greens seen in the Clothears version. Similarly the check pattern is scaled so accurately that the coloured squares are able to fall in exactly the same place as they do on the original. The primary yellow lapel is more authentic in being brighter and punchier than its Clothears counterpart, which, I believe – as with certain other fabrics used in their replica – they elected to hand-dye to the desired shade. Another casualty of their hand-dye approach was, I think, the peach felt which, in the aftermath of the rigours of the process, did appear rather fuzzy, leading Steve to liken the result to ‘mohair’ in his own review. Steve’s coloured melton fabrics, in contrast, are fuzz-free. To the side, we find the pockets edged with exactly the right braid/piping as per the originals. Clothears sourced a good match but it wasn’t exact and the colour was a little off too.

Turning to the back, we see the fiddle back seams perfectly represented, the bias-cut shoulder seam bowing; and the arched seam that runs to the top of the waist pleat tapering elegantly as it heads towards the small of the back. Neither of these subtle lines are so apparent in the Clothears coat.

The woven upper panel, though arguably lacking something of the peculiar ‘shiny’ (almost fluorescent) quality of certain fibres and threads seen in the original, nevertheless resembles it very closely indeed. To anyone who hadn’t seen the original up close, this would certainly appear identical. The patchwork appliqué strip that runs the centre of the vented skirt is also a convincing recreation of the original.

The distinctive lining is another small marvel. To their credit, Clothears also commissioned fabric for the lining but approached it in a very different way, with different cost implications and, inevitably, quite different results.

The lining in Steve’s coat is an impressive extra flourish, and really completes the sense that what you’re handling is almost interchangeable with an original coat, albeit brand new – and unlike the Clothears lining, doesn’t rustle as you move.

In conclusion - leaving aside the superior fabrics used – the real hallmark of Steve’s Sixth Doctor coat is in the superior craftsmanship and construction that underpins every panel and stitch. Arthur Davey - the tailor who made coat number 1 from Pat Godfrey’s design - would be proud.

The result is one that illustrates the difference between a costumier and a tailor; between a cosplay accessory (even an advanced one such as the Clothears coat) and a bona fide collector’s piece. Steve’s coat benefits not only from his training and experience but from the fact that – rather more than Clothears, I will hazard – he is himself a Doctor Who Fan. It shows.


This Cloth Ears coat has subsequently been sold on eBay for £731.24

6th Doctor Who Frock Coat

Tuesday 10 September 2013

Nor-con 2013 - cosplay fun

This weekend was the latest Nor-Con event in Norwich.

It’s only the fourth to be held, but its built quickly to a nice little one-day event. The have attracted some top names and this year it includes Colin Baker. I’m keen to meet him again so he can see my costume properly, since Motor Mouth was a very brief encounter.

For a UK-based event there is a pretty decent contingent of cosplayers who attend, and in a variety of costumes.

There were some great Star Wars costumes on show, partly as an olive branch after a bit of a altercation with a local rival club made national news.

There was a Klingon being kept in check by some Enterprise crew.
I did worry for the safety of that girl in the red tunic though...
There was a gang of super heroes on hand to save the day!

This Bender costume from Futurama was my personal favourite.

If you look closely this is Bender’s evil twin - and the beard was quick-release to become Bender!

As ever Doctor Who was well represented, with both a Dalek and TARDIS around for photo-ops.

I also hooked with a number of Doctor cosplayers, notably as the Second Doctor, with the Seventh and Sarah Jane Smith; the Eighth Doctor from the Big Finish Dark Eyes; the Fifth Doctor; and the Eleventh Doctor in a smart frock coat.

I also met some young cosplayers as Captain Jack, Rose Tyler and the Tenth Doctor.

There was also some fun cosplay, with Scaroth and Romana from City Of Death; a couple of femme TARDISs; and some femme Doctors.

There was a really cool robot from Lost In Space. It was computer controlled and spoke lots of classic catch phrases, as well as a few of his own.

It was also nice to see some less common cosplays, such as this Merlin.
A room was set aside for guest to do signing sessions, and it was nice to see Sophie Aldred.

I also got to meet Lee Sullivan, who does some great comic strip and illustration work, but more on that another day.