Question from laughingmagpie: It seems to me that very few of the costumes, at least on the humans, are made from scratch. Maybe she could compare and contrast the process of buying vs making items for costumes? Does she like one more than the other? Why do they seem to do so much more shopping than making? When they head out to shop (where? 😉 ) do they usually have a specific thing they are looking for, or do they bring back lots of stuff and then pick from that? Part of me also wants to ask, along those lines, whether River Song’s black dress was custom-made, or maybe it was vintage?
LB: Lots of the costumes throughout all of the series were made – River Song’s black dress being one of them. Ray Holman had 3 versions of it made, one ‘regular’ and one ‘stunt’ dress for Alex Kingston, and another ‘stunt’ dress for the stunt double to wear. The stunt dresses were made slightly bigger to accommodate flying harnesses and had button holes at various points for the wires to attach, for the scene where River flies out of the spaceship and into the Tardis!
Working on a series like Doctor Who is very fast paced, the designer would be prepping the next episode straight after establishing costumes for the first episode – it was literally non-stop! Making everything from scratch wouldn’t have been practical. Even when garments were bought from the high street or specialist suppliers, we usually made alterations to them, whether it was adding logos, dyeing things different colours, or breaking clothes down to look old and dirty, things rarely just came off the rack. Designers usually buy a selection of things and then fit the actor, so you have a good pool of costumes to work with, as sometimes what looks good in the shop may look very different on a body. It’s also great to put costumes together from hire companies, who have huge resources that designers can draw on. Making something from scratch is always exciting – Ray Holman’s designs for the Silurians in series 5 were one of my favourites. I dyed the under fabric in batches, sprayed the netting overlay and the silver scales, before we passed it all on to the costume makers. I also made the silver armour pieces for their wrists and boots, with the help of our costume trainee, which was a lot of work, but it was great to be involved in interpreting Ray’s design for a brand new costume.
Question from snowywolfowl: Is Jack’s army uniform a exact replica of an actual uniform style, or is it “inspired” by a uniform style?
LB: Jack’s coat was designed by Ray for series 1 – 3 of Torchwood and is based on a British Royal Air Force Great Coat, and the rest of his costume is 1940’s style – I think I’m right in saying it’s not a complete ‘uniform’ look.
Question from my_belle: I really would be curious to know how many “versions” of Jack’s coat they work with?? Since it gets destroyed many times in many episodes!
LB: There were lot’s of them! I’m not sure exactly how many there were in total, as I only worked on series 3 – ‘Children of Earth’, but I know Ray had 3 new versions made for that series alone. I think there was one designated ‘wet’ coat in series 1, used for all the rain sequences, and a few more blood-spattered and buried ones too! There always needs to be one for a stunt performer, and one that ends up with holes cut for harnesses and wires.