Saving the World in a Decent Shirt

Shirts are the one part of cosplay that I absolutely hate. You spend all this money on the right coat, the right pants, a waistcoat, accessories, maybe even the right shoes, and suddenly you realize that you need a shirt that’s up to the standard of the rest of your cosplay, which means you need to spend another several hundred dollars for something that’s going to be mostly covered up and probably completely unnoticed anyways.

10409137_1599808176897942_8478939535867170922_nOn the other hand, the right shirt can really be that clincher of a piece that gives you that sparkle of accuracy, or one of the few things you can fudge your way through for cheap without anybody noticing. Similarly, even if you end up dropping a bunch of money on a shirt, 9 times out of 10 it’s a piece that translates easily to your daily wardrobe, so really it’s an investment in your own style as well (unless you’re cosplaying a Doctor from the JNT era, then you’d have to run around with question marks on your lapels like an idiot).

But I got lucky recently, and along with the screen accurate tweed and boots, I was sold a few fantastically accurate Matt Smith shirts at a magnificently low price – today I’m here to tell you about those.

IMG_4255editFirst up is perhaps the most interesting shirt I received in my bundle – A genuine Paul Smith “Utah” shirt in grey.

The most interesting part of this shirt is that it’s actually not screen accurate. All of Matt Smith’s shirts for S6 and S7 (like his bowties) were all custom made for him. When this particular shirt popped up, it was immediately recognized as being the correct shirt, as it has a distinctive weave that makes it unmistakable – except the tailoring didn’t match the screen worn shirt. The screen worn shirt has a tab collar, something unusual for Paul Smith and missing from this one, and the typical PS buttons were absent on the screen worn shirt. But the distinctive fabric was clearly a match, so what was going on?


bluebowtieIt turns out that it is, indeed, the correct fabric (well, almost – the true fabric used actually has purple stripes instead of gray, but onscreen the hues wander and for a long time gray was the accepted color), but Paul Smith did not make the shirt. It was, in fact, custom made. It’s possible it was custom made by Paul Smith but does actually lack the Paul Smith buttons and other branding.

Considering, however, that the fabric is no longer available and Paul Smith options are the only available options (assuming you can snag an eBay find), this is the closest you can reasonably expect to ever have.IMG_4257edit

The shirt itself is labeled as a 16.5/42 but fits me just fine around the neck (I’m a 15.5 neck) and although it’s a little baggy in the chest and waist, tucked into G-Stars with suspenders it looks fine. It’s got the Paul Smith London buttons (which, interestingly, have a special back that’s flecked green and red) and single-button mitered cuffs.

The fabric itself feels very thin and light, and is quite prone to wrinkling. It’s possible this is due to the number of different weaves present, or maybe it feels extra worn because this shirt was purchased used, but I honestly expected something that would feel heavier and more important. On the other hand, it makes it a very comfortable summer shirt. It’s really lovely, and one that I’ll be wearing as an everyday shirt until I get the proper suspenders and bowtie for the full cosplay.


DOCTOR WHOAnother notable S6 shirt sported by Matt Smith is a mostly white check shirt with a fine herringbone weave, worn with the grenadine bowtie. On the vertical axis are alternating dark and light red tick marks, and alternating on the horizontal axis are dark and light blue ticks.

IMG_4279editThe shirt I have is a close-enough, and the biggest difference is that the background weave is a plain weave instead of the herringbone of the real thing, but the check pattern is an excellent match for  scale and pattern (the checks, if I may be nit-picky, are slightly off-color, having a horizontal repeat of burgundy ticks and a vertical repeat of blue and beige ticks).

The shirt in question is made by Marks and Spencer, and is, like the Paul Smith, a 16.5/42. Unfortunately, I completely believe that this shirt really IS a 16.5/42, as I practically swim in it (again, I’m a 15.5 neck and a 38″ chest)! But, like the Paul Smith, once it’s tucked in and underneath a bowtie, suspenders, and a tweed, you can hardly tell.


Next up is the shirt I’m perhaps the MOST excited about!

DOCTOR WHO SERIES 7B EPISODE 4Although the hunt is always on to find these fabrics and make screen accurate shirts from them, often it’s simply not possible, as fabric has the tendency to disappear from stock as soon as you realize you want it (if you don’t believe me, ask your sewing friends). So when such a fabric is actually found, it becomes a frenzy to get a proper shirt and a point of pride among the “inner circle.”

One such fabric that we are lucky was sourced is the fabric that made Smith’s shirt for the 7b episode Hide. The fabric is a stripey fabric in soft colors and stay hidden under Smith’s vest for pretty much the whole episode. The person I purchased my shirts from was (I believe) the person who sourced the fabric in the first place and sold me a shirt made from the screen used fabric, tailored by Mr. Steve RicksIMG_5405edit

The fabric yarns are black, white, light pink, sky blue, and a mossy brown. The pattern repeat is at almost ½” (it’s actually narrower by about 1/34th” – approximately ¾mm – notice how 1 is lined up directly on the black line to the right of the green stripes, but by 3 it’s lined up with the left side of the blue stripes). The strangest thing about this fabric is that it’s a super thin material and is very smooth; it almost has a silk-like feel. The fabric is very breathable, cool, and comfortable, and the colors are muted enough to make it a classy choice.

Ricks’ tailoring is very good. The pattern is probably a 90% match to the Smith custom shirt pattern, which has some odd details. The collars on Smith’s shirts are slightly taller than you’d typically find, and Ricks has the tall collar nailed (which I’m stoked about as it looks great on my long neck). The shirt is tabbed, and though the tab length and size is perfect, it’s been fitted directly into the edge of the collar instead of attached underneath (see the above photo of the Utah shirt on Smith to see how it’s supposed to be sewn). The detail is minor and something I don’t care about as only someone who’s really studied these shirts will notice, and even then probably won’t care. The cuffs are correctly mitered and single-button, the placket is the correct width, and it’s even fitted with a box pleat in the back, though Smith’s are sewn all the way down his back (a simple fix, and possibly a helpful one as it was originally tailored for someone slightly larger than me). The buttons aren’t quite right but I know where to get the correct buttons for cheap and sewing buttons is something I can do myself, easily. The fit on me is great though not perfect, and it’s really a shirt I will treasure for a long time. Honestly, despite the minor discrepancies, I would definitely recommend Steve’s work based on this shirt, and I know he’s an easy guy to work with – if you wanted I’m sure he would tweak the last few details for you.


That sums it up for the shirts I got in my lot (I also got a few goodies like an eye drive, a SA S5 burgundy bowtie, a watch, and a SA TARDIS key!), but before I leave I’d like to give a special shout out to my favorite shirt I’ve recently invested in!

DOCTOR WHO SERIES 7B SERIES PREVIEW IMAGESAs I’m very excited for my SA suspender clips and I don’t yet have a SA 7b vest (the fabric is the big problem there – more about that another time),  I wanted to do the Bells of St. John look as it’s one of the few (the only?) 7b looks where Smith doesn’t wear a vest. That meant I needed a shirt that’s up-to-snuff with the rest of the outfit. Of course, the fabric doesn’t exist anymore, so I did some looking around for the best close-enough I could find. Luckily, a cosplayer who actually has a Bells of St. John shirt in the real fabric has made a Spoonflower option, using his own shirt as a reference. Knowing this would be a pricey endeavor I hesitated, but eventually bit the bullet and had a local friend tailor the shirt for me, as she has access to a SA pattern for the Smith shirts.

This is the only cosplay shirt I own that’s been tailored to my measurements, and MAN does it feel good to wear! It was also about as expensive as the rest of these shirts put together but that’s the trade-off I have to make – if I buy it second-hand, it’s cheaper but doesn’t fit as well. This shirt is printed on cotton poplin and the fabric has some real heft to it.

IMG_4328editAn interesting detail to this shirt is that it has French cuffs, meaning that the cuff is cut twice as long and then folded back on itself, secured with cufflinks instead of a button. This, of course, meant that I had to go through the aggravating task of researching and locating a close-enough cufflink, which was surprisingly difficult.

Doctor Who Christmas Special 2012Smith has one pair of cufflinks that he wears intermittently throughout S7b, starting with The Snowmen (see right). They’re gold and a rounded square shape, connected by a chain. The actual links have two different designs on the face, separated diagonally, one side being polished and the other side having a subtle floral motif. Unfortunately, just finding square, gold cufflinks connected by a chain is difficult enough, and I figure that nobody really knows what it looks like anyways and it’ll be hidden under my frock coat 98% of the time so I bought some inexpensive cufflinks on eBay and I’ll revisit the situation later.

Overall, I am in love with this shirt. It doesn’t have a tab collar so it’s easier to wear out (having tabs flapping around in the wind is awkward) and it literally fits me perfectly. I cannot wait to show it off at Gallifrey One in 10 days!



About Alex

Alex is a writer, actor, tailor, and professional loudmouth. He has no professional or celebrity endorsements, though he did once meet Conan O'Brien while dressed as the Tenth Doctor. He's just a guy who needs a healthy outlet for his internalized rage once in a while.
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8 Responses to Saving the World in a Decent Shirt

  1. Timey says:

    Do you happen to have a screenshot that clearly shows there’s a floral pattern on the cufflinks? As far as I could tell it’s only one design on it and it’s just diagonal lines

  2. Cassandra says:

    Hey Alex,
    Sorry to bother you on a post that is quite old already. For the past month or so now I’ve been doing my own search. It started out as an idea, and manifested into something I’m really getting into. So, I’ve been trying to put together a complete outfit—of the one used in the Bells of Saint John episode. By far, your posts have been the most helpful to me in this struggle. I’ve already bought an Abbyshoy coat, and suspenders.. as well as a bow tie made from One question I have for you is about the shirt. Was the frabric you bought a good enough resemblance to the one used in The Bells of Saint John? Also, if you have any tips about how I can make this cosplay the
    absolute greatest, please do tell me, I’d highly appreciate it.
    Thanks for your time,
    Cassandra, a fellow Whovian

    P.S. This is a gift for my boyfriend; not to confuse you, thinking I’m getting the female cosplay.

    • Alex says:

      The fabric I bought is practically perfect. The best advice I can give is to find a good tailor and commission them to make a shirt from the Spoonflower print on cotton poplin. The shirt features a long collar, no tab, french cuffs, and a box pleat in back that has been sewn down from the shoulder to the hem. Find someone willing to sit down and work out a pattern with you and you won’t be sorry. It’ll run a bit pricey but it’ll be worth it in the end. This is the fabric I used:

      Let me know how everything turns out!

  3. Cameron Turner says:

    Hey Alex, are any of the eleventh doctors shirts for sale, it’s just I’ve been looking for that Utah shirt for ages, if not would you know where i can get a close enough fabric to make one?

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