Tennant Suit Project: The Christmas Special (Jacket)

Continued from Part 1!

So, I had my wonderful, awful, Christmas/Tennant/Two-Face trousers!

Patterned from my pair of genuine GAP trousers, I could definitely say I was happy with the result. All the minor issues I had while constructing them was noted in my pattern and edited.

But this was only half a suit!

The next hurdle was the jacket. And my biggest problem here was that I had no original to pattern from, and I had never made a suit jacket before, so I had no base pattern to use at all.

Luckily for me, I did have my friend and fellow obsessive cosplayer Alex Beard!

Alex, of Bad Wolf Costumes, has spent a lot of his energy deep diving into Star Trek costumes, but is a huge Who fan and in 2016 had created his own Ten suit from scratch. His results were excellent, and he made a commercial pattern. But, being a perfectionist like myself, he decided the pattern needed revising and pulled it. The new version would change nearly every panel at least slightly, so it was basically a brand new pattern entirely. But he was still in the revision process when I approached him about my project. Alex and I are good friends (we both have great names, so I guess it was inevitable) and we talked regularly about these things (I was heavily consulted for his revised trouser pattern, to confirm lengths, shapes, and internal construction details), and I asked if I could purchase an early jacket draft to use as a base. He generously sent me an advanced copy of the revised pattern and I went to work.

His pattern is truly excellent. It is immediately evident the amount of painstaking detail that went into creating this jacket (he even includes two collar options, as some versions of the suit have a slightly alternate collar shape). He nails basically every detail, and provides a step-by-step tutorial on how to construct the whole thing. His blog also contains an exhaustive breakdown of the suit (and the discrepancies between its onscreen alternates) including a deep look at the GAP trousers (fun fact, the reference photos posted on the blog are images of my GAP trousers taken before they were mine, when they still belonged to Thomas Dunn).

The work on the pattern itself is also excellent, with each piece labeled and graded into ten different sizes. With a little concentration, cutting out your size and organizing the pieces is a breeze.

But I knew I would have a special kind of challenge in fitting it – I’m narrow shouldered but have done a lot of working out in the last three years, so I needed the shoulder and waist fit of a 38R but the chest fit of a 42R (in off-the-rack I usually split the difference with a 40R but they don’t fit very nicely). In such a case, shoulder fit is much more important than the chest, so I cut out the 38″ chest pattern and added to the chest size significantly (and also tucked the waist slightly). I took a few more measurements, made some adjustments, and cut a test muslin, adding some small shoulder pads to help the shape.

Alright, I knew it was going to be a slim cut suit, but I had a feeling that this was still TOO snug. The sleeves were also too long (a common problem for me with off-the-rack suits) so I shortened them a bit. But I wanted to do as few revisions as possible on this, so I decided to get some references compared to the real suit.

Yes, it definitely looked a little too snug in the chest. And I had shortened my sleeves by too much, it seemed. But the biggest thing for me was how long the front panels were on me – they reached my thumbnails, which is not unusual for a suit jacket, but a touch too long for this suit jacket. I would have to shorten the entire thing.

Looked good to me. There was still a lot of work to do, so I moved on.

First thing to do was to take the pattern and transfer it to my preferred pattern paper, which is freezer paper. I altered each individual pattern piece directly on my new paper and cut the new pieces out, being very careful to make sure that I didn’t screw up any stripe matching.

Then, it was time to get to work.

It actually takes a lot more than just outer fabric, lining fabric, thread, and buttons to make a suit. There are multiple kinds of hair canvas, iron-on interfacings, melton wool, silk thread, stay tape, shoulder pads, flannel, pocketing, sleeve heads… this all ratchets the cost up considerably. I knew I needed to make a full-tilt, all-the-bells-and-whistles suit, so as my wallet cried out in pain I collected everything I needed. But I knew I could reuse most of these things on my real suits, so that helped justify the cost. Again, why buy something for $7 when you can make it yourself for $350 worth of materials?

Many of these things I was working with for the first time, even though no skill was completely new to me. I’d taped the front edges of many waistcoats, made oh so many welt pockets, set coat sleeves, padded collars… but to do all of these things with so many new materials all in the same project was a bit daunting, and cotton is a little more challenging of a suiting option than other fabrics.

Still, I found a way to make it fun. I found some flannel with a similarly silly Christmas pattern, even though the chest padding would never be seen on the finished garment. Knowing that it’s inside is probably my favorite part of the finished suit.

Sewing a traditional suit jacket takes a very long time. I would spend many late nights working, and Christmas was coming up quickly.

Still, little by little, everything came together. The more that the jacket took shape, the more that I was excited to see it finished. This tacky Christmas reject was shaping up to be FAR more stylish than I could have envisioned!

There isn’t much to comment on the in regards to the build itself, but I was very thankful for Alex’s help in navigating some of the trickier parts of the build.

I really focused on pattern matching, which I am quite proud of in terms of results. I decided to pick up some tan buttons in the same range as my real suit buttons for the sleeves and fronts, and picked up a cheap gold satin for the lining. The pocket bags I made in the same fabric as the trousers, a black cotton twill.

I had particular trouble at the collar. That collar notch shape is the one concession Alex’s pattern makes, in order to match the stripes on the original suits (the math is funny, and somehow neither of us could figure it out). In order to get the really wide notch I wanted, the stripes would not run vertically in the back the way they do on the real suit (see image above). I talked it through with Alex for a while, then made the executive decision on my suit that the stripe matching in the back was less important to me. This is the one part of the pattern that I will have to revisit on my final suits.

But as the project moved further and further and my nights became longer and longer, I grew more and more confident in my ability to tackle the project in the real fabrics – the ones I had been commissioning, reweaving, dyeing, and collecting for so many years now.

At long last, on the night before Christmas Eve, she was completed.

The next day I took the suit, threw on a beige Tennant linen, realized I didn’t own any ties so ugly as to match, and went to Napa for a Christmas Eve wine tasting with my BFF, Alannah.

I often spend my sewing time making commissions for other people, especially now in the pandemic when everyone needs masks and my actual career (cruise line performing) is completely shut down. But I recently itemized all the cosplay I’ve been putting off making for myself into one handy list. I then immediately bumped these suits towards the top. There’s still a few things ahead of it, but I expect that by the time the world opens up again, I will be completely ready to run around the world as my favorite Time Lord Victorious.

In the meantime, the Tenth Doctor has gotten a Christmassy makeover. I’m ashamed and thrilled that I have introduced such a beautiful abomination to the world.

Merry Christmas, everyone! Stay safe this year, and keep on cosplaying!

Ps. I finished this suit for Christmas 2019. For Christmas 2020, Kohl’s sold this rather familiar blazer:

What do you think, am I a trend setter? Drop a comment below.


About Alex

Alex is an American singer, actor, writer, tailor. He likes to cosplay between contracts in his Big Boy Job as a cruise line entertainer, traveling the world while singing.
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3 Responses to Tennant Suit Project: The Christmas Special (Jacket)

  1. Pingback: Tennant Suit Project: The Christmas Special (Trousers) | The Ginger Doctor

  2. Matt says:

    I love this suit so much! I have the Bad Wolf pattern myself, and was seriously eying this exact fabric for a mockup. I ended up buying something a bit less fun, but I haven’t gotten around to making it yet. Really enjoying your blog.

    • Alex says:

      Thank you!! I think you will be very pleased with the pattern and wealth of reference materials provided by Alex. Can’t wait to see what you do with the suit!

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