Pardon the Delay

Hey everyone! I wanted to take a moment to apologize for the delay in the posts I’ve been promising on social media and in person, including a blow-by-blow on my first major cosplay build, the Matt Smith “fish scale” waistcoat from S7b, and a full review of the new Abbyshot 12th Doctor navy coat! My computer has been on the fritz recently, making it impossible to blog, but hopefully it will be fixed soon and the blogging can continue!

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Cuff ‘Em, Boys!

As I started discussing in my last post, I’m all about the little details. I’m also learning how to sew and alter clothing, so it made sense to help cut my teeth on a modification detail that’s been bugging me for a while: The cuffs on Matt Smith’s S6/S7 jeans!

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These are proper cuffs, not rolled hems. And it’s not a detail that the proper G-Star Raws in Blade Slim come with, either, meaning that it’s up to the owner of a genuine pair whether or not they want to alter their rare, long-discontinued $250 designer jeans. For a long time I’ve been putting it off, but I recently decided to undertake the project, confident that I could pull it off without ruining my pants. I also received this beauty for Christmas:

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So I could do the mods at home and not burden or worry somebody else by using their machine!

 

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I happen to own three pairs of G-Stars at this point, top left being the SA S6 G-Stars, top left being the dark navy pair I talked about last week, and the middle bottom being the S7b G-Stars. I only went to cuff the two accurate ones as the navy ones are actually slightly too short anyways (they’re mislabeled 33×32 when they’re actually 33×31). Under my OttLite, you can see the slight color variations between the denim styles.

IMG_9758I started with my S6 jeans, which are surged in dark navy thread.

The first thing to do was to turn the pant legs inside out and pin the cuff into place, so I took care of that. IMG_9761I then noticed that seam allowance on the inside was pretty sloppy – that would need to be ironed out in order to reduce bulk for later. It had actually spent so long folded over itself like that that separating the two allowances was a bit of trouble, and quite a bit of lint had collected inside (ew), so it took a little longer than I had anticipated to get it cleaned and pressed flat. It required me to unpin it so that I could iron it all the way up to the hem. So finally, I’d sorted out all of my seam trouble and had it repinned properly.

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IMG_9769The actual cuffs are around 1″ wide, sometimes a little wider, so I pinned these with a bit of lee-way at around 1.5″ – the actual cuff length ends at the hem stitching because that’s where it’ll be sewn down.

Which was, of course, the next step!

The stitching needs to run along the already existing stitch line because the hem of the pants needs to fold under the cuff and out of sight on the inside of the jeans (it’s also a bit bulky to sew through the hem, and even more difficult to get it to press). Luckily, the leg opening is the perfect size to fit around the end of my machine if I pulled off the storage compartment in the front, so on I slid the first leg!

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A little bit of back-stitching and off I went, sewing the hem to the pant-leg along the already existing stitch line in black thread. Piece of cake! You can barely even see where the new stitching was!

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IMG_9777The next step was to flip the pant leg right-side out again. You can see at left how the hem now naturally wants to fold up into the jeans. We’ll press them a little later to secure it in place.

IMG_9782Once the leg is right-side out again, it looks done, but it’s not quite there yet. The last detail is to secure the cuff so that it doesn’t flip open while you’re wearing them. The best way to do this is, again, to simply stitch over the seam that already exists, to hide the the fact that there’s new stitching running up the cuff. I was careful to ensure that I lined my seams up (details and all that) and sewed it down.

IMG_9785This is actually trickier than it sounds because you’re sewing through what feels like a jillion layers of denim (yes, a jillion is a technical term). Not only do you have the three layers of fabric you’ve sewn on top of each other, you have the extra three folded layers at the opening from the hem that’s underneath plus, if you’re off-center a little, the extra seam allowance layer. It’s also a pain because it’s such a short area that sometimes the feed dogs don’t want to catch and move the fabric. So, with lots of jamming the fabric under the foot and pushing to get it to catch on the feed dogs, I finally had both sides of my cuff sewn to the pant leg, effectively securing it in place. I repeated all these steps for the second leg (which was already waiting for me, ironed and pinned).

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The finished cuff measures about 1.25″ so I’m pleased. It really didn’t take very long either, maybe a half hour to an hour tops.

IMG_9792I repeated this process for the S7b black buttoned G-Stars. These were probably even easier to work on than the previous pair, and I was able to blast through all of it without much issue.

That is, until I got to the last cuff-securing seam.

IMG_9797Though very bulky, I hadn’t been having much issue getting the fold to sew. There was a little complaining from my machine but not much actual trouble. Naturally, that all waited until my last stitch to finally be a pain.

No matter how much I tried, I could neither get it to sew straight or keep it from bunching on bottom. I gave it maybe three or four goes before attempting to maybe change the tension. I figured it was probably a tension issue since the spot is so much bulkier than the rest of it but I hadn’t had any issues on the rest of the project, so I didn’t think much of it. After some unsuccessful attempts at fixing the tension, my machine clearly showed me what my problem was.

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Oops.

I had spent the entire project sewing on a needle that was not meant for denim at all, let alone such a bulky seam, and the needle finally gave up on me. I consulted my manual and changed needles to the PROPER strength needle and finished the cuff without much issue.IMG_9810 I even had enough time left in the day to do some quick hand-stitching to help secure the old hem to the underside of the pants.

IMG_9814Immediately thereafter I went out to invest in a thimble – nevermore will I hand sew into denim without one! I even took some time to secure the buttonhole on my navy blue pair – I was on a roll with this DIY stuff!

I’m extremely happy with the results of my adventure and learned a lot about my machine and the importance of needle size! After some pressing, my G-Stars are now fully screen accurate and ready to go for Gallifrey One!

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And don’t think for a second that this will be the extent of my adventures in sewing – on the contrary, I’m just whetting my appetite for creation! There’s plenty more to follow, some of which I’m already working on. Being able to say “I did it myself!” is so satisfying, there’s no way I could stop at just collar tabs and trouser cuffs. In fact…

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…there may or may not be a few “cool” items showing up on my Etsy very soon! Keep checking in for updates!

 

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God is in the Details

I am a screen accurate junkie.

(What?? No way! I don’t believe you!!)

Well, believe it, baby. And as a screen accurate junkie, with so much knowledge available on the most intimate details of the most recent Doctors, there are a few little details I like to check off in my brain about things that nobody else ever notices that I want on display. It’s all for my own personal pleasure in my cosplay, I don’t expect anyone else to care or even notice, but I like knowing that I’ve got those details clinched down tight. For example, the lacing on shoes. In my Capaldi post, I mentioned how his Loakes are laced strangely (and I’ve been told that the Loakes do NOT come from the factory with this lacing):

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…whereas the nearly identical Doc Marten Afflecks are not tied this way.

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Also little-known fact: In America, Converse come laced like this:

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Apparently, this is not true in England (so I’ve heard), and David Tennant’s trainers are laced like this:

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(What’s the difference??)

The difference is in where the lace starts at the toe of the shoe. In America, the lace runs OVER the eyelets, whereas in England it runs underneath. You’ll also notice that Tennant’s laces always follow the same pattern: under the eyelet first and then out the top. The American-style laces go in the eyelet from the top of the shoe and come out underneath.

(But Alex, this is the stupidest, most pedantic detail I’ve ever heard of!!)

Of course it is! That’s why I love it so much.

Obviously I don’t judge people who don’t have these details incorporated into their cosplays, but I love knowing that I have a handle on these things. As someone once said, “God is in the details.” (Who said it? Nobody knows. Probably Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. I quote it because Stephen Sondheim says it as one of his three principles of writing . I may also be a musical theatre nerd. But I digress.)

One such detail that I haven’t fully incorporated into my cosplays yet is the upturn on Matt Smith’s pants for Series 6 and beyond.

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Now, I own both pairs of screen accurate G-Star Raw jeans in Blade Slim with the waxed denim fabric (the S6 jeans have a brass button and S7b have a black button – again, pedantic details are my obsession), but there’s an issue with them: They don’t come cuffed.

g-star-raw-blade-slim-ultra-black-denim-profileI don’t know if the S5 Topman trousers came with a cuff or if it was added later (and I’m too lazy right now to research it), but the BBC wanted Matt Smith to wear pants that are slightly short on him. So when they decided on the G-Stars for S6, the obvious decision was to add the cuff, as it’s a very simple modification and it shortens the hem.

But you’ll notice something else about this cuff – it’s not a rolled hem. It’s a proper cuff. This is evidenced by two details: 1) There is no seam allowance poking out of the cuff like there would be if the hem was rolled, and 2) the underside of the fabric would be facing out, which would look different than the front side of the fabric.

rolledcuffUnfortunately for us broke cosplayer types, when you scrounge up long-discontinued, $200-$250 RRP screen accurate designer jeans off eBay in mint condition in your size, the thought of altering them in any way is hard to bring yourself to do. So, in the past, I’ve simply rolled the hems (see right) for fear of screwing it up and ruining my rare, expensive pants. I mean, who cares about the hem anyway, right?

bluerolledhemcropBut the detail hound in me started barking ever since I got my first pair of black-button G-Stars, because there was a problem with them.

They weren’t black.

They were ACTUALLY a very very dark navy, but you couldn’t really tell on the front side of the fabric (hence my mistakenly purchasing them, thinking they were the correct style). You could, however, tell on the back side. Like, a lot.

So I’ve been plagued by this (#whitepeopleproblems). However, recently I’ve been learning and teaching myself how to sew and modify clothing, because I’m tired of having to pay people money I don’t have to do simply fixes that I’m VERY picky about. One such example of this has been making my own collar tab for the blue S6 shirt.

IMG_8221cropI purchased it off ModernTailor, but their collar tab pattern is inaccurate; it’s affixed directly into the side of the collar when Smith’s are attached underneath, and their snaps were improper. So I requested that they leave off the tab entirely and instead enclose a swatch of the raw fabric, and they were lovely enough to oblige.

 

IMG_8227cropUsing the original tabs from my Hide shirt (which I also replaced) as a template, I patterned new tabs for my blue shirt. I had the proper snaps already and did the whole thing from scratch, sewing the tab down and hand-stitching the snaps on before sewing them into the underside of the collar.collartabsblue

It’s the stupid little things that make me the happiest. God is in the details.

So I had been agonizing about my G-Stars. Luckily for me, I have amazing friends, and one of them found and purchased a pair of proper black G-Stars in my size with the black button and gave it to me for Christmas! Suddenly, I had two perfect, screen accurate pairs of G-Stars, and the only things wrong with them was that they didn’t have proper cuffs.

But by now, I felt confident that this was an alteration I could do, and pull off. Using the cuffs on my S9 Mendoza trousers as a template, I got to work.

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Subscribe to my blog for part 2, where I will discuss how the cuffing process went!

 

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Something Blue – The Donation Station

IMG_8131editIf you saw my last post, you’ll know that I’ve been putting a lot of time and energy into putting together a few screen accurate Twelfth Doctor cosplays. Though initially unimpressed, through Peter Capaldi’s incredible performances, the look has grown on me.

As someone who doesn’t make a ton of money, I’ve become extremely adept at eBaying and bargaining for the expensive pieces, because I’ve been struck with the screen accuracy sickness. For the most part, it’s a fine plan, because a lot of the pieces are/were retailed and are purchasable (the All Saints Mode Merino hoodie, for example). For the rest, I can usually put aside the money from a Tom Baker Scarf or two to offset the cost.

IMG_8643cropBut today I find myself in a conundrum. In my The Girl Who Died cosplay, I find myself, for the first time, in wearing a near 100% production made, screen accurate cosplay. No pieces are alts or replicas, with the exception of the Loake boots (which will be replaced with the correct Doc Marten Afflecks in time) and the ring. The shirt I bought from House of Fraser before they sold out, the hoodie from All Saints in ink, the trousers straight from Mendoza, made by the guy who made them for Capaldi from the actual bolt of fabric. The only thing that couldn’t have been stolen from the back of the wardrobe van is the ring, which will also be replaced when I have that money to throw down.

And that’s my hope when a cosplay I want to do seems really simple. I want to make sure that every detail is clinched in tight, so that when people see me, they’re struck by the cosplay – it’s like the character has walked out of the screen instead of like a guy dressing up to resemble the character.

Which brings me to the elephant in the room:

What am I going to do about the coat?

peter_capaldi_promo_shot_cropOriginally mistaken for a Crombie, the coat was made in-house by the BBC in a classic, three-button style in navy wool with a red/navy irridescent lining (though the lining changes to a plain burgundy lining for S9). It’s probably the one truly iconic piece he wears, aside from the horrid Paul Smith Jumper, and is a wonderfully simple, understated garment.

That said, I don’t understand how so many places offering replicas have gotten it so wrong. I understand wanting to keep costs down and sacrificing details of fabric quality and weaving custom linings, but of what’s available (and as we wait for Abbyshot to throw their hat in the ring), I’ve been disappointed with the cuts and qualities of the factory-produced replicas – none of them can stand up to an otherwise fully screen accurate cosplay. So I’ve decided that the only way to do this is to go with a custom, bespoke or made-to-measure garment from a true tailor.

The rub of it is, a top quality tailor using top quality materials is always reflected in the price. While high cost doesn’t scare me, I simply don’t make enough money to just commission a coat willy-nilly. I’ve been agonizing for a while now on how to fund this most important piece of cosplay in time for Gallifrey One this coming year, without simply running a GoFundMe. I think I’ve found the perfect solution:

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I happen to be a huge fan of both minimalist and tactile art. After brainstorming for weeks, I realized that creating these fabric representations of our favorite doctors was one of the best ways to do this! The greatest part is that I can use them to pass on the one thing I’d been truly wanting to get my hands on since the beginning – a swatch of the S8 lining. This is way more interesting than just cutting up fabric swatches and mailing them around – this is a conversation piece to decorate your cosplay display case with, or frame on your wall!capaldicardscale

The card itself is 4.25″ x 6.375″ and features a coat silhouette, patterned and hand constructed by yours truly. The “shirt” is a white cotton poplin, and the blue and black fabrics are wool costume felts. They have not been color matched but are a good approximation of the real wools. I know that the real waistcoat is actually a dark navy wool and not black, but the options for off-the-rack wool felts are extremely limited, and this was the best option for contrast purposes.

12308942_10153405713069833_1556364048_nThe lining has been provided by Steve Ricks. He was generous enough to donate offcuts of his lining reweave for my project, and the fabric is truly beautiful. The weave is 100% silk and is a damn good match to the genuine one.

The real buttons used on Capaldi’s coats and waistcoat are readily available from plenty of shops that sell haberdashery… in the UK. IMG_8094cropNot only that, but they are genuine horn buttons that are a painful £2 PER BUTTON for the ligne used on the front of the coat. Because they’re so expensive and I’ll need so many for this project, I decided to foray into unknown territory… and resin cast my own!

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The project has been easy but frustrating. Resin casting is a lot of trial and error and these buttons are a little tricky due to their shape and size (see photo above). Even so, I’ve managed to get some damn good casts made! Pretty soon I’ll also be selling full sets of SA resin casts (stay tuned for that!) but for now, I am using my resin casts on my cards to showcase the screen accurate button without breaking my own bank.

So, if you’ve ever wanted to help out a local cosplayer AND get something awesome in return, this is your opportunity!

If you would like to donate to the project, please feel free to PayPal me at gingerdoctorcosplay@gmail.com. If you would like to support me by purchasing one of my cards, read on!

What you get:

A beautiful display card featuring a sample of the SA buttons and TWO swatches of SA lining, representing our beloved Peter Capaldi.

IMG_9194editThese exclusive cards are available on Etsy and eBay for $38 (shipped domestic), but if you order through my website, you can get them for for $32 (shipped domestic, $36 shipped International) AND the first 60 cards made will also be hand-numbered.

Each card is hand constructed by yours truly, which means that they are all unique pieces and quality-controlled by myself.

12325218_10153405695944833_379183373_nThis is the perfect gift for you or for the Capaldi fanatic in your life (brace yourselves – Christmas is coming!).
If these are successful, I have plans to adventure into other Doctors and eventually run them as a set. But Who might be next? Allons-y and we’ll see!

I cannot contain my excitement to be both creating these cards and completing what is going to become my new main cosplay. Every sold card goes directly into helping me afford the beautiful cherry on top of this wonderful cosplay.

If you’re interested, please contact me or donate at

gingerdoctorcosplay@gmail.com

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The Clock is Striking Twelve

When Peter Capaldi’s costume for Doctor Who was revealed back in January of 2014, I was relieved. I didn’t care for it at all. It was boring. It lacked an iconography present in both David Tennant and Matt Smith’s looks on the show. And I was thankful for this because it meant I didn’t feel obligated to drop thousands of dollars into a new Doctor Who cosplay.

Cut to nearly two years later and:

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How did this change occur in me? Probably because I think Peter Capaldi is KILLING IT as The Doctor. It’s very possible that he will be my favorite Doctor by the time he finally leaves the show (thankfully not for at least another season!). To be honest, it was a slippery slope once the Label Lab t-shirts were ID’d and readily available online (now sadly sold out) – after possessing both of them and desperately wanting the Crombie anyways, it became a very expensive hop-skip-and-jump into the SA Capaldi ocean.

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Right now I’ve got the two big Series 9 looks on lockdown and I have plans for Series 8 in the works. So let’s run through these breakdowns. I’ve been doing a damn lot of research lately and there’s a lot of little details I see a lot of Capaldi cosplayers get wrong (even if you’re not doing screen accurate, you can still keep a eye on the details to keep the silhouette and overall feel authentic), so hopefully this post can give a bit of guidance to other Twelves.

maxresdefaultFirst up are the Sonic Sunglasses (why does everyone hate these? They’re just a fun little prop that Capaldi rocks and we know the screwdriver will be back eventually. Calm down everybody). Yes, it’s common knowledge that they are Ray Ban Wayfarers but the Wayfarer is a classic style that’s been around since 1952 and there are a lot of variations. The style you’re looking for is the Original Wayfarer Classic RB2140 901 50-22 with Green Classic G-15 lenses. While that may sound super specific, it’s really the default classic Wayfarer style and they retail for a relatively inexpensive $150 from Ray-Ban.com. You can also find these pretty easily for a decent price on eBay, but beware of fakes.

IMG_8098editNext we have the infamous pink henley worn in The Magician’s Apprentice/The Witch’s Familiar.

I am a lucky SOB.

A friend of mine was touring Europe recently and dragged his girlfriend to every single H&M he could find (twelve in about a week I think was the final number) hoping to scrounge up some hint of these dusty pink bastards. His only stroke of luck was on a little archipelago owned by Portugal called Madeira, where he managed to uncover a few (all spoken for – sorry). The photo posted above was taken under an OttLite and is a fairly accurate representation of the color. To be fair, it’s a very tricky color that seems to change depending on its mood. I intend on Pantone matching my henley eventually, but for now your best bet is to buy one in white from H&M and dye it pink. At barely $10 a henley, it’ll hardly break your bank.

henleycropOne detail I see most people ignore is that Capaldi’s top button has been removed from his henley (more accurately, all the buttons have been removed and it’s been sewn 2/3 shut).IMG_8115crop It’s really a good thing for people wearing dyed henleys as H&M matches the button to the main fabric color – this way nobody has to go looking for a single pink button to switch out with their white ones. Simply grab a seam ripper and cut the sucker off and you’re actually more screen accurate than you were before! If you really want a screen accurate one, keep your eyes on eBay, as the likelihood of them popping up there is quite high.

Moving from the inside out, we have the well-documented Label Lab shirts in the Misty Mountain (MA/WF) and Negative Flower (GWD) prints, both limited editions (naturally). I bought my Negative Flower straight from House of Fraser when they were still available (some of the best customer service I’ve ever experienced!) and was lucky enough to buy a Misty Mountain from someone who had originally purchased one from House of Fraser and realized that he didn’t want it after all. DWCapaldiEp9cropIn the show, both shirts sport some fair distressing but I’d need an extra shirt to even begin to attempt destroying my now-rare, screen accurate pieces.

In terms of close enoughs or replicas, Label Lab keeps a similar aesthetic in their line of graphic Ts, and RedBubble does a replica of the Misty Mountain shirt, the accuracy of which I cannot vouch for. The actual Label Lab t-shirts are some of the softest, most comfortable t-shirts that I own and I plan to buy more from House of Fraser so I can stop wearing my screen accurate cosplay shirts to bed!

hoodiesContinuing our progression, we next come to the hoodie, ID’d long ago as the All Saints Mode Merino hoodie. You may have noticed that the hoodie I’m wearing in my pictures is not black, though it is a genuine Mode Merino. In fact, a big detail I see people get wrong is that he only wears the black hoodie in conjunction with the Paul Smith jumper (as in Last Christmas, where the hoodie first appeared). With the t-shirts, he wears the hoodie in the “ink” colorway, which is actually a very dark navy blue. I actually like it better in the ink, as it feels more like an extension of the coat. The hoodie is so wonderfully comfortable, it tends to run small so it’s nice and tight, and it’s the softest wool I’ve ever worn. It retails for a painful £88 but it doesn’t appear to be going anywhere anytime soon so it is readily available online and on eBay. If you do look for it on eBay, the way to tell the difference between the black and the ink in crappy photos is that the logo is gray on the black hoodie and burgundy on the ink hoodie. This is not the only hoodie style he wears in the show but I won’t be talking about the other ones here (though one of them is a horrifically expensive £225 merino hoodie from John Smedley).

capaldiplaid3scaleinternetupdateMoving on from that, we have the impossible pants.  The real pants were cut from the remnants of a bolt of vintage wool, and only two pairs were made as that was all the fabric they had. The pants were likely patterned from the Paul Smith pants of S8 (and do actually feature pleats). I’ve been spending significant amounts of time and money patterning and swatching these trousers from super high resolution photographs for Spoonflower printingHonorary Doctor is putting together a run of these trousers custom patterned from a pair of vintage Paul Smith pants using my Spoonflower fabric, so contact him if you’re interested in having a pair made! (If you’re a Gallifrey Base member, you can find the thread here.) In the meantime, I’m wearing a pair of pajama pants found at Nordstrom Rack which are an excellent substitute in the meantime, and cheap too!

IMG_8635editIt was recently discovered that the navy windowpane trousers worn in The Girl Who Died were commissioned from Mendoza Menswear with a few alterations requested from the BBC. I jumped on the opportunity as soon as the ID came out and ordered the trousers (again, some of the BEST customer service I’ve ever received!). The check is actually two colors, the double lines in a yellowish cream and the single lines in a peach. They’re made of a beautiful wool blend and are impeccably tailored, absolutely worth every full-price penny I paid for them. The website says they have a 1″ turn up but my pair (made to the exact specifications of the BBC) have a 1.5″ turn up. Mendoza has commissioned their mill to have the fabric rewoven and is currently taking pre-orders for the new trousers. In the meantime, they still have some stock of the original fabric left and you can request the BBC alterations. I’d recommend emailing or calling them, they are some of the NICEST people I’ve ever talked to!

hugobosscalebsblogIn terms of alts, there’s a good pair of men’s pajama pants at H&M right now but I can’t find them online. Keep your eyes peeled!

The third tartan pants worn in S9 are, of course, the Hugo Boss Caleb trousers from The Woman Who Died – more on these and the other two pairs are outlined in a later post of mine.

Moving on, the shoes are the Capaldi’s classic Loake brogue boots. I personally find the shoes to be quite comfortable, though so many people consider them clodhoppers. The soles are super chunky and super durable, which makes them great daily wear, unlike Matt Smith’s bespoke Victorian-style calfskin boots. Detail-wise, I find that most people lace their boots incorrectly, though I believe they come from Loake with the screen accurate lacingcapaldilaces.
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They have a strange lacing, which I’ve outlined here in a graphic. I’ve never seen another pair of boots laced like this before but I’m told it’s not uncommon on British boots.

The bigger reason that the lacing is important (spoiler alert: It’s really not), though, is because Capaldi switches to two different pairs of boots in Series 9 – a pair of Doc Marten Mayers in Under the Lake/Before the Flood, and Doc Marten Afflecks in The Girl Who Died and The Woman Who Lived, which he switches to for good when he puts on the velvet coat. Series 9 Image 1cropsThe lacing here is only “important” because it’s one of the only tip-offs that he’s not wearing the Loakes in GWD, as the Afflecks are practically identical to the Loakes except for the toe punch and the lacing. It’s ironic to see this turn of events, because in the past the Afflecks were considered the best alt for the Loakes, and cheaper. Now, everyone who bought the Afflecks because they couldn’t bring themselves to afford the $4oo Loakes are jumping for joy at accidentally investing in screen accurate shoes.

capaldiringgwdLastly, but not leastly, is the ring. Not wanting to take his wedding ring off, Rowley’s the Jewellers outfitted Capaldi with a second gold band fitted with a green amber to fit over his existing band. IMG_8643ringcropYou can order the rings from Rowley’s for around $1000, but for those of us without that kind of money to drop, options are limited. Magnoli Clothiers used to offer an option and doesn’t anymore.
My ring was purchased secondhand from someone who purchased it from someone on the RPF for $90. I would link his information here if I had it. For the price, it’s a fantastic replica, and I’ll proudly wear it until I have the kind of money to get the genuine ring straight from Rowley’s.

If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll notice that there’s something very important missing from here:

The coat.

As far as that goes, it remains the one piece I still need to purchase, and will cost me almost twice the money I’ve spent on the rest of these items combined. But I have all the details of obtaining my coat pretty much ironed out. How, you ask? Stay tuned to find out…

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The Wand Company Eleventh/Twelfth Doctor’s Sonics – The Exhaustive Review

instagrameditAt San Diego Comic-Con this year, I was lucky enough to be part of The Wand Company’s limited run of new extending Twelfth Doctor sonic screwdriver universal remotes as #039 of 168 numbered pilot production units. I had extraordinary fun flicking it out and showing it off all weekend, but as I examined it more and more I realized something:

I wasn’t able to really tell how awesome or not awesome the prop is.

As a Tenth Doctor die-hard, I haven’t spent much time with Matt Smith’s sonic. Even though I could kind of describe it to someone who didn’t know anything about it, I simply didn’t have the knowledge to do a real examination of it and decide just how screen accurate it was or wasn’t.

But I do know someone who could absolutely help with that!

I sat down with my friend Brian Uiga, Sr. Mechanical Design Engineer at Lasergraphics Inc., life-long Whovian, sonic screwdriver enthusiast, and friend to both Nick Robatto and the guys who run The Wand Company. He’s also the production designer for Inspector Spacetime, built a ray gun for the BBC to do a photoshoot for Doctor Who Legacy mobile game, and restored the screen used 8th Doctor TARDIS Console with the owner.

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Part of Brian Uiga’s collection of Who prop replicas

Not only is he passionate about sonics and knows the man who created Smith’s, he owns #130 of Nick’s LE250 run of screen accurate sonic screwdrivers and has had much time to chat with Robatto about its construction. After an initial comparison of 11 sonics and story sharing, we sat down and recorded another hour and fifteen minutes worth of discussion on the specific history of the sonic and every inch of both the Robatto sonic and the Wand Company replicas, as well as some chat about the toys. It’s entirely possible that I will do some rough editing on our podcast-style chat and post it here in the future, but for now I’m here to take that information and give you everything you need to know when considering picking up an 11th Doctor sonic screwdriver, particularly if you’re looking at the Wand Company. Let’s start at Ground 0:

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Rubbertoe Replicas is a company owned and run by Nick Robatto, the man “responsible for personally making on screen versions of every sonic screwdriver that has been featured on the show since its re-launch in 2004” according to his website. He has been licensed by the BBC to replicate the 11th Doctor sonic screwdriver as seen on the show – and he is currently embroiled in a limited run of 250 of these screen accurate sonic screwdrivers, which he personally constructs by hand. Let’s take a look at it.

IMG_6686editThe emitter and core of the sonic are made of resin which has been specially cast to give it a marbled effect (this is achieved by waiting for the resin to mostly cure, then eyedropping several drops of light pigment on top and manually swirling it around in the mold with a toothpick). The core then has a hole drilled through the center to allow for wiring that connects to an LED in the emitter. The claws are aluminum, machined on a water jet cutter, and are individually spring-loaded. The aluminum parts of the cage (with the knurling) are machine CNC‘d (the originals were hand-tooled, but for ease in the building of 250 of them, this has changed) along with the copper cage pieces, which are riveted together by hand with brass rivets. The copper pieces connecting the cage to the grip have now been internally redesigned to accommodate a screw thread construction, even though cosmetically it still looks as it did in Matt Smith’s era.

IMG_6684editThe grip is made of Napa leather that has been stretched and heat-shrunk over a conical internal core probably made of either die-cast or 3D-printed plastic after being hand-stitched shut. A microswitch sits on the other side of the grip and controls the LED in the emitter. Sound is added in post-production, and no screen used version of the sonic is fitted with any sound design (although Robatto will add sound to a Rubbertoe sonic when requested for an extra cost).

IMG_6682editThe handle is cast in resin from a mold taken of the original handle, which was hand-tooled by Robatto; it is ivory colored and yellows a bit over time. The original sonic had a cap on the back that housed the activation button (as on the toy version), but after finding that most of these carefully constructed caps had been super glued shut by the props team (and Matt Smith rarely held the sonic CSI maglite style, as was originally intended), Robatto redesigned the cap to be part of the now completely static back piece, which is CNC’d on a metal lathe along with the cage and secured with a set screw (or grub screw if you’re from the UK) located in the handle.

EDIT: A wonderful video has surfaced of Robatto showing off the brand new Mk I before bringing it to set for the first time, and you can see every inch of the very first incarnation in great detail, including the back cap, the look of the brand new copper, and what it looks like when fully extended.


This impressively-engineered prop was designed from a concept drawing by Dan Walker and built in 9 days. The Mk I was given to Matt Smith on his first day of filming (The Time of Angels was the first episode filmed for S5), where he promptly broke it, as it was designed to be gently pushed open with a thumb – Smith pulled on the cage and accidentally yanked the whole thing apart. It has since been redesigned to be aggressively flicked open West Side Story-style, as Smith decided he wanted to do with it, and is now a much sturdier prop than before. It measures 8⅝” long when closed and 9½” long open, and weighs about 9.4 ounces (9.8-10 ounces with the sound module). Through Rubbertoe Replicas, hand-constructed by Nick Robatto exactly as it’s made for S8, this prop can be purchased for £659.95 (about $1030), and for another £140 (about $219) you can get one with the sound module installed.

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So, given everything we know about the screen used prop, how exactly does the Wand Company version stack up?

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Let’s hit the elephant in the room first and then we can get into the nitty-gritty of things: This prop was never meant to be a 100% screen accurate option. It was meant to be as awesome as possible for as cheap as possible to get it firmly into the mid-range for collectors and cosplayers. And to that end, I think this sonic succeeds beautifully.

The Wand Company’s sonic cosmetically differs from the SA version in really only a handful of little ways: The claws are slightly longer, the whole thing is slightly fatter and taller, the core is brighter, the grip is rubberized instead of leather (and the button is part of the rubber instead of a secondary microswitch), some of the angles of the machined copper are different and there are some minor proportional differences. Also, the Wand Company sonic is copper plated instead of being solid copper, so it reflects and wears slightly differently than the real sonic, which requires constant polishing and care.

IMG_6741editOn the Twelfth Doctor sonic, the emitter is the same clear plastic as on the toy, but the Eleventh Doctor Wand Company replica has a murky seafoam colored emitter (see left) that is actually closer to the real marbleized resin. While the above list is cosmetic differences sounds extensive, these are all minor issues and, as you can see above, you really need to put the two pieces next to each other to determine those differences. Take another look at that photo above – just how different do they really look?

And let’s talk about what they have to work with. The difference between the Robatto sonic and the Wand Company sonic is the difference between low volume production and high volume production. The Wand Company is also working to create an affordable prop – obviously it couldn’t be handmade from copper and Napa leather and custom-swirled resin.

IMG_6745editEvery non-plastic piece on the Wand Company sonic has been die-cast in pot metal. The copper parts are then plated and all the metal is sealed. IMG_6716cropThough the emitter on the Twelfth Doctor sonic is a clear plastic like on the toy version, the core is a specially cast marbleized plastic made similar to how executive pens are made. Essentially, a molten green plastic and a cooler white plastic are added to a mold and swirled around by a machine while the plastic cures. Once it’s completely cooled, the effect pictured at left is the result. This is obviously easier, faster, and cheaper than swirling each part by hand with a toothpick and an eyedropper filled with pigment. Along with the core, the rest of the inner mechanisms are plastic-based, which allows for more stability in the flick-open action of the sonic. Unfortunately, the flicking noise it makes (which, to be fair, is a very satisfying clunk) sounds much closer to the toy’s flick-open noise instead of the Rubbertoe flick-open noise, which has that lovely metallic click that you hear foleyed into the show. Also worth noting is that the Rubbertoe sonic clicks and clinks as you move it, exactly as you hear on the show, which you don’t get as much of from the plastic internals of the Wand Company versions.

IMG_6729editThe grip is a rubberized plastic like you would find in the interior of a car. The button is large but relatively hidden in the grip, unlike the microswitch of the Robatto sonic. Being rubberized plastic, there’s no need for stitching, though they have added faux-stitching into a molded seam in the back of the grip, which is a cute touch. The copper section connecting the cage and the grip has almost no shape to it on the Wand Company sonic – this is partially to accommodate the fact that this unscrews so that batteries may be installed and replaced to make the electronics work. Also worth noting, the faux-rivets on the cage have also been copper plated and left as-is, so that the contrasting brass look of the real rivets is missing from the Wand Company version.

IMG_6723editThe handle on the Wand Company sonic is decently shaped and cast in plastic. The biggest issue with the handle is that it does not include the set screw of the real one, or even something representing the set screw. The handle is also one of the biggest changes between the two Wand Company options (flicking abilities notwithstanding): The handle on the Eleventh Doctor sonic is bone white, while the handle on the Twelfth Doctor sonic looks properly yellowed and includes brown flecking, mimicking the look of the original, hand-tooled handle of the Mk I prop currently on display at the Doctor Who Experience, which was likely originally done on accident by use of dirty tools in Robatto’s rush to design and build the prop in a single week. Another cute detail on the Wand Company sonic – each Comic-Con exclusive has the production number lightly etched into the handle, and etched so that it will be hidden when held with your thumb on the button.

Lastly, the back cap on the Wand Company sonic is generally correct but could use some tweaks in specific dimensions and shapes. It’s possible some of the lack of clarity in the design is a by-product of having it copper-plated instead of machined, but it could still stand some small improvements.

IMG_6771editThe Wand Company sonic weighs 7.2 oz and is 8¾” long when closed and 9⅞” when open, making it only slightly lighter than the Rubbertoe version and slightly bigger (the Wand Company sonic has clearly been based on the toy version, as its size, shape, and relative inaccuracies are almost exclusively shared with the toy). It really has great heft to it and the flick action of the Twelfth Doctor version is fantastic. It was really all I could do for the rest of Comic-Con to not carry it around with every cosplay and flick it open all day. The makers say it’s good for at least 10,000 flicks, which isn’t a whole lot but is enough to get you through a few years at least, provided you display it on occasion. Once for sale, The Wand Company sonic will cost $120, so 10% of the price of a Rubbertoe sonic.

I have one major beef with the Wand Company 12 sonic; they knew they were going to redesign their Eleventh Doctor sonic to flick open, which would take some reconstructing of the inner mechanisms. When they designed the Eleventh Doctor version, they had just acquired the license to do this and their only real reference was the toy and whatever the BBC may have supplied, so it would make sense to use the toy as the main reference. By the time they came around to the idea of redesigning it to flick open properly (there have been many people “converting” the 11th Doctor sonic to flick), they had already done their 10th Doctor sonic, which, in the wonderful tradition of doing it better the next time around, they managed to 3D-scan from David Tennant’s actual prop (which, as I understand it, was a lucky happenstance) – it was not only a fantastic idea, it paid off extremely well and they were applauded for their efforts. So, when they went back to redesign the 11th Doctor sonic… why didn’t they find someone with a Rubbertoe sonic or chat with the guys running the DWE and 3D-scan a Robatto or QMX prop? The best explanation would be the cost, as they don’t intend on selling nearly as many of the 12 sonics as they did the 11 sonic (and therefore would have to break even with far less sales), but it really would have been fantastic to have had it retooled from a 3D-scan of a screen accurate/used prop. It also can’t have been for space reasons – they shoved the same electronics into the Tenth Doctor sonic and it’s way smaller than a Robatto sonic. That would have solved nearly every cosmetic critique detailed above, despite how minor almost all of them are.

That said, at this point I’ve only talked about the look and feel of the sonic. This is where the comparison to a screen accurate sonic ends, because the SA sonics aren’t even wired up with sound, and the Wand Company sonics are universal remote controls!

The first thing to note is that the Twelfth Doctor sonic is LOUD. It’s easily the loudest sonic screwdriver option available, and can definitely be heard well on a busy con floor. It also has the fantastic knowledge of hindsight, and includes a zillion little hidden features either unique to it (E.G. if left turned on, it will eventually blink its light at you, and after 5 minutes it will beep/flash “S-O-N-I-C—O-K-A-Y” at you in Morse code, which is a cute reminder to turn it off as it takes two AAA batteries to run) or new to the Twelfth Doctor edition.

As a gesture-based programmable universal remote, it recognizes up to 39 different flicks, taps, and twists, which can be programmed to run any infrared system you may have set up (like your TV or stereo) – three memory banks allow up to 3 different devices to be remembered in your sonic at any given moment. Along with this, it’s been outfitted with a TV-B-Gone feature that allows you to turn off ANY TV, anywhere, regardless of whether or not it has been programmed into the sonic (though it cannot turn a non-programmed TV back on). Hidden features in the remote allow for it to be locked (so that you can’t use the features without a passcode), a variety of sounds from the Doctor Who universe, more Morse code, and possibly more than I haven’t discovered yet.

The functionality of the electronics and universal remote capabilities is, frankly, astounding. If you already own a Wand Company replica, you’re familiar with this already, but it bears repeating: They make a truly fabulous gadget.

Overall, I give the Wand Company Twelfth Doctor’s sonic an A-. While the cosmetic differences could have been fixed up by scanning a Rubbertoe prop, the extreme reduction in price for the vast improvement in quality and functionality over the toy or their 11th Doctor version help boost my rating (though, for the casual or very young cosplayer, the toy is still a much better option than the Tenth Doctor toy, which is significantly larger than the screen used prop). It’s a fantastic mid-range option for people like me who want a higher quality prop for cosplay but can’t afford a $1200 flashlight. I really do love my flickable Wand Company sonic (which, as has been pointed out elsewhere, is slightly amusing as their Eleventh Doctor sonic is static and their Twelfth Doctor sonic flicks, even though Matt Smith flicks his sonic all the time and Capaldi all of twice in the entirety of S8), and I highly recommend it to collectors and cosplayers who can save up the scratch to pick one up.

The Extending Twelfth Doctor’s Sonic Screwdriver will be available starting September 7th.

CLICK HERE TO PRE-ORDER YOURS!

EDIT: For more information on The Wand Company’s 12 sonic, here is a fantastic write up by Wand Company co-owner Chris Barnardo – in it you can see a hero Capaldi prop with precisely the same flecking in the handle as the Wand Company’s 12 sonic!

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Magnoli Tie Review: The Armani Tie

At Gallifrey One this past year, I had a situation I blogged about where I ran into a Ten cosplayer who was wearing an Armani tie who I did not recognize (I know most of the cosplayers with original Armanis, so this surprised me). I finally managed to ambush him in the halls and have a chat with him about his tie, where he happily revealed to me that he was wearing a Magnoli replica! Unfortunately, I was dressed in my 7b Matt Smith and couldn’t compare ties right there, but after posting about the experience, a reader and friend of mine offered to mail me his Magnoli replicas for me to do a formal review, which I happily accepted.

I have been getting quite a few requests for this comparison, so here we go. I will try to be as fair as possible. Also, I originally misordered these ties, so I apologize for any confusion that may cause.

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I happen to have some specific insight into the history of these replicas, so allow me to talk about that while I also point out my areas of concern.

Most people I’ve seen own Magnoli v1, his original attempt, which is actually really good for guessing from photographs. After this, Magnoli came into possession of an original Armani, and went to work revising the pattern (v3). Unfortunately… well, all I can say is it wasn’t his fault.

2015-04-16 11.47.25cropI want to be in love with this revision but you can see what the problem is. The bigger flaws have been corrected – the background ribbing is much closer to the real deal than the plain weave of v1, the squares have proper texture, and even a similar texture has been added to the brown in the eggs, which really gives that fabulous authenticity you want in a replica. This particular tie pictured appears to have been woven mirrored to the original, though more likely it was cut upside-down. But here we have the elephant in the room: What happened to the color?

As Indy posted on The RPF back in 2012, this was the updated sample that either he gave his manufacturing company or his manufacturing company gave back to him (I’m unclear as to that detail):

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As you can see, it’s not only beautiful, it’s nearly 100% spot on. If this was the final tie, I’d give it an A and say it’s a 95% match to the original – even better than his Utopia tie, which is fantastic. Unfortunately, the story goes that both Indy and his manufacturing company agreed on this prototype, at which point it was up to the manufacturing company to make the ties. Indy was then shipped around 400 of this:

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As you can imagine, this was disappointing to us all, which is why it’s offered at a discounted price. The manufacturing company claims that they weren’t able to properly execute the intended weave and improvised instead.

It’s truly too bad, because his prototype is so spot-on (I’d really love to have an alternate tie to wear at minor events and more casual conventions so I don’t chance losing my original), but for now this is the situation.

After the debacle with v3, Magnoli went back and simplified the design so that his company could actually produce a replica that was an improvement on his original tie. That tie is v2. Version two is actually a great improvement on an already great original, and this is the tie that, on the con floor, I mistook for an original, so take that for what it’s worth. Currently, if you buy Magnoli’s “brown” colorway of the tie, this is what you will receive. So let’s investigate.

2015-04-16 17.11.38The reason the color is off (despite his brown being damn close to the real shade) is because the background of the Armani is actually a two-toned weave of brown and blue (as v3 was supposed to be), giving the tie a lovely iridescence and allowing them to blend into a new color when viewed from far away. At left, you can see that Magnoli incorporated the ribbed look of the original, but left the weave solid brown. For scale, he pretty much hit the nail on the head from the get-go, and this version of the tie shows that. The only real improvement that could be made on the actual egg pattern is to possibly rotate the eggs slightly, but that’s some serious nit-picking. The bigger issue here is that, while the brown is pretty much spot-on in color, the blue is really much too light. Remember, the image above is a direct side-by-side comparison and not a composite, so that’s how the colors truly look relative to each other.

Beyond manufacturing errors, the replicas are quite lovely, and on their own they’re fab ties. For length, width, and thickness, they’re exact matches, and the pattern is, again, almost exactly to scale. The only major complaint I have is the blue color, which again, should be darker, and that the background color is dark brown instead of somewhere in between the brown and blue shades, which I’m sure he has in mind to tweak once his stock of v2 and v3 run low (at the moment he has other projects occupying his mind).

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The label on v2 even mimics the Armani label, which is a cute touch. As far as linings go, his original lining was actually a closer match than his new lining, but as it never shows it’s of little concern. The real lining has GIORGIO ARMANI woven into it, which you can sort of see in the above photo – that kind of customization is a lot to ask for the price range, though.

Overall, I give v2 a B – the pattern is excellent but the weave and colors could be closer – though that’s simply part of the curse of the Doctor Who ties! If you’re looking for a replica of one of the most popular brown suit ties, Magnoli is definitely the way to go!

CLICK HERE TO BUY THE MAGNOLI “SHAKESPEARE” TIE!

Posted in Tenth Doctor, Uncategorized | 1 Comment