Wednesday 28 April 2010

Finished Frock Coat

Making up the Frock Coat for Ian was realtively easy, but I did decide to make a little more challenging for myself by radically changing some of my techniques.

When I made the Five Coat I used a variety of fusible interfacings to get the right stiffness and drape in certain points of the coat.
This is all very well, but it can dramatically change the texture of the fabric and sometimes the fusible becomes detached while you are pressing the garment while making it. Also, if the fusible is not firmly and evenly pressed throughout, it can become detached during wear.

I had heard of using calico as a non-fusible interfacing, and I had always wondered how this would work.

Well, I got the chance to see first-hand not so long back. my friends who own a lot of the screen-used Colin Baker costume also own the original Pink Frock Coat worn by Romana in Destiny Of The Daleks, and they brought it along so I could see it, as well as get a full pattern trace from it.

A lot of the coat was not as I expected at all.

The waistband pockets are just flaps, with no pockets under them; the fabric it is made from is quite a coarsely woven wool, and not at all in keeping with Romana’s delicate character.

The hem was a surprise as well, in that it was left open with the lining not attached to the body of the coat. This allows for looking inside the coat and some of its internal structure – bonus time for me!

Inside I could see the skirt of the coat was faced with calico, sewn in at the vertical seams. It was not bonded to the coat in any other way, but just gave the skirt the support it needed without adversely effecting the fabric itself (ie. fused to it).

This got me thinking about how I do my work in future, and Ian’s Frock Coat in particular.

So this time round I have been vary sparing one where and how I use fusible interfacing. The only areas I have used it on are the lapels, collar, body fronts, and pocket flaps, which for the moment I am not confident to abandon at this stage.

I therefore calico faced the skirt, cuffs and part of the back. All this proved to be a lot easier and surprisingly less time consuming than I thought, and it wasn’t long before the coat was taking shape.

The lining was the part I was having the fun with. My brief to make .... something bright, vibrant, even a little clashing, something you would not expect to see inside a brown coat.... was very much on my mind and I wanted to step up to the mark on it.

I quite liked the way the green lining works with the brow wool, so I have put this under the pocket flaps and inside the sleeves – basically anywhere you can see lining from the outside when the coat is closed.

The inside, however, is something quite different. I loved the silver self-woven paisley I found, but was mindful that it was quite a grey colour and thus a bit too sober for what Ian had in mind.
He had mentioned a mustard colour on one of his previous frock coats, and on a visit to Textile King I found a nice gold satin which I knew he would like. But it was how to use the both inside the coat.

My eureka moment came when I was cutting the lining and it suddenly dawned on me I could do a form of checkerboard arrangement across the back, with some of the panels in silver, including the panels where the pockets will be set.
I have kept it mirrored rather than completely alternate, otherwise it will look too patchwork (see below).

I decide to accent the welts for the inside pockets with the gold (see below).

Everything went well with assembling the coat, and as it came together I felt I was making something I could be very proud of.

Here are some pictures of the finished coat, just prior to it being shipped.

Let me know what you think of my latest work. It’s not everyday I get such a free hand on creating a coat to an open brief.
By the way, for the eagle-eyed out there, does anyone know the significance of the blue thing attached to my fence? I virtual reality nod of achievement awaits if you know what it is, where it comes from and what other classic genre tv show it appeared in.

Email me at

Tuesday 20 April 2010

Hatband - artworking the design

Having used Spoonflower rather extensively over the past few months, I have been looking for other opportunities where the ability to print short-run bespoke fabric could be utilized.

One which stands out is the hatband ribbon on Peter Davison’s hat (see left).

I can remember back in 1982, when the costume was current, noticing that the ribbon used had a rather distinctive pattern.
Whereas most polka dot patterned ribbons have the dots in a diagonal matrix, the Five Hatband has them in rows and columns. It could also be seen that there was a black ‘shadow’ dot behind the white ones.

Back in the 1980 the proportion of good quality colour photographs in print was low, so it was near impossible to find any detailed iamges to use for reference.
Despite making efforts to find the right ribbon, it proved elusive so I had to make do with a standard polka dot pattern.

So I was all the more interested to see what could be done now using the print-on-demand techniques Spoonflower offer.

A friend of mine, Mark Ferris, who goes under the username of Linx The Sontaran on the forums, had been working on a design for a while and had researched the pattern. The best photo he found as reference is shown below.

He could see the black ‘shadow’ and that is was more than just a shadow and had some form of shape to it, something like a tick.

Working with that in mind he produced a patter for the Hatband (see left) though it was not quite the right shape.
After posting his design in the forums, several people gave input and slowly the design improved.

Below is the progression from a simple tick (below left) to a better shape (below centre) before arriving at a bird like shape (below right).

Comparing it to an enlargement of the reference picture (see below) shows it is now a pretty good match.

The artwork had only been done to a low resolution, so I took a copy of the design and worked it up as a vector-graphic in Adobe Illustrator to make it pin-sharp and as clean as possible (see left).

Finding the right scale for the pattern was a little harder than I thought, as I needed to first establish the width of the ribbon, which goes around the hat twice (slightly overlapping), before working the design within the resulting space available.

I first tested it in paper, which I cut out and wrapped around a spare hat to gauge the scale. Once I had got it close to the size I thought was right I took some pictures. It is surprising how different things look in a photo to how they look in-hand. It is then possible to do a much better side-by-side comparison.

Results were good, so it was time to get a Spoonflower swatch to see how the colour was coming out, and how the fabric I had chosen to use would work.

I added the swatch to a large order I had going through, and it came out pretty well, though I felt the red could be a bit more vivid.

Some further test swatches have improved this, and now I think I am ready to order and make my first prototype hatband. . .

Cameo Auction - 23rd May 2010

We seem to have had a number of sales of costumes form the Angels Costumier vaults, and yet another is planned for Sunday 23rd May 2010 at Cameo Fine Art Auctioneers in Midgham, Berkshire.

There are a good 230 plus items on offer, from a wide variety of productions such as Raiders Of The Lost Ark, The Fifth Element, the Star Wars prequels and  number of the Bond films.

Hidden in there are half a dozen lots from Doctor Who dating back as far as 1964.

Lot 144
Tom Baker the Fourth Doctor. 
A pair of brown leather shoes worn throughout the series.
£200 - 300

Lot 145
Underworld, 1978. 
A beige suit used by James Maxwell in the series.
Labelled James Maxwell.
Estimate: £400 - 500

Lot 146
Battlefield, 1989.
A Blue shimmering full length dress worn by Jean Marsh as Morgaine.
Estimate: £400 - 500

Lot 147
The Crusade, 1964. 
The First Doctor. A Crusading Knight’s cape.
£400 - 500

Lot 148
Delta and the Bannermen, 1987. 
A yellow striped holiday camp style jacket unnamed.
Estimate: £150 - 200

Lot 149
Planet Of Fire,  1982.
A Colourful Waistcoat worn by Peter Davison as The Doctor in the 21st Season story Planet of Fire.
Estimate: £800-1200

This last item is obviously the star of the Doctor Who stuff on offer. I wonder how much it will go for in the end?

Check back after the auction, and I will update the entry with the sale prices.

You can view the full catalogue here

If you want to go to the viewing, it is between 10am to 4pm on Thursday 20th, Friday 21st and 10am to 2pm on Saturday 22nd of May, and from 8.30am before the sale on the Sunday 23rd May – sale starting at 11am.

Cameo Fine Art Auctioneers
Kennet Holme Farm
Bath Road
Midgham, Berkshire

Telephone enquiries: 0118 9 713 772
Email enquiries:
While search back though some old autions of the Cameo website, I came across a sale in March 2010 which I didn’t know about!
It has over a dozen items, again ranging right back to William Hartnell’s earliest seasons.

A couple of the items look familiar, so I guess they went unsold that time around.

Lot 99
A Quantity of Dr. Who memorabilia including shooting scripts for Doctor Who Episode 5 Parallel World Part 1 and 2 by Tom MacRae. Both Scripts were for Colin Spaull who played Mr. Crane and both scripts have been inscribed and signed by the director Graeme Harper. Also included are the shooting schedule's and call sheets for Colin Spaull, three signed photographs of Colin Spaull, a Doctor Who compliments slip and a letter to Colin Spaull from Russell T Davies and signed.

Estimate: £80-120

Lot 137
A small collection of memorabilia including a UK Quad for Daleks Invasion Earth 1966, trimmed Condition C-. Two CD sets of BBC Audio CD's Cybermen, Daleks (this set has three signatures Anneke Wills and two others), a signed calender by Peter Davison, 18 collectors cards and a Palitoy Battery Operated Dalek circa 1970's

Estimate: £150-200

Lot 139
Doctor Who Time and the Rani 1987
A Camera script for specific shots in the episode and seven Doctor Who annuals and The Dalek Pocket Book.

Estimate: £50-80

Lot 215 
Doctor Who The Mutants 1972
Jon Pertwee The Second Doctor. Solonian Rebel Helmet.

Estimate: £150-200

Lot 219
An entertaining space costume worn by Sylvester McCoy as The Doctor.

Estimate: £400-500

Lot 221
A Grey Frock Coat used by Tom Baker in unknown episode of Doctor Who.

Estimate: £1000-1200

Lot 239
Doctor Who, The Crusade 1964
The First Doctor. A Crusading Knight's cape and leather belt from the BBC Wardrobe.

Estimate: £400-500

Lot 240 - A Leather Belt used in the Second Season of Doctor Who (the First Doctor), from the episode The Crusade, used by William Russell who played Ian Chesterton

Estimate: £200-250

Lot 241 - Doctor Who. A pair of boots used by Tom Baker as The Doctor, from the BBC wardrobe.

Estimate: £150-200

Lot 242
Doctor Who Robots of Death 1977
Ethnic poncho from the BBC wardrobe.

Estimate: £200-300

Lot 244
Doctor Who The Greatest Show in the Galaxy 1988
A Gypsy style skirt used in the episode.

Estimate: £350-400

Lot 245
Doctor Who Ribos Operation 1978
A Water Bottle used by the character Unstoffe.

Estimate: £200-250

Lot 250
Doctor Who The Mutants 1972 
A Leather belt and faux Roman Sword used by James Mellor as Varan.

Estimate: £200-250

Lot 291
Doctor Who 1987. Delta and the Bannermen
Jacket used by the Holiday Camp usher's

Estimate: £200-300

Lot 292 
Doctor Who. Tom Baker
A frock coat used by Tom Baker in season 15.

Estimate: £500-600

Lot 293
Doctor Who The Greatest Show in the Galaxy 1988
A Distressed Faux Leather Jacket detailed used in the episode.

Estimate: £250-350

Thursday 15 April 2010

When is a Five Coat not a Five Coat?

I have just finished a special commission for Ian Cummins, who has bought one of my Tennant Coats already.

He has seen that I had done my replica Five Coat, and wanted one for himself – but to a specific brief.

What he wanted was essentially an Victorian Frock Coat.
Here is his full brief:
The outer a dark brown, which we've already discussed and you've already procured.
LINING Here’s the fun bit:
I just want something bright, vibrant, even a little clashing, something you would not expect to see inside a brown coat. Although I originally specified mustard, if you could have a scout round for other colours/textures, that would be fine. Even a bright green or purple, anything you find and think may fit the brief, as long as you let me have a look first! Just take a quick snap and email it over. Self-striped or otherwise textured is fine, whatever you think would be good. If you want to incorporate anything different for the inside sleeves or pocket welts or rims, be my guest!!

Of course the width of the outer side pockets is dependant on the accurate pattern you’ve designed. I’d like them to be deep enough to comfortably hold a DVD though, please. The four inner breast pockets, we’ve already discussed, but if they could be as large as is possible from a tailoring standpoint please. It’s okay if the two lower ones are smaller, whatever works.
Just some nice horn/tortoise-shell buttons would be great.
If you could place it somewhere a little more noticeable than on the Tennant coat, maybe on one of the inside pockets? I love that label!
Whatever you and Bob have perfected I’m sure will be excellent. I just always wanted a coat of the same cut and shape as Davison’s. I don’t require any piping though (was never a great fan of that).
So, I am to make this from a completely different fabric, preferably in a dark brown wool.

I took a look through some fabric shops I know in Goldhawk Road, but there wasn’t anything suitable.
Then during one of my buying trips to Soho I went into what has become one of my favourite shops, Textile King (see left).

It was in here I found two possible brown fabrics: one with a heavy twill; the other with coarse weave; as well as a colourway of the latter in dark blue as an option (see right).

Ian was very happy with the brown twilled sample, so that was easy!

It was nice to have a free hand on this occasion. Instead of trying to find the most perfect match to a specific lining fabric, to just go looking and find something truly striking and eye catching was quite liberating.

Initially I found a pair of iridescent red/green fabrics, again from Textile King, and I produced a couple of test for Ian to see (see left), which you may have read about under Five Coat - The Time Lord’s Pockets.
Sadly he wasn’t taken with them, so I had to resume my hunt. The fabric didn’t go to waste, as I used it to line the inside of my burgundy-coloured test suit. (You can see that under Burgundy Suit - Assembly Starts.)

My replacement was a plain gold coloured satin, which I accented with a beautiful Chinese-style emerald green, with a self-woven floral design and a grey/silver self-woven paisley.

I’ll show you how this will be used later.

Ian has requested four inside pockets, which is a challenge as I will need to stack them in such a way they do not interfere with each other too much, but sufficiently close together to work aesthetically as well as practically.
Having said that, the new techniques I used to do fine welts on the Five Coat will get a nice testing here!

The buttons proved to be more of a nightmare than I first thought. My main problem is to find a button that will work, but I also need to have them in two sizes: larger ones for the front and back; and much smaller ones to go on the sleeve cuffs.

To start with I followed the brief of horn-style in brown, but had difficulty finding anything that I thought would work.
I dabbled with using the buttons from the Ten Coats I do, both the original ones and the newer, more screen accurate ones I use now (see right). But they just did not work for me.

After a further search of the Soho fabric shops, I did buy a set of moulded brown buttons in Klein’s (see left). They reminded me of some I had seen on one of the costumes at the Bonhams auctions – but as soon as I got them home I knew they were wrong too: they just looked cheap.

I then wondered if horn was really the best option here after all, and thought that a metal button of some sort could possible work better, as it would tie-in with the gold lining. Looking around the Soho fabric shops yet again I found quite a range (see right), but nothing that fitted the bill to my satisfaction, or in the two sizes I need.

Having given up, I returned home and had a brainwave to try eBay of all places. It was there that I discovered some Italian-made metal buttons with a detailed filagree design on them, in both the sizes I needed (see left).

They were available as a BuyItNow, so I snapped them up and the seller had them shipped to me within 24 hours and I had them the very next day. They were perfect – result!

Ian had already owned a number of frock coats, to varying satisfaction. A local tailor had made him one a few years back, but it had design and drape issues, as did a more recent one from a leading internet costume maker.
Despite returning it a number of times the problems weren’t resolved, so he commissioned me instead.

For me the main design-lines to pay special attention to are the curved seams on the back and how close they are at the waistline; and to make sure the waist is tailored in enough to give the lower part of the coat a flare to it.

On top of this there are a number of design characteristics which help make a frock coat a Frock Coat:
  • The outer pockets should be set into the horizontal waistband seam
  • The wasitband seam should be all the way around, stopping at the intersection with the curved seams of the back
  • The inside facing of the skirt should be narrower than the lapel, causing a visible step on the inside the front of the coat
  • Buttons are positioned at the intersection of the waistband seam and the curved seams of the back
  • the coat should be a snug fit at the waist, with the skirt wider causing it to flare out slightly
I had already made particular note to include all these in my pattern for the Five Coat.

Check back soon to see how the coat turned out – I think you’ll be surprised!