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Credit: BBC

Look of the Week: Doctor Who's snazzy bow tie

Contributed by
Dec 6, 2019

Welcome back to Look of the Week, celebrating the best in TV and film sartorial excellence, past and present across sci-fi, horror, fantasy, and other genre classics!

"Crisis. Big crisis. Serious crisis. Big, serious crisis." When Doctor Who returns on New Year's Day, something is definitely hitting the fan. But one aspect definitely not in crisis is the costumes of the Thirteenth Doctor and her companions. The first images and footage from Season 12 ensure the new decade is kicking off to a stylish start, courtesy of the Time Lord and her pals.

2018 started a new Doctor Who tradition: The BBC series moved from its customary Christmas Day slot to the first day of the new year. For this winter treat, costume designer Ray Holman added a touch of Tom Baker flair with a rainbow Paul Smith scarf (sadly, it is no longer available to purchase). This wasn't the first costume nod to past incarnations of this character as worn by Whittaker. In the Season 11 episode "Kerblam!," she received a box containing a fez, referencing Matt Smith's Eleventh Doctor. But it is a different Smith signature accessory that is taking sartorial center stage in an image released from the new season.

"Spyfall" is the title of the New Year special, a play on a recent James Bond movie ... and there is something very 007 about the tuxedos worn by Ryan (Tosin Cole) and Graham (Bradley Walsh). Plot details are being kept under wraps, which is a secret worthy of any covert agent. However, trailer speculation (and the crisis voice memo) suggest that the very existence of the Doctor is under threat. Blending into their surroundings could explain the fancy garb, but it is also appropriate attire for welcoming in the new decade. If there's one thing that suggests a very good New Year's bash, it is still wearing your party threads into the next day. Don't call it a walk of shame when it is a stride of pride.

The James Bond connotations cannot be denied; however, in the world of Doctor Who, a bow tie definitely bears more than a passing resemblance to a look favored by one of the Doctor's previous incarnations. Clothes provide a link to the past, and this specific choice of neckwear is no coincidence. On Twitter, Holman noted, "I was delighted to introduce the bow tie especially as we did it on Matt almost 10 years ago and it was a great hit then. This made me smile." Also perfectly timed for this gift-giving month, this specific design, which is handmade using the same fabric as the Doctor's, is available to purchase from Blue Eyes Bow Ties. Whether for the Doctor Who fan in your life or if you want to treat yourself to an accessory from your favorite show, this will brighten up any holiday party ensemble. The black and gold polka dots add a touch of glitz to an outfit already leaning into masculine tailoring. But it isn't all glad rags fun: The trailer reveals they will land in Nazi-occupied 1943 Paris, a time when fashion was the last thing on the country's mind.

Credit: BBC

Women wearing tuxedos is a trend that has deep roots in costume design history, which can be traced back to Gloria Swanson in the 1916 silent movie The Danger Girl before Marlene Dietrich famously made this look her own at a ball for the Foreign Press in 1929. The current popularity of a well-tailored suit worn by a woman is evident both on the red carpet and on-screen; Dr. Alana Bloom mirrored her ex on Hannibal and recently Elementary's Joan Watson became the masculine-meets-feminine style patron saint. While it isn't quite the subversive or controversial fashion statement of the past, this garment is still layered with meaning and defiance of what is considered "ladylike." Considering some of the consternation when it was announced that the Thirteenth Doctor was going to be Jodie Whittaker, it probably shouldn't be surprising that wearing a suit as a woman is still considered a political act in some circles.

As this is the Doctor, there is a fun twist on her tailoring that also points to previous versions of this character, as well as her current costume. The cropped pants resemble the style of her everyday teal pair, while revealing her trademark lace-up boots. The wide-lapeled overcoat is reminiscent of David Tennant's outerwear as the Tenth Doctor, and the suit leans toward Peter Capaldi's closet. Clothing subtly ties the different regenerated versions together without overshadowing her current identity.

Credit: BBC

Not everyone is wearing a tuxedo in this sequence; Yaz (Mandip Gill) has a fun sparkly twist on this black-tie theme. The sequined smoking jacket glistens in the sun when the dialogue goes a little Bond; "The name's Doctor, the Doctor," is used as an introduction. A striking alternative to the tuxedo aesthetic, this belted look exudes the sophistication of a dinner jacket while also keeping with Yaz's penchant for mixing hard and soft textures. Her go-to outfit is a leather moto worn over a bold print or color top. The Season 12 teaser doubles down on this including her signature outerwear paired with polka dot and leopard print. While the Doctor's costume is stylized, Yaz dresses like a 20-something. The smoking jacket is maybe a little jazzier than her typical attire, but it still fits her overall closet.

To come in Season 12, there is a hint at a trip back to the Victorian era, complete with leg-of-mutton sleeves.

Not only is new season ringing in 2020 with costumes that demand our attention, but the new additions to the creative team are an encouraging sign of what is to come, a sentiment mirrored by the key art released earlier this week. The dreamy af image uses the Doctor's regular costume to illustrate a wider point about inclusion. This is the kind of style energy we want to be taking into the new decade.

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