The Doctor's new costume is the most important and revealing it's ever been

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Mar 26, 2021, 4:00 PM EDT (Updated)

Since the very first regeneration, a new Doctor's style, hair, and costuming immediately told Doctor Who audiences what they might expect and helped inform for the actor stepping in what the new Doctor might be like.

Second Doctor Patrick Troughton went through a few costume drafts (at one point he was going to be a bit of a pirate) before settling on the cosmic hobo look, and it wound up being the basis for his entire goofy-but-sweet character.

Jon Pertwee's velvet jackets and ruffled shirts suggested a Jimi Hendrix-level bad ass. And while Peter Davison's sedate ensemble suggested the calmer Doctor he would be, Colin Baker's nigh-upon rainbow coat exploded with the brash chaos that loomed on the horizon.

The Doctor's style also sometimes spoke to the times -- Patrick Troughton's Beatles haircut, Davison's early '80s prep, and Matt Smith's hipstery bowties all both were seeded in the earth of current cultural trends while also looking forward to where fashion might be going next.

All of which is to say that what the Doctor wears and how the Doctor looks is hugely important for a multitude of reasons.

And the Doctor's look has never been pitched to be scrutinized and analyzed and picked apart more than it is right now. Not only is Jodie Whittaker the first woman to ever officially play the Doctor (all due respect to Joanna Lumley and Arabella Weir), but, frankly, women's fashion has always been more heavily critiqued than men's in general.

The pressure was on to make something that wasn't too femme or butch, something that made Jodie look attractive but not too attractive -- something that the Doctor would wear if the Doctor were a woman which, canonically, the Doctor has never ever been before. That is A LOT to consider while piecing together a costume.

Just the monumental importance to those people out there who have desperately wanted to see themselves represented in the role of the Doctor made this costume and styling genuinely important. And I would say that this costume is representing a lot more than just women -- it is representing queer culture in general.

The Sixth Doctor's rainbow coat, the Ninth Doctor getting kissed by Captain Jack, an actual out lesbian companion in Bill last series -- Doctor Who has always had an undercurrent of queerness to it. Behind the scenes, too, many of the cast and crew have been out, gay folks working for the BBC (and Big Finish and everywhere else Doctor Who stuff gets made).

I was personally flabbergasted (and delighted) when I joined a Doctor Who group back in 2005 only to discover that a huge number of the members were out gay men and women. Anyone who has been to any nerdy convention anywhere knows that Doctor Who fandom loves to play with gender representations in their cosplay. And being a part of that community, if you're queer, can feel even more inviting than the show itself.


So when I see Whittaker in costume for the first time and think that this is STILL maybe the gayest thing I've ever seen on Doctor Who, that says A LOT. The butch, comfortable boots, the braced trousers, the @#$ING RAINBOW SHIRT?!, the earrings on the one ear -- I mean honestly the whole look is so proudly gay that the only thing missing is an asymmetrical undercut. And there's always time! New series don't come out 'til Autumn 2018, y'all!

To wit: the Doctor hasn't looked this much like a lesbian since David Tennant. And if you don't think that's true, I've got a community of women who have been sporting his sticky-uppy hairdo and trainers for over a decade -- whether they're cosplaying him or not -- that says otherwise.

And that's REALLY, REALLY IMPORTANT. Because whether or not Jodie's Doctor kisses other women, her styling, like all the Doctors who came before her, will inform what her version of the character is, how Jodie will play her, and how the world will perceive her. It has been great that women have, for decades, gender-bent their cosplay in exciting ways when dressing as different versions of the Doctor, but that's not the same as having the base template of that costume be not only women's fashion but also queer women's fashion. It's an exhilarating game changer.

After six seasons of queer Doctor Who fandom feeling often at odds with showrunner Steven Moffat over genuine representation, Jodie and the new Who team's take on the Doctor already feels like an open door and invitation to be part of a show that's been beloved by women and the queer community for a long time and can be again in 2018. A costume does really have that power and, hopefully, like with the Doctor's past, Jodie's new costume will only be the beginning of a more inclusive story of Doctor Who.