The Budget Costumer.

I guess you could argue I’ve been a closet costumer for years. Halloween has always been my favorite holiday. I had a purple steamer trunk full of vintage clothes for dress up, and I loved taking pictures of all the absolutely amazing costumes I see at Dragon*Con and other fandom-based conventions.

And then there was Doctor Who.

I started watching Doctor Who in 2005, when the much-beloved show returned to the BBC. I loved Christopher Eccelston’s previous film work and was interested in seeing him as a time-traveler.

The rest, they say, is history. Just like Rose Tyler, I walked into the blue box that was bigger on the inside and never looked back. When me and my boyfriend at the time (now husband) would go to conventions and I saw one or two people dressed as the Doctor and Rose, I would positively scream with delight. Costuming, in my opinion, is the highest form of homage to something you love. It’s also a way to escape the real world for a while. I don’t take vacations. I costume.

You’ve Got to Start Somewhere

Since my first companion was Rose Tyler, it’s fitting I started with her. It was all because of this dress and shoe combo in The Idiot’s Lantern. Because if the Doctor was taking you to see Elvis sing, wouldn’t you wear a pink poofy dress?

But how do you make this costume two years after the fact the Top Shop jacket’s gone on sale and the Agent Provocateur shoes are a distant memory, and the dress was custom made?


When I was a little girl, my mother never let me buy store-bought costumes. We made them instead, with whatever we had. Take in a bit here, change a bit there.

So I bought a pink bridesmaid dress and a denim jacket that had the same line as the Top Shop bomber jacket. I purchased a petticoat from a square dancing clothing shop. Then I bought a pair of pumps, sprayed them bubblegum pink and detailed them with a Sharpie marker. I used the Sharpie to add roots to an overly blonde wig and added some vintage earrings and pink shades (since she wears a pair in the episode).

Close enough for me.

While there are many brilliant costumers that scour the Internet and auction sites for screen accurate pieces, many times I don’t have the time or money for that. Every once in a while I’ll get lucky and purchase something that is either affordable (Amy’s American Apparel hoodie, for example) or something I’ve budgeted for (River Song’s AllSaints Shoes). But most of the time, I go with close enough.

Considering (Dis)Comfort

My next costume was Amy Pond’s iconic red hoodie/mini skirt/blue Converse combo from Time of Angels. The episode is a favorite of mine, which I’ll touch on briefly.

Any costumer will tell you, while a costume may look great, it may be uncomfortable. Many costumers I know need handlers to help them in and out of costume or to lead them around. Many times, I’m helping people get in and out of their costumes or putting final touches on hair or make up. It’s very much like being in opera again, which I did for a brief stint in college.

This is my comfortable costume. There’s nothing better than wearing tights, a hoodie and Chuck Taylors. Especially when you’re tired.

Besides Amy Pond’s oh-so-comfortable costume, there’s River Song’s fabulous entrance onto the TARDIS after jumping into outer space in a vintage evening gown and red Louboutins. Of all the openings to an episode, I have to say this is my favorite and made me love River Song forever.

Out of the Doctor Who costumes in my closet, this is my favorite. It’s sexy without showing skin, it’s semi-comfortable, and carrying your shoes is totally allowed and in-character. It’s everything River Song is about at this point in the series–brain, wit, sexiness, and mystery.

So I bought a dress that looked similar and my mother and I worked to add detailing to the bodice. The handbag I bought at Forever21, and the shoes are knockoffs from I had a cheap pair of cat eye sunglasses originally, but I found a retro pair at an antique store. I had them filled with my prescription, that way I could walk around without being blind in the Dragon*Con parade.

I’ve costumed Amy Pond a bit since then, but after some thought and consideration, I feel like River Song is a better fit for my personality and body shape.

If At First You Don’t Succeed…

Sometimes costumes don’t come together at once. Sometimes I wear them when they’re unfinished to get a feel for what I need to get right. River Song’s Day of the Moon dress is one of those.

I loved this dress, but many times when items are IDed, it’s impossible to find them unless you’re ready to pay bank money on Internet auction sites. Add in the fact I’m plus-sized and, well, I might as well make my own.

And that’s what costuming is. A fun adventure of eventually getting it right. Sharing information and tips. is one of the best resources out there for identifying screen accurate and alternate pieces, tutorials on fixing wigs or make props. I know I can go there and find someone that’s dyed a shirt or wig or made a gun holster. Or if you’ve messed up and don’t know how to fix it. Or if you’re new and don’t know where to start. Costuming panels at TimeGate and Dragon*Con have also helped me better my costuming skills.

So I finally got this costume right at this year’s Con Nooga.

The dress is a $12 piece of fabric I bought on clearance and draped into dress shape, thanks again to my mother. The belts are leftovers from my goth era, spraypainted brown and sealed with acrylic. The gun is a Nerf gun I primed. The holster I made out of an old box that held a defroster gun from the 70s (Thanks, Dad.) The boots are thrifted.

So whether you’re set on being screen accurate or throwing together a costume for a Doctor Who premiere party or local convention, the point is this: you can do whatever you want. You just need a closet, some creativity and imagination. You may just find yourself in a TARDIS, ready for take off.


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