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Getting Started in Doctor Who Cosplay: Tips and Advice

Source BBC

So you want to get started in Doctor Who Cosplay? Or perhaps you are already deep in the Doctor Who cosplay community and you want to check out what other cosplayers are doing? Either way, welcome to our Doctor Who cosplay mini series. We asked Doctor Who cosplayers for their tips and advice on cosplay that we could share it with you.

Clara Oswald Cosplay from the 50th Anniversary Special “The Day Of The Doctor”

For this first part of our mini series we have great tips and advice from Colleen who goes by @jedi_janine on Instagram. She has been participating in cosplay for a few years now. She has upwards of 14 cosplays from 11th and 12th Doctor Companion, Clara Oswald, and various other Doctor Who character cosplays. Not to mention the great line up of cosplays she has from other fandoms as well.  I spoke briefly with Colleen last month at the North American Doctor Who Convention, Gallifrey One. She celebrates her fandom by dressing up as some of her favorite characters from the show. Instantly on meeting her you could tell what an enthusiastic passion she has for Doctor Who. . But the thing that really stands out about her is the way she reflects the actual ideals of the show. She is kind and caring and she has a lot of love for this fandom. We are very excited to have her here to share expert advice with us.

How do you find out about Doctor Who Cosplay? Do you do your own research on what outfits the cast wears or do you have a particular place you go to get the information?

My first step when investigating a costume that I want to put together, is to look and see online if anyone else has done it before me. Whether that is information on where screen accurate (SA) items or fabrics can be purchased, or if anyone has posted a tutorial on how to make such an item. For finding Clara Oswald related information, I found the “Clara Oswald Cosplay” Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/ClaraOswaldCosplay/) to be a valuable resource for identifying pieces of her outfits. When I joined the DW specific cosplay community in Winter 2016, that Facebook was essentially inactive, but it had a nice album with identified information. Other helpful sites for Clara specific questions are: https://clarawhocosplays.tumblr.com/, https://mariahscostumesite.weebly.com/clara-oswald.html. Depending on the character, you might find a Facebook specific page, or someone’s blog with detailed information about the character’s costumes.

Clara Oswald Cosplay from the Episode “Flat Line”

 When making the items from scratch, for pieces that were either custom made for the show or are more cost effective to make yourself, I found reaching out to either the costume designer or other cosplayers who have made them, to be the most helpful. This past year I made a few items from scratch: the Twelfth Doctor’s linen coat, Clara’s waitress uniform, and Clara’s Journey to the Center of the TARDIS dress. For the linen coat, Hayley Neubauer (the costume designer for Season 10) was gracious enough to answer construction questions via Twitter. While she was not allowed to disclose sources for materials, she occasionally would post detailed images when asked or let us know we were on the right track with our researching of sources. Make sure not to waste their time, and check and see if they have answered the question in the past first. For the JttCotT dress, I reached out to someone else who had been making replicas and asked if I could have access to their fabric they were using. The waitress dress involved taking screen captures and behind the scenes photos, going to JoAnn’s and finding patterns that were close, and then Frankensteining them together for the end result. Making from scratch gives you a lot of freedom with both construction and material choice, so bring your references and be creative.

For items that have not yet been identified, that is where it takes a lot of time and investigating to figure out where a screen accurate item is. My first step is to figure out the accurate keywords needed to find the right item. So figuring out what shape of dress or what type of shoe you are looking for, can go a long way in Googling your way to an answer. Using Google image search to browse and modify your search might lead you to the correct item. I will often search under brands that the character has other items from first. So for Clara, I would search for items within identified brands (Topshop, Urban Outfitters, & Other Stories, Claudie Pierlot). This can often get you on the correct path. I would also say don’t be afraid to reach out to other cosplayers and ask them about pieces they have found. The worst thing that can happen is they don’t want to answer your questions, but it’s my belief that we should be a welcoming community that is willing to help others. Especially newcomers.

Clara Oswald Cosplay from the episode “Journey to the Center of the TARDIS”
Source: BBC


What are your techniques or tips to help people find Doctor Who cosplay?

Once you have identified the item in question, there are a few ways you can go about finding one for yourself:

Original Location: If you are lucky, the item is still available from the original shop. In the case of ordering online, your job is done. When acquiring some fabrics, it is not possible to have it shipped directly from the store, and this is where reaching out to other cosplayers is key. Building that network, and figuring out who is willing to stop by a store for you and ship it to you is essential. This is why embracing an attitude of sharing and helping is what makes the “hunt” doable and less stressful.

eBay: This is usually where I go first. It’s very easy to search for an item. Make sure to check “Worldwide” in the Location filter, and possibly different eBay countries (i.e. try both “.com” and “.co.uk”). And then add those searches to your eBay alerts! I spend at least 10 minutes each day going through my eBay alert emails, waiting to see if anything has been listed.
Other used clothing sites: Do your research and find out what used clothing websites are active in your area, or in the location that the item originated. You might check Depop, Poshmark, and many others to see what you can find.
https://dwcosplay-sales.livejournal.com/ : This is a still very active sales community where you can search through and see if anyone has listed the item you are looking for. Some people will list items on their in-search-of (ISO) list and items they are willing to sell or trade for these items. The same goes for the Sales thread on the Gallifrey Base Forum (although this one is less active).

Original Location: Sometimes, if you have identified the source of the fabric, you can purchase it right from the source. Occasionally these sources are “tailor only” and will require a middleman to access. Often you will have to put in some extra effort contacting the shop to get fabric shipped to you. But it is always worth checking to see if you can get straight from the source. As much as I like to believe the cosplay community is fair, there are often people out there looking to turn a profit. So do your research before making a final decision.
Spoonflower.com / other custom fabric sites: If you are lucky, someone else has made a copy of the fabric and posted it on Spoonflower. This is a little touchy though, because often people throw the copyright infringement flag and these get taken down. So be cautious when sharing links to this sort of thing. Unfortunately there used to be a variety of Clara fabric patterns posted, but they have since been taken down which is sad for cosplayers who do not want to dole out the cash for her highly sought after items, or want the challenge and satisfaction of making it themselves.
Local fabric stores: You might be amazed at what you can find at your local fabric shop. Bring your reference photos (be aware that they will look different on a phone vs. printed out, so keep that in mind). Shop around for good prices and make sure to use coupons if they are available.

Tips wise, here are a few I would follow:
Be patient! It might be tempting to purchase every little SA item that you come across in your hunt, but if you don’t want to break the bank, then you have to be patient. It might be frustrating at times to see other cosplayers with more complete pieces than you, but just remember they might have a higher budget than you or have been searching longer for a certain piece.
Make a budget. I know everyone says this when talking about cosplay, but for real, come up with an amount you are willing to pay for an item and stick to it. It might be tempting to say, “Oh $10 is not big deal”, but if you keep saying that for every item, it sure does add up. This might mean it takes longer to get everything you want, but you’ll be grateful when that amazing deal comes along and you didn’t already overpay for that item. If you are unsure what a fair price for an item is, ask around. Other cosplayers generally have an idea of what is a fair price for an item.
Make a priority list. With a character like Clara who has SO many costumes and pieces, it was valuable to make a priority list. Perhaps pick a few costumes you want to complete, and then you can stick to only looking for items from those costumes.


When looking for Alts, where do you find the most success?

I have the most luck looking for Alts at local thrift stores and consignment shops. This allows you to get a real close look at the item and try it on. And generally the prices are significantly cheaper. For items that have not been identified, this is a great way to go since there is no “right answer”. You can find items here and then modify them to fit your needs. I’ve also found that Poshmark is a great place to search for alts. Pretty good prices and relatively easy to search through the items.



Do you have any Do’s and Don’ts when it comes to Doctor Who cosplay?

Be friendly. It pays off to be kind to other cosplayers, whether you are new or they are new. By building a network across the world with other cosplayers, you will find it priceless when you find that one item you want, but can only get it if you live in that location. That’s when the friend network comes in handy. And honestly if the environment becomes hostile and toxic, it’s not going to be a place where people want to spend their time and the community will die off.
Encourage others in their cosplaying. It doesn’t take much effort to give someone a compliment on their cosplay. And this can mean the world to that person.
Double check your reference photos. There have been a few occasions where I’m in the groove of working on something, and I forget about a detail because it’s been a little while since I’ve looked at my sources.
Stay organized. Depending on your style, this can vary. I like having a Google sheet where I keep track of all the pieces of my cosplay and what status they are (done vs. in progress). That way if I’m taking it out to an event, I can check to make sure I’m not missing some tiny piece of jewelry and so on.

Source BBC

Compare yourself to other cosplayers. Cosplay is about having fun and dressing up like characters that you love. It does not matter if your costume is SA, as long as you are happy with it, that is really all that matters. Some of the best cosplays are ones where they have put a lot of creativity into developing their design and putting time into the execution. And they don’t have any of the SA items! It might be frustrating to see others’ collections, but if this happens, then maybe it is time to take a step back from the internet, and focus on your own projects.
Hoard your sources. If someone sees that you have acquired an item for yourself and they want to know where they can get one for themselves, then share that information. The worst parts of this community are when people hoard their sources. I can understand wanting to validate your source and then perhaps purchase one for yourself, but after that point, there really is no excuse for not sharing this information. Worse than not sharing your source is acting as a middleman and over-charging other cosplayers to act as a pass-through to acquire those items. Cosplay should not be for turning a profit unless you are putting in man-hours to manufacture an item. If you are sewing or crafting a cosplay item to sell to others, then certainly you should charge for your hours. But if you are just acting as the middleman to ship someone an item or fabric, then please sell at what you purchased it at, or at a fair going price if it is a rare item. No reason to overcharge for something that this other cosplayer could go to the source and purchase for cost.
Point out where other cosplays are “wrong”. This is just cruel and elitist. You might be an expert on what buttons are used exactly on the Doctor’s coat, but that does not mean you should nitpick other people’s costumes. If they ask specifically for advice or criticism, then please do it in an encouraging way that will be helpful (i.e. “Looking great! I know you asked about improvements. If you want to purchase the SA buttons, here is the link: www.goodbuttons.com”). Don’t just be a jerk in order to “prove” you are the ultimate cosplayer. It is very off-putting and will scare people away from the community.

Clara Oswald Cosplay from the episode “Nightmare in Silver”

We here at Temple Of Geek are absolutely grateful for the time Colleen has taken to answer some of our questions. Check out the photo gallery below to see some more of her impressive Doctor Who Cosplays.

You can also find her on social media at: https://www.instagram.com/jedi_janine/

Stay tuned and follow us on social media to stay caught up on the next part of our Doctor Who Cosplay mini series “Tips From The Experts”.

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Twitter: https://twitter.com/templeofgeek?lang=en

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Tag us in your Doctor Who cosplay photos on Instagram for a re-share on our Insta Story! What Doctor Who cosplays are you working on? Do you have any tips for Doctor Who cosplayers? Let us know in the comments below!

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Monica Duarte

Born and raised under the California sun. Monica can be found around the Southern California comic book and pop culture convention scene. She can usually be seen either behind the lens of her camera or in cosplay. Lover of all things geeks but especially Doctor Who, Harry Potter, Star Wars and Star Trek.