Just an ordinary bloke with a bit of spare time

Fourth Doctor Creating the 4th Doctor Season 17 frock coat   (This coat is quite a difficult one to make and really requires at least a basic knowledge of making coats. I wouldn’t recommend this as a first attempt.) Tom Baker’s 4th Doctor wore a variety of different coats during his mammoth seven year stint as the eponymous TimeLord ranging from a natty red corduroy hacking jacket at the beginning of his run to a plumb red woollen copy of a 19th  century Russian greatcoat at the end but the coat we are dealing with here is the frock coat he wore mainly during the 17th season. Having long wanted a version of this jacket I was put off trying it as I had no idea how to make a double breasted frock coat and only had a pattern for a single breasted one. This meant research. To the internet! Now if you google ‘making a doctor who coat’ you will come across Steve Rick’s blog site and this is a great start to seeing what goes into making a coat and if you follow it along as he learns it’s a great learning tool. On his blog he has a few pictures of some tracing he made of the Romana version of the Doctor’s coat, which was a copy in pink but had the same general layout. By studying the pics I was able to gain some feel for what needed changing on my faithful old Simplicity pattern.
It wasn’t just as simple as extending the front panels but totally redoing the collars too, so I redrew new versions of the pattern parts for the front panels, the front facings, the lower skirt front and facing and the collar pieces. To get that full skirt section that the real coat has requires adding a panel to the lower section which also allows for the increase in width of the top section.  Now Steve, being the professional he is would have made a calico test coat to see if the patterns work but being the ‘throw yourself in’ type and knowing I had a large amount of the materiel I was going to use I decided to get right into the coat.
Now the internet is an amazing creature and is so helpful in many ways but when trying to find something specific it is very important to actually start visiting haberdashery type emporiums and feel the cloth. Something that looks ideal can be useless because it hangs wrong and drapes like a carpet rather than the coat or jacket you want. The main place I use is called Aberkhan and is a remainder type supplier which is a double edged sword, in that they have end of run materiel that is very affordable but in limited quantities, usually on a ‘when it’s gone it’s gone’ basis, so buy everything you need, and then some. Also it pays to have a few projects in mind so that if you can’t find that perfect cloth on one visit you may spot something else for another project.
The items needed for making this coat were 4 metres of the main biscuit/grey fleck blend (wool would be better but that limits your choice to high end suppliers) 3 metres of suitable lining (I used the roll of gold polyester that I used on the 5th Doctor Coat) 6 metres of brown trim or bias, 8 buttons in brown, approx 1 ¾“, two shoulder pads and a half metre of fine corduroy cloth in black for the collar. Follow the instructions for the Simplicity frock coat for the majority of the time but remember you need to make four pockets as this coat has two pockets low on the backside flaps. These need to be inset and if you have never done a pocket before then a search on YouTube will give many videos of the idea behind them. You could always make these non-functioning pockets if this is going to be a convention costume but once you get the idea they really are not too difficult to do and it adds so much to a coat to have working pockets.
The new skirt panel is sewn to the rear of the side bottom panel and the lower pocket lies across this seam. The waist pockets are sewn further forward than the Simplicity instructions say due to the double breasted nature of the coat. The front of the pocket is just at the point where the buttons start.
The simplicity instructions are then followed pretty much as is until you get to the sleeves, where you need to sew in the brown trim that goes around the cuffs. The one drawback with the Simplicity pattern that I learned of old is that if you follow the pattern lines the sleeves are sewn in a way that leaves a very baggy front shoulder and you need to sew the top of the sleeve a good 3 to 4 inches into the coat shell to get a good look. This takes practice and on the first go just baste the sleeve in and keep trying the coat on. The new collar is of a slightly different shape and much larger than the Simplicity one but is otherwise sewn in the same. The liner is made as per the instructions but remember the extra skirt panel. (I forgot and wondered why the lining was tighter than the shell) The shell and lining are lined up and pinned together so that you are happy it all fits, then its sewn together and turned the right way round. This is usually the point where all my happy thoughts built up during the making dissipate as I try on the nearly complete coat and realise it looks like a sack of potatoes on me. This is because it needs adjusting. All coats do. Getting it right first time is next to impossible and you may have to take in a seam, or redo a panel etc. Once I was happy with the fit I hemmed the coat as this can change the hang of the coat in many ways and tried it on. The fit was good, the hang seemed spot on, especially the baggy rear and I wore it up to show Mrs M who despite having never seen anything other than a few minutes of ‘City of Death’ the night before had spotted the perfect cloth at Aberkhan and now said “The lapels are wrong.”
I had her take a few pics as looking in a mirror never works and studied them against pics of Tom and sure enough the line was wrong, I had adjusted it to be more like a traditional coat than the strange rounded lapels the real one has.  Normally this would be a big worry as to redo lapels you need to unhem the coat and start unpicking seams, which is a whole lot of no fun. This coat is trimmed in brown bias though so all seams are hidden along the coats outer edge, meaning all I had to do was sew the lapels while the coat was the right way round along more accurate lines and then just trim off any excess cloth. Simples.
When this was done suddenly the coat sprang into life and started to look like the TV version. All that remained was to trim the coat, which is dull but easy enough, and to attach the buttons and sew the button holes. (This turned out to be a long winded job as I had lost my sewing machine’s button hole foot so had to send off for a new one) With everything done I can say I am very, very pleased with how this one came out. It is right up there with my 5th coat as a favourite and looks pretty cool when worn with suitable clothing. Mrs M is knitting me a scarf to go with it too. Sorted.
I finally got an opportunity to unveil the full outfit at the Wales Comic Con here in Wrexham, and planned to do a regenerating theme, starting as 4, regen into 5 and finally finish the day as 6. My lovely wife Ann finished the scarf literally the night before and it worked a treat with the rest of the costume, which now included a waistcoat made from the usual western pattern.
The outfit went down really well at the event and even managed to get onto the front page of a National Welsh newspaper, which was fun.