I have been having One of Those Weeks, or possibly One of Those Lifetimes, and Moggie has been distracting me with nerdy pastimes. Mog will inexplicably sit there and listen attentively as I rattle on about what ever random thing has caught my magpie eye lately. She claims this is because "I learn interesting things that way," but I suspect that the actual root cause is that she is mad, if congenially so.

Many of the magpie-items are her doing, which I feel is supporting evidence for her being bats. Noel Fielding is entirely her fault, and did you lot know he and Julian Barratt are doing some sort of festival in Los Angeles? I think LA overall is a large blot of hot, dry pestilence only just shy of Phoenix, Arizona, but had I the money I might agree to go there very briefly for a live Boosh show. Fielding also recently recorded an episode of QI, where one of the other panel guests was Ross Noble -- along with series regular Alan Davies, whose main job is to answer either "blue whale" or "Dave" when all of the other guests are too terrified to buzz in with anything, I suspect Stephen Fry did not get to say boo to reality for the entire taping.

The Doctor Who fandom thing is technically my fault, although conceptually-speaking, Moggie did rather start it. Moggie has a number of poorly-concealed weaknesses, and one of them is fantastic coats. Way back when I first met her, Moggie owned this massive greatcoat at least a size too big for her, with all the cuff detail and brass buttons and so forth, it happened that the first time I saw it was when she accompanied me to a photoshoot. The first thing I recall saying about it was, "Jesus Christ, you look like the Doctor in that." Which meant nothing to her at the time, as she didn't really know who that was.

If you haven't seen any of the Tom Baker serials -- and I'd be surprised if you'd seen classic Doctor Who and haven't seen him, since he was on screen the longest, and his run provided most of the episodes sold to assorted PBS stations Stateside -- the Fourth Doctor had a tendency to dress like the TARDIS coat rack. A  greatcoat intentionally purchased slightly too large because then it would have roomier pockets would have been entirely within the scope of his fashion sense. Somewhere, on a loose hard drive, Moggie claims to still have the photos taken when we dug out a long swath of red fabric, wrapped it loosely around her neck a few times, and let her wobble about in front of the backdrop.

(Some years later, I also gave her a long two-tone burgundy scarf modeled after one of his later ones. If you happen to be a geek and a beginning knitter, those things are dead easy: Cast on 60 stitches on size 9 needles. Knit garter stitch in whatever colors you prefer for about a thousand years, or somewhere between twelve and twenty feet, whichever comes first. Finish with tassels.

If you are a geek and not partial to knitting things, I do make them upon request, although the early kind can get relatively pricey even in acrylic because of having to buy a kerjillion colors. I've also done loads of Hogwarts scarves, including once a batch of seven for a group Halloween outing.

Don't even ask about the Fifth or Seventh Doctor's pullovers. I don't knit things that aren't flat anymore. It's so far always ended in disaster. Although I do have, and would be happy to produce some fair isle scarves in, a lot of nerdy motifs, among them Seven's question mark pattern.)

Moggie still has a dire weakness for coats, and I'm half-trying to convince her that one or more of us needs a proper Doctor-style frock coat. The coat is often the most recognizable part of the Doctor's getup, and a frock is a popular choice; about half of them have worn frock coats at one point or another, with the runner up being a safari-style jacket which makes up for a lack of romanticism with extra pockets.

Pockets are highly important to the style here. The First Doctor probably got his frock coat out of the BBC costume department, because no one knew that was going to be a huge deal yet, and the Second might have done as well, but from the Third onwards most if not all of the coats have been entirely custom made. The thing about dress coats is that you're not actually supposed to shove things into the pockets -- it ruins the drape. Most designers simply remove your opportunity to do something so unthinkable, even by accident, by just not putting pockets in the damn things. The pocket flaps are a lie; there's not usually anything underneath. This is annoying at best and catastrophic at worst when your actor is wearing one and needs to conceal a yo-yo or some jelly babies or a jury-rigged optical neural destabilizer until halfway through the scene, and has nowhere to put it. So most of the coats have been slightly re-designed to add fabric and interfacing in the skirts and over-sized, reinforced pockets where the flaps say they ought to be, so you can stuff cricket balls and satsumas in there and nobody can tell until you pull them out.

(Except for Eight, whose costume coat evidently had no pockets at all, not even one for the sonic screwdriver. This is one of many things about the TV movie that make people wonder if anyone at Fox had ever actually watched the show before commissioning the screenplay. He evidently changes coats at some point, as in the novels and the audios he routinely has captors demand that he empty his pockets and then watch incredulously for some minutes as he produces piece after piece of mysterious cosmic flotsam from within.)

My compliments also to the costume staff at the Beeb, because those things are damnably difficult to make. Contrary to the prevailing cultural narrative, men's bodies are also composed almost entirely of curves, and frock coats are meant to have a sharp hourglass silhouette. It's particularly easy to see on the Sixth Doctor's coat (because it's made up of many separate eye-rending panels) and on the Fifth Doctor's coat (because it's not), but the bodice of the coat is put together with what's called "fiddleback seams", the curved seams that extend from the back of the armscye to the horizontal seam at the waist.

These things are a bitch and a half to sew. They are second only to set-in cap sleeves on the list of features that make me hate constructing garments. I tend to think of garments as being made up of floppy wireframes,  so it's easy enough to see where they should go and what they would do, but actually piecing them together is a different matter. They don't look complicated when the garment is spread out flat; it looks like you just sew together an in-curve and an out-curve, like putting together puzzle pieces. The thing that makes them such a brilliant piece of tailoring, though, is that they do not lay flat -- they follow the three-dimensional curve of the body beneath -- and moreover, because of the way sewing and seam allowances work, you don't even get to work with it in three-dimensional fashion when you're putting it together.

What actually has to happen at the manufacturing stage is that you have to somehow figure out how to pin a concave fabric edge to a convex fabric edge, with the right sides (the surface that will show on the finished garment) of the fabric together, smashed flat so that you can jam it under the presser foot on a sewing machine, in such a way as to have no lumps, bumps, wrinkles, tucks or pleats that give away the fact that the concave edge is slightly longer. It combines the forgiving nature of matching the ends of set-in piping with the speedy fun of trying to achieve symmetry in unmarked interior darts. It looks brilliant if the pattern fits you and you get it all attached together right, but if you whiff the seam somehow or have to alter the drape of the garment in any way, adjusting these things is a nightmare. There's no fixing it in situ, either -- you just have to pick it apart and do it all over again.

The main thing that makes all this misery worth it is that, if you watch Peter Davison or Colin Baker as the Doctor, you will notice that they can move their damn arms. The advantage of fiddleback seams (or of a back yoke and pleat construction, as you see on a lot of Oxford shirts, is that you can get the fabric to lay flat across the back of the shoulders, and then reduce the diameter of the garment quickly to the waist without having to restrict the width of the fabric at the armscye. The widest part should be somewhere around the armpit; with insufficient ease at that level, trying to swing your arms forward makes the front of the sleeve seam cut into your shoulder joint, and pull the garment untenably tight across the back. If your shirts and jackets all do this, they do not fit you. Women in particular mistake this for the same problem as "not being able to button things over your boobs" a lot, especially since going up a size tends to solve it, albeit mostly by accident.

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