The 11th Doctor’s “scales” waistcoat was quintessentially Victorian in its general cut, which is hardly surprising since it would (usually) be worn underneath a Victorian-style frock coat.
And even this new “7b” costume was introduced immediately after his “Snowmen” costume, which was also comprised of Victorian-style trousers, waistcoat, and frock coat.
The backwards-slanted shoulder seam was, perhaps, the strongest indicator of the waistcoat’s Victorian style.
Observe how, when viewed from behind, a bit of the front fabric is visible toward the shoulder.
Even when viewed from the side, the distinctive slant of the shoulder seam was quite apparent.
Here, you can compare the waistcoat’s Victorian-style shoulder seam to his shirt’s more modern-style shoulder seam (albeit at a hunched posture):
In fact, whether by design or by coincidence, the bottom of the “scales” waistcoat’s front opening was approximately equivalent in height to the bottom of the frock coat’s lapels.
The opening tapered into the center front via a graceful curve.
Fortunately, to determine the proper length of the “scales” waistcoat, we have four separate visual references.
The first reference we have is the waist seam on the 7b frock coat.
Of course, different postures will result in different drapes, with natural resting stance being the ideal and any “poses” being less so (for our purposes).
The closest thing we have to natural resting posture was this promotional photo for “The Bells of Saint John,” and the waist seam of the frock coat appears to indicate the natural waist being about halfway between the two lowermost buttons on the waistcoat.
Two other similar promotional photos have his arms bent upward toward his neck, which would presumably lift the frock coat upward slightly.
In one of these, the frock coat’s waist seam indeed indicates a slightly higher waistline in relation to the waistcoat – just underneath the second lowest button.
Paradoxically, a very similar pose resulted in the frock coat’s waist seam being slightly lower – perhaps because he seemed to be leaning slightly to his left (photo right)?
This final frock reference yielded the biggest discrepancy of all, doubtless because he was leaning to the right (photo left).
The range of indicators notwithstanding, based on the frock coat’s waistline, the natural waist on the “scales” waistcoat would seem to have been positioned approximately halfway between the lowermost two buttons.
The second indicator of proper waistcoat length was in relation to his “Snowmen” trousers, which he wore with this waistcoat in the episode, “Journey to the Center of the TARDIS.”
As you may recall, these were Victorian-style, high-waisted trousers, complete with a “double peak” in the back for the suspenders/braces.
Usually, the bottom of the “scales” waistcoat slightly overlapped the top of the “Snowmen” trousers.
Even with his arms slightly raised, the two garments still overlapped.
Nevertheless, the two only overlapped marginally; when he moved and/or leaned, there was occasionally some “gappage” between the waistcoat and trousers.
The third visual reference we have regarding the waistcoat length is in relation to Eleven’s G-star jeans.
The lower front of the waistcoat appeared to be approximately level with the lower edge of the jeans’ waistband, with the waistband button on the jeans “peeking” through the bottom of the waistcoat.
In fact, it could well be that the length of the “scales” waistcoat was determined with the G-stars specifically in mind, so they’d just barely overlap in the front. (That’s just a theory, though.)
Furthermore, keeping in mind that the front of the waistcoat was lower than the back (more on this shortly), the waistcoat length could well be the reason the Doctor wore his “Snowmen” trousers in “Journey to the Center of the TARDIS”; it wouldn’t do to have constant “gappage” between the waistcoat and the G-stars in the back throughout the episode!
This is admittedly speculation, but it does fit all the available facts.
The fourth (and final) visual reference for the waistcoat length is Matt Smith’s actual physique.
Observe that in the screencap below, the second-lowest waistcoat button appears to be approximately level with his natural waist.
His natural waist appears to have been similarly positioned in the example below, although his raised arms probably lifted the waistcoat a bit.
The waistcoat’s natural waistline appears to have been positioned approximately halfway between the two lowermost buttons, or as high as the second-lowest button.
The waistcoat should extend just barely low enough in the front to overlap the G-stars, with the jeans’ waistband button peeking through at the bottom of the waistcoat.
The waistcoat should overlap the “Snowmen” trousers slightly more.
There were no darts on the lower front of the waistcoat.
The waistcoat wasn’t flat across the bottom; each side angled downward away from the center front from the lowest button to the bottom, where they angled away again back toward the side seams, resulting in a sort of downward “double peak.”
To determine the precise angles of those lower front “peaks,” I surveyed every available image at relevant angles, appropriate posture, and of sufficiently high quality.
Here are the results, with the following disclaimers:
- We don’t know exactly how many of these waistcoats there were; there may have been some minor variation in the measurements amongst the production costumes.
- There may be a minor discrepancy between what the precise angles were intended to be and how they actually ended up on the finished waistcoat; minute variations are quite common amongst seemingly “identical” garments.
- Angles subjectively change, depending on whatever angle from which they’re viewed.
- We can allow for a degree or two in each direction to account for human error on my part.
- I rounded to the nearest whole degree, because we have to draw the line somewhere.
Hence the wide sampling of examples.
First, some actual screencaps from the show itself:
The angles were easier to read (and perhaps yielded more reliable results) from publicity photos.
And, finally, an examination of the “scales” waistcoat formerly on display at the Doctor Who Experience:
As you can see, that upper corner (approximately level with the lowest button) ranged from 138° to 156°, with most measurements falling in the low 140s.
Dismissing the 138° and 156° extremes, the gap doesn’t close much; the remaining measurements range from 139° to 154°.
140° was the most “popular” result amongst my samples.
The median measurement of all samples was 143°.
The mean (average) of all samples was 144° (rounded).
For the lower corners, I worked from the assumption that they’re supposed to be identical and pooled the samples (and the photos were never exactly straight-on, anyway).
These measurements ranged from 87° to 110°, with most measurements equally split between the upper 90s and low 100s.
Dismissing the 87° and 110° extremes, the gap closed to a slightly friendlier 92° to 105°.
98° and 99° tied for the most “popular” result amongst my samples.
The median measurement of all samples was 99°.
The mean (average) of all samples was also 99° (rounded).
Assuming a theatrical or historical Victorian pattern block was used for this waistcoat, the angles of the lower front corners were almost definitely determined by the various points on the (“connect-the-dots” style) draft, but the information is helpful to have, nevertheless.
As mentioned previously, the front of the waistcoat extended lower than the back; it appeared to be flat across the back, “dipping” toward the front from the side seams.
Assuming the check pattern on his “Snowmen” trousers was vertically patterned in ¼” increments, we can conclude that the front of the waistcoat was approximately 2″ lower than the back.
As you probably noticed by now, the back of the 11th Doctor’s “scales” waistcoat wasn’t made out of the same “scales” fabric as the front.
Alex Murphy (aka “The Ginger Doctor”) and Daniel Pawlik claim the costumer who made the original waistcoat(s) told them that the back of the waistcoat was purple linen – an interesting choice, since waistcoats are normally backed with silk, lining, etc.
Furthermore, the same linen was allegedly used on the back of both this and the velvet waistcoat.
You can read his original blog post here:
Paradoxically, in the show, the back linen typically looked like more of a charcoal or even gunmetal gray.
Of course, we must keep two things in mind:
First, with the possible exception of a single scene, “Journey to the Center of the TARDIS” was far from ideally lit, in terms of identifying colors.
Second, we know that combinations of set lighting, cinematography, and post-production color-correction can result in drastically different colors than those on the original costume.
For instance, compare the color of the back fabric in these two screencaps of what appears to be the same moment of the same scene – one from the episode, the other from a special feature, but both from the Blu-Rays:
Although it usually looked gray (to me) in the episode, it did occasionally take on a purple-ish hue.
… when it wasn’t being flooded with blue light, that is.
For what it’s worth, in these filming photos of the episode, “Hide,” the back fabric did appear to be purple.
There was, of course, a center back seam down the back of the waistcoat.
This seam ran down the entire center back and was presumably tapered to fit the lower back.
Curiously, the back neckline seam allowance appeared to be quite stiff – enough to make an impression!
Sometimes, there appeared to be a row of hand-stitching around the neckline – if so, then its purpose may have been to anchor the layers together, attach the lining, and/or control the seam allowances.
Then again, it may have been purely decorative.
As with the front, there were no lower back darts, either.
On the lower back of the waistcoat, there was a back strap to pull the wearing ease snugly (but comfortably) across the back.
The strap appears to have been made with the same fabric as the back of the waistcoat and trapezoidal in shape; it was widest at the side seam, narrowing toward the center back.
Also, the strap appears to have been positioned with its upper edge at about the same level as the outer corner of the lower pocket.
The strap was sewn into the waistcoat’s side seam, and the outermost several inches appear to have been stitched to the back of the waistcoat – either via topstitching (which is difficult to discern on linen), or invisibly hand-sewn.
Observe in the preceding and following photos how the wearing ease seems almost entirely gathered at the center back.
The buckle was attached to the back left, with the back right pulling through from the underside.
Oddly, though, compare how little of the strap was pulled through in the examples above, to how much of it was pulled through in the examples below.
Perhaps it had pulled, or been intentionally kept, looser during filming?
Or perhaps different waistcoats had back straps of different lengths?