Hi everybody! It’s been a long, long, long time since I wrote a Doctor Who costuming post. I did Martha. I did River. And now it’s Rose’s turn. Well, for Series 1 at least. Series 2 and 4 will get their own posts. :)
I’m excited to do Rose, because she is quite a different creature than Martha or River. Style-wise, Martha was fashionable and neat and as tied together as an upper-class med student can be; River was full of swag and style and time travel. You look at either of their wardrobes and you go “ooooh” and “I wanna wear that!” And you get that reaction because the costumer wanted you to admire these characters and recognize whatever it is about them that gives them that style—in Martha’s case, that’s her elegant background, and in River’s, it’s her habit of living life to its absolute fullest degree. In more condensed terms, the very fact that they’re well-dressed relays something about them as characters, which is the point of costuming.
Is Rose like that, all stylish and gorgeous and decked out in cool textile items? Noooo. Rose is not much of a clothes horse—she gets some sweet outfits, but unlike Martha and River, those outfits are little gems sprinkled in among 2005 hoodies and jeans and godawful bags. And that’s actually really, really special, because it meant the costumer abandoned fashion and style and the temptation to dress Billie Piper as beautifully as possible to be real with the viewer, to have every piece of clothing count not for its aesthetic experience but for its ability to tell you who Rose is, with every grimy shoe and synthetic thread. Rose’s costuming is pure visual storytelling, and I love it. I love it.
With exceptions, of course. Because we all make mistakes.
So! With my gushing out of the way, let’s get on. Guess what time it is? PAJAMA TIME.
Yeah, no, I’m not going to analyze a striped tank top and white sweats as symbolizing Rose’s imprisonment within her ideal of self and her fundamentally pure soul. They’re pajamas, guys. Pajamas some costume person yanked off a rack and said “uh yeah this might be Billie’s size.” It’s a dull start, but don’t worry; it gets so much more interesting.
See???? Interesting! The look you see above—worn pink hoodie, cheap pink tank top, shapeless jeans, oddly loud messenger bag and a little Ninth Doctor to hold in one hand—is what Rose is wearing when we start spending any large amount of time with her. Now, I can hear you sighing: this outfit isn’t very glamorous, is it? I mean, Martha was fashionable. River was stylish. But this is so…..ordinary.
And you’re right: as fashion, as style, this is kind of a disappointing outfit. But to tell you about a character using only clothes? It’s AMAZING. Take a long look at it. What can we figure out about Rose, from one outfit?
Actually quite a lot.
Do you see how it’s a couple different shades of pink? This shows you the logic Rose uses when she puts herself together in the morning. While Martha has a solid color palette of reds and golds that she’s layered together in a way that suggests she learned how to look like a class act by osmosis, Rose very much got dressed by grabbing clothes from a drawer. There is a logic to it—pinks go together, right? and jeans go with everything?—but it’s not the elegant color palette Martha would have been acclimated to in her upper-middle-class household. Rose tried, but she didn’t think of going out of her comfort zone of pinks, or of making any fashionable combinations, like having her shirt pick up some of the colors from her bag. She had to get to work, man, she didn’t have time for that. (in technical terms, Rose is using a monochromatic color palette, while Martha uses a more grown-up analogous one. if color palettes are your thing, you get me).
it’s youthful: again, pink, and also the loose-fitting hoodie. She’s not dressed like a Young Adult Person with Career Goals Who Drinks Red Wine And Has a Resume. Rose still looks a little like a kid (also super comfortable).
it’s very, very casual—I’m kind of surprised even a shopgirl was allowed to be this dressed down at a department store, but I haven’t been in a big one in a long time so who knows? Rose is not here to impress anybody, nor really herself.
it’s not high-quality stuff, at all. It’s going to wear out in less than a year; you can almost see through the sweater, it’s so used. This kind of thing shows you that Rose can’t afford the best clothes, and also doesn’t care enough to spend the money she does have that way.
They’re working-class clothes: dependable, comfy, don’t stand out much. Kinda like Rose, when she meets the Doctor.
So already in one outfit, without having to know anything else about her, you know a little about Rose: she’s not the Anna Wintour of the Powell Estate, she’s not rich, she’s not dressing like she expects a lot out of her day—dressed like that, I doubt she even expects a promotion. It all reflects where Rose is going at this point: nowhere.
Good point, Jackie. And happen it does: the Doctor comes back. Rose, again, is not prepared to wow in the style department. Look at her.
I want to applaud the costume department for getting the tank-top-and-crappy-hoodie-with-bra-slightly-showing look down perfectly, because this is exactly the sort of thing normal unemployed nineteen-year-old girls wear. Like, wow. Stop spying on me, show.
Fortunately, Nine is not a fashion critic and takes Rose on board despite her tank tops. They go to the end of the world, and it’s very glam, and Rose zips up her hoodie and calls it good.
God, she’s so normal-looking. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a show where the fashion was this level of accurately boring. Is the show whacking you over the head enough with Rose being normal yet? Is this post?
Just to whack you over the head with it a bit more, Rose is predominantly wearing very dark, ordinary, dull grays, which reinforces how very ~NORMAL~ she is. Considering that thesesortsofthings were what companions were wearing shortly before Who got kicked off the screen in the 80s, I kinda can’t blame the costumers for veering this hard into Smoll Ordinary Nobodyville.
Though she is still the Smollest Ordinariest Nobody of All, note that Rose is already wearing a deeper shade of pink/maroon than when she was folding shirts and watching Mickey dance. The symbolism, guys! Rose is already deepening and darkening as a person! Ooooh!
Even better, though? Look at Nine’s shirt. Look back at Rose’s hoodie. One adventure in and they’re matching, guys.
Literally one episode with these two and they’re already so adorable. How. Why, show. Why.
WHEN YOU FIND OUT THAT THE REASON YOUR FRIEND DISLIKES ROSE IS BECAUSE SHE NEVER FREAKING WATCHED SERIES ONE AND THEREFORE EVERYTHING RELATING TO HER IN THE LATER SERIES BASICALLY MEANT NOTHING. AND NINE. NINE. A LACK OF NINE.