River Song's Wardrobe (Updated for “The Husbands of River Song”!)
So after my post on Martha Jones’ wardrobe got unexpectedly loved, and before I wrote about Rose’s Series 1 clothes, I thought I’d continue to put my two favorite things together (costume analysis and Doctor Who) and see what I could come up with. Because this is my specialty, yo, and it makes me happy.
So: let’s do River Song!
Now, there’s a small difficulty here. Either I can analyze River’s outfits in the order we see them, thus revealing the writer/viewer’s arc of her character’s trajectory, or we can look at them in the order River wore them from her perspective, going all in-universe and watching River’s wardrobe progression in the order it happened for her. I’ve decided to go with the second object, because then we can admire how the costume team managed to keep certain threads (oops, pun) consistent in a story that’s all out of order and out of time. And then you can go back and piece it together in order if you want! What nerds we are!
So, anyway, what’s River wearing when we first meet her? Well.
I’m sure it’s the height of baby-fashion, whatever it is. One nice anon pointed out that it looks like something called a Halo sleep sack, though, so there’s a thing for you. Baby fashion, guys. It’s complex.
River/Melody appears a few more times as a child, but her clothes are so little seen that I can’t really build anything solid off of them. River’s wardrobe only really starts to come into its own when she’s under the name of Mels, larking about with her parents:
What a lovely gif. You can’t see the outfit terribly well (because I chose this gif over closer shots, sue me), but it’s a gray tank and a black leather jacket. Not much to go on, but tank tops tend to be for active people and leather jackets always signal “tough person,” unless David Tennant is wearing one and looking like a wet adorable rat.
He is so smoll.
But the color palette for Mels’ clothes is already important: despite being a very colorful person, River sticks to a neutral palette most of the time, relying most heavily on beigey colors or muted earth tones, often with a shot of black to spice it up.
Kinda like the above outfit, actually. While we’re looking at it, note the pattern on her dress: how weird it is, kind of skeletal. It’s bold, but not an easily identifiable print like polka dots or stripes or florals. It looks like rows of spines, or barbed fencing. Something fierce and weird and not to be trusted.
Ah, good, now Alex Kingston is wearing it! Look at how the fit changes: that’s the River Song shape, right there, from the knee-length hem to the v-neck neckline to the drapey bodice. There’s usually a lot of draping in her dresses; I think it’s to add to the drama of it all, that appearance she has of living life on a very great stage.
In the above picture, River’s showing off her great lace-up boots, too. Here is someone who came dressed for murder. She totally looked in the mirror today and said “And that’s how an assassin looks!” to herself, while dancing to punk rock. Or to the screams of horrified civilians, as happens with her next outfit.