The Wishcraft Studio Costume Shop has been in high gear the past few weeks, and when my husband jested that he wanted to be the TARDIS from Dr. Who for Halloween, I eagerly accepted the challenge. I blame my sister-in-law for getting us to watch such a campy, entertaining, and addicting show. I did not realize the ridiculous amount of time the costume would take, but I have to admit the results were pretty cool.
** Warning: Long, nerdy post ahead. Not for the faint of heart, or hearts if you have two. Also, beware of bad Dr. Who puns. Allons-y! **
It all started with a spare cardboard box my parents had in their garage. When the main dimensions scaled up perfectly with my 10th Doctor’s TARDIS reference photo, I decided this mattress box wanted to be a police box when she grew up, at 40% the size. The first step was to make the top and bottom sturdy with copious amounts of wood glue before cutting head and foot holes and the 32 side panels.
A friend’s mother kindly gave me a ton of mat board and black foam core board (not knowing most of it would go into a campy costume). Hanna, my bunny and the Wishcraft Studio mascot, decided the box was hers (as are all things made of wood, fiber, and well…everything in general). She immediately hopped inside and scent-marked the TARDIS while I as working. It was immensely adorable watching her play house, until she started remodeling it with her tiny teeth and I unceremoniously (and literally) kicked her out. Not wanting to admit demotion, she stayed nearby and kept a careful eye on her property.
Much slicing, gluing and sanding of foam core later, the costume was starting to look more like a timey wimey TARDIS and less like a wibbley wobbley cardboard box. Here she is after a little spackling and sanding on the porch to fill in gaps. The box ultimately had five different layers cut to scale to look as accurate as possible (insert favorite euphemism for anal-retentiveness here).
I wanted the costume to look like a complete TARDIS when not in use, which meant making the roof into a hat (or the hat into a roof?). A cheap glass toothpick holder, random plumbing pieces, and lollypop sticks became the lantern. I used a blue LED and switch set purchased from the wonderful people at Evan Designs. And oh my goodness, I actually had to use trigonometry to figure out the dimensions of the angled roof!
Applying the “add more duct tape until it works” mantra, I used lots of electrical tape when it came to the wiring (my electrician father may be shaking his head in shame at this point).
Rings of foam became a squishy hat band for my husband’s head, hidden inside the TARDIS when not being worn, and I stitched a cover for it of blue fabric.
Building finished, I added a layer of sultry black gesso to the whole thing (with the help of Count Chocula’s Halloweeny goodness). Gesso acts like a primer, covering every surface with a base color and the same texture so that paint sticks to everything the same way. *Pulls out soapbox* If you are going to gesso a project, get the good stuff. I first bought a $5 bottle of Liquitex gesso, since I like some of their acrylic paints, but it was like painting with a 1:10 mix of flour and water (clumpy, thin, uneven, icky). I would have been painting for days. A $16 container of GOLDEN gesso (my favorite brand and what our local College of Design makes its students buy for good reason) covered the letters on the box, filled in the little gaps, and did it all in one even coat (even after I thinned it with water), using less than half of the jar *sound of non-weeping angels singing on high*. Initially I wondered if the gesso was worth the effort, but I was rewarded when it came time for the blue paint.
Ah, the enigmatic TARDIS blue…there are threads on the TARDIS Builders forum on this single topic (which I read, and reread, and read again). Each incarnation of the TARDIS was a slightly different color, and the original prop for the 10th Doctor’s ship was actually a disheartening mix of seven colors. My solution was to get a plethora of paint swatches from Lowe’s and Home Depot, sit in front of the TV, and watch episodes of Dr. Who, whittling down the stack (it was torture, I know). I got down to two contenders (Deep Space and Cobalt Stone from Lowes for the other TARDIS builders out there), which I bought a little of each and mixed. The gesso was my friend because it gave the box an aged look after painting.
The Halloween party was drawing near and my fantastic husband realized that I could print off the signs from the internet and have them laminated and shiny in no time (the same gurus on the TARDIS forum provide PDFs of everything). I’m also a fan of LED strip lights, and for about $10 I had back lit signs running off eight AA batteries stashed inside the costume. (The lights could run off of a single 9V battery, but my dad advised the AA’s for longer glow time and 8 x 1.5V = 12V, which was what the LED’s were made for.)
Final touches included installing the hardware to the front. The die-hard fans will notice the main door handle is in the wrong place, but I had drilled the holes before realizing it. But the lock turns, I’m such a dork! I pasted on paper windows because I was pressed for time, and I may upgrade them later. I cut doors for arm holes (a smart engineer friend suggested the idea), and I inserted lots of foam padding to make my husband comfy. I guess it’s time to insert the obligatory “it’s bigger on the inside” joke here.
Here is the debut of my husband in his costume at the party (before I improved the hat with the squishy band), with my sister-in-law (the Dalek) and her roommate (the 10th Doctor, as David Tennant’s portrayal is our collective favorite), having an epic time war in our living room. Of course the Time Lord was going to win.
And here is our little TARDIS awaiting her next adventure. Thanks for being my companion on this crazy trip!