Does Doctor Who's Clara Dress In Vintage For A Reason, And Is It A Mad Man In A Box?
Clara is dressed to hang out with the wrong 1960s-based TV character. Or is she?
It's been some time since a lot of people watched Doctor Who for the fashions. Indeed, there may have been times when sartorial choices actively drove people away. (Yes, I'm looking at you, Colin Baker, much as doing so pains me.) So it feels a little weird to be discussing costuming now. On the other hand, things have gotten to the stage where I can't not.
To get right to the point: what is up with Clara's outfits? Here's a woman who has been all over time and space, has survived all manner of brushes with certain death, has quit being a governess to get a teaching degree, has acted as the Doctor's guardian angel in some alternate timeline, and rides a motorcycle. Yet she keeps dressing herself like a second-grader on her way to church.
Behold this week's ensemble: a mustard-colored crew-neck sweater under a checked romper dress with buttons up the side. To be fair, the tights and shoes would probably be fine if the rest of the outfit were more grown-up, and also if she didn't expect to spend a significant amount of time running, which by now she really should. And unless there's a specific story reason for her to do otherwise, this is how she looks almost every episode.
I honestly thought we'd be over this by now, what with the general (and in the Christmas special, disturbingly literal) coming-of-age arc the character went through last season. Yet here we are, dressing for school picture day instead of for cosmos-saving. Speaking for myself, I find there's nothing like a comfortable pair of trousers for simultaneously fleeing and outwitting murderous creatures from another world.
There is one obvious theory, which is that Clara's entire look is a deliberate throwback to the early days of Who. Aside from having more backbone and less time for screaming, Clara could fit right in with the modish, elfin companions of the 1960s, like Susan, Vicki, or Zoe. And we all know that Steven Moffat isn't afraid of making a callback to the old days now and then. Or, to be more accurate, burying us in a hail of them.
Or maybe there's a deeper significance. Let's stick with the concept of '60s television, but take it in a different direction. Here we have young Clara Oswald, plucked by coincidence from her bleak, workaday existence to be given a chance at greater things. Her mentor is a highly charismatic, idiosyncratically brilliant man with an assumed name who is always reinventing himself and taking up with different attractive women, attached or otherwise. She cycles between admiration and disgust for him, frequently experiencing both at the same time. She spends a little too much time with his mortal enemies, and he has been very clear that he is not her boyfriend. And while she's earned his respect, he's never satisfied with anything but her best.
The conclusion is unavoidable. Clara Oswald is Peggy Olson. And like Peggy, she aspires to take her mentor's place one day, but hopes to get there in her own way and do a better job of it once she arrives. How else to explain Clara's recurring Doctor complex last season? Claiming to be the Doctor herself is not entirely unlike Peggy's occasional habit of asking for perks that Don Draper once breathed like Lucky Strikes. And though it was a long and rarely smooth road, we all know how Peggy eventually came into her own.
Can we hope for the same with Clara? If nothing else, that would be an improvement not only for her character, but for her fashion choices as well. It would mean that it's only a matter of time before she stops looking like this:
And starts looking like this.