Thursday, January 9, 2014

Captain Jack Harkness Coat Revisited

Greetings True Believers! For those of you who discovered my blog via a search for Captain Jack Harkness Costume or Cosplay information, welcome to my blog! If you want some seriously detailed dope on the Harkness costume and my recipe for it, poke around here for a little bit. In fact, here's a link that will take you to all of my posts about my build of the Harkness costume.

Today's topic is about some recent changes I made to the Harkness coat.

As regular readers of my blog will know, I'm a huge fan of Abbyshot and all of their products. They make licensed Doctor Who stuff and a bunch of other great genre stuff also. I still remember back in the day when Abbyshot was just getting started in the business, and debuted their awesome Neo coat from The Matrix. Ah, the glory days.

Hey look it's me!!!

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: I absolutely love this jacket. I think it's a fantastic replica, it's amazingly well made, it strikes my eye as extremely accurate, and it's a very flattering cut. Go buy one right now from

Passionate costumers have noticed that there are some inaccuracies to the Abbyshot Harkness coat, and many of them are easily correctable. First up is the button placement. Even the casual observer will note that the buttons do not line up with the button holes, which seems pretty odd, and a weird thing to overlook in a production coat.

But then I see promotional photos like this, where the buttons DO seem to flare out way too far on the top of the coat. Could it be that the costumers for Torchwood repositioned the buttons on some of the jackets so that they would be visible when Jack is wearing the jacket in "open" position? Could be. I don't know for sure, but this picture sure as heck looks like the buttons would NOT properly fit into the button holes.

That said, there are plenty of contradictory promo shots that show the buttons properly aligned, and even one where it shows the jacket buttoned up. I guess my theory is that possibly Abbyshot patterned their jacket after one that they were given by the BBC that happened to have the buttons moved to different locations. Who knows.

Repositioning the buttons is very simple work. A seam ripper was used to pull out the old ones, and then I just hand stitched them back on.

This picture shows my jacket and the new location of the buttons. They actually look a little off kilter in this photo, but I assure you they line up to the button holes really nicely.

Another popular criticism of the Abbyshot jacket is in regards to the epaulets. Not only do they appear shorter than the ones in pretty much all reference photos and screen caps, but for some reason they used the wrong rank braid. Having had a little experience in manufacturing and dealing with vendors to provide parts, I can easily see how something like the rank braid just slipped through the cracks. Perhaps they ordered the correct braid from their supplier, but when the spool of 10,000 yards of the stuff showed up, it was not correct. Rather than wait another six months for another run of the braid, they just plowed ahead with production, knowing full well that 99.99% of the people purchasing this jacket would not even notice the inaccurate braid.

The great news is that accurate braid is readily available on ebay, and it's darn cheap.

But that's about where the great news ends if you were planning on making your jacket more accurate. Problem number one is that abbyshot constructed their jacket REALLY well, and in the process deviated from the screen used jacket. On the screen used jackets, the braid looks like it wraps AROUND the epaulets. On the AS jacket, it's sewn INTO it. Hard to explain, as I'm not familiar enough with sewing/tailoring terminology to use the right words, but the bottom line is it's different. With a seam ripper and a bit of time, I was able to pull out the existing rank braid without effecting the epaulet at all. I considered myself really lucky. I was worried I was going to have to pop the top stitching and the seams in order to get it out.

For the novice, the next step is simply to add on the accurate rank braid. I just glued mine on, as I was unable to locate any stitching on the screen used jackets. The rank wraps around the epaulet entirely, joining on the underside.

BUT, what was really important to me was lengthening the epaulet. By my calculations, based on screen captures and comparing it to the Abbyshot jacket, I figured the things needed to be extended by 1 inch. There are a few options on how to do this, but ALL of them require a bit of fabric that matches the jacket. I forget who sold it to me, but about a year ago I acquired a length of the fabric. I think it was from a discarded belt or something. My initial plan was to build my own epaulets, add on the rank braid, then install them. However, upon looking at the construction of the jacket, I realized this would mean pulling apart the shoulder of the jacket. Which would also mean pulling out the lining. Yikes. Already WAY too complicated. My second approach had me thinking of cutting off the existing epaulet directly underneath one of the rank braids. I would then graft onto the epaulet stump my newly constructed epaulet, with the extra inch added in.

I proceeded down this path until I realized that I don't know how to make button holes yet!!! lol. Rather than make things more complicated than they needed to be, I decided to salvage the tip of the epaulet and the base, and basically just graft in a length of the epaulet in between the first and last rank braids. I had already completely built the replacement epaulets, which was actually a really good exercise. It was then just a simple matter of cutting those down to size, using a zig-zag stitch to join the whole thing together, then gluing the rank braid on top of it.

I am EXTREMELY happy with how they turned out, though as of this picture I have not yet re-sewn the epaulet buttons.

Which brings me to another thing some fans take issue with on the jacket, the buttons. From what I can tell, the buttons used on the jacket are replica RAF buttons. Real ones are fairly available on ebay, and upgrades are possible. I'm not super hot to do this upgrade, just because to my eye the existing buttons are just fine. I guess if I saw a full set of the properly sized buttons pop up on ebay, I would get them, but it's really not a big deal to me.

The only other modification that I've heard of people doing is replacing the belt buckle. File under "who cares!!!" in my book. But again, if an accurate one was presented to me, it's a simple enough mod to make. It's just so far below the line that it's something I'm just not motivated enough to attend to.

No comments: