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Digital Subscriptions > Doctor Who Magazine > DWM Special 52: Costume Design > The 1980s

The 1980s

This turbulent decade included some of the series’ most elegant costume designs, but is chie fly remembered for a handful of notorious misjudgements…

With Tom Baker’s penultimate season only crossing over from 1979 into 1980 by a hair’s breadth, the 1980s began in earnest for Doctor Who with Baker’s last series in the role. This was also the first season produced by the incoming John Nathan-Turner.

Under JNT, the visual identity of the programme was massively overhauled. The most immediate and startling change was a new title sequence, but much higher production values were also clearly evident in set construction. Only in the area of costume was there more continuity than change – even, perhaps, an intensification of the ‘operatic’ style that had characterised much of the previous year. June Hudson, who had designed half of the screened serials in the 1979-80 series, became principal costume designer at Nathan- Turner’s behest, alternating stories with Amy Roberts. The two designers’ aesthetics, though distinct, meshed well: both favoured blocks of single or closely related colours, dramatic silhouettes, and a romantic, allusive approach to world-building. In stories such as State of Decay (1980) and Warriors’ Gate (1981) Robson and Hudson drew on historical imagery in non-specific, hybridising ways that created plausibly dense but still dramatic, and instantly compelling, images.

June Hudson left Doctor Who at the end of the 1980-81 series and Amy Roberts worked on only two further serials before finally parting company with the programme in 1983. After this, Doctor Who never exhibited the same kind of coherence in costume design until the 2005 revival under Russell T Davies. As in the later 1970s, during the early-to-mid-80s there was little consistency in the allocation of designers; it became a rarity for anyone to work on more than two productions per year.

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About Doctor Who Magazine

Few television programmes make the same production demands as Doctor Who. With such diverse settings as distant points in Earth’s history and alien civilisations in the far future, the series has always stretched the ingenuity – and resources – of its talented costume designers. This unprecedented magazine features numerous rare and previously unpublished illustrations showing how the look of a Doctor Who episode evolves from sketch to screen, plus exclusive interviews with many of those designers including: • Alexandra Tynan (costume designer in the 1960s who created the look of the Cybermen) • Barbara Lane (the designer of Azal, Alpha Centauri, the Axons and more – this is her first interview in over 40 years) • Lee Bender (designer and owner of Bus Stop, a boutique which supplied outfits for Sarah Jane Smith) • June Hudson (designer of the Fourth Doctor’s final outfit and many elegant costumes for Romana) • Colin Lavers (designer of the Fifth Doctor’s costume) • Amy Roberts (designer of Anthony Ainley’s Master) • Lucinda Wright (designer of Christopher Eccleston’s series as the Ninth Doctor) • Howard Burden (designer of the Twelfth Doctor’s costume) • Ray Holman (designer of the Eleventh and Thirteenth Doctor’s costumes, and Doctor Who’s current costume designer) Plus, the stars who wore the designers’ creations in Doctor Who look back at their characters’ clothes: • Anneke Wills (Polly) • Katy Manning (Jo Grant) • Sophie Aldred (Ace) • Camille Coduri (Jackie Tyler) • Catrin Stewart (Jenny Flint)