In this second installment of Fashionista Fever!, I'll be examining the it's-about-flippin'-time wardrobe changes our intrepid companion made. Whereas the outfits Sarah Jane Smith donned in Part One nearly made me envy the Earl of Gloucester for having his eyes gouged out (yes, I still remember reading King Lear in my 11th grade English class), Sarah Jane's first season with Tom Baker as the Fourth Doctor opened up entirely new opportunities. Indeed, the Doctor proved invaluable as a teacher and fashion inspiration -- and lordy be, she needed it. Badly. Please consider the following to refresh your memory:
Although Sarah Jane was a fiercely independent young woman who didn't appear to be outwardly susceptible to undue influence by others (save the occasional spider, disembodied hand, etc...), the Fourth Doctor turned her fashion awareness on its ear so completely that there was no going back. And so he appears: the floppy, wide-brimmed hat; the absurdly long and colorful scarf; and that weird combination of a flasher with Victorian sensibilities. How could Sarah not exchange the huge collars, corsages, and poor choices for patterns and colors for culottes and the beloved UNIT cammies**... and even, eventually, her very own absurdly colorful scarf? Analysis of these wonderful new costumes is forthcoming, but here's a taste of what's to come.
All that style, and I haven't even gotten to that adorable Andy Pandy outfit yet! The pictures of Sarah's socks and boots below are a different matter entirely, however -- far from being a preview of coming attractions, these shots should simply be considered gratuitous for the sake of being gratuitous.
Okay, let's get down to brass tacks, shall we? First up is "Robot", which doesn't appear to be very promising at first blush. At all. For starters, Sarah's entire outfit -- from the white hat to the white bead necklace to the large floral print lapels (we just can't escape this woman's lapels; apparently, neither can she) to the freakish cuffs on her sleeves -- makes every ensemble previously reviewed almost bearable by comparison. Those frou-frou cuffs look more like wrist guards straight out of a Laura Ashley medieval fantasy fashion show! Combine them with the gloves and you've got gauntlets that are, if not worthy of a knight dressed for a joust, at least fitting for a woman who will find her own metallic admirer as this serial drags on. But for Christ's sake, didn't the gloved look for women fall out of favor some years earlier, like, oh, I don't know... when Victoria was crowned queen?
Still, this outfit would be much more palatable if Sarah had left the hat anywhere else -- whether that meant stowing it at UNIT HQ, in her first little wind-up car, in the damned TARDIS, or even on the Brigadier's head. The bright white of the hat, while complimenting the necklace quite nicely, simply doesn't work with the overall drabness of the dress, the wrist guards, the gloves, or the purse.
I would, however, like to draw your attention to this glimpse of Sarah Jane's boots. They appear to be suede, which spells fun and definitely funky and maybe even a little bit cool. It's too bad there's no beaded fringe hanging from the tops... but that would be asking for too much, too soon. Unfortunately, the suede boots never made another appearance during Sarah Jane's tenure. If they had, I'm pretty confident there would have been beaded fringe. There might have even been beaded designs with a Native American motif, since Sarah Jane did get to the point of dressing for her age and era, as opposed to those of her Aunt Lavinia's. Even here, this more modern part of her outfit defied Sarah's frighteningly geriatric approach to dressing and gave us a shred of hope that things would improve. And improve they did, though not right away...
WTF? By the time Sarah arrived in this getup, I suspect that the memory of the Third Doctor's dapper dress had begun to wane. I suppose we'll never know, but I will admit that I cringed noticeably upon seeing the scarf tied around Sarah Jane's head. There might have even been some vocalizations of utter disbelief... and perhaps even a prayer for a power surge so sudden that my laptop would never recover, thereby saving me from witnessing such a thing ever again.
But as I succumbed to the Spell of Sarah Jane, I also realized what a challenge she'd faced and was proud she finally overcame her apparent love of dressing like her freakin' elderly auntie. Keep in mind that Sarah was in her early twenties when she met the Third Doctor and refused to make his coffee -- far, far too young to don outfits better suited to grandmothers at garden parties. Seriously, at the beginning of "Robot", she looks like she could have come straight from shooting the brainwashing scene from The Manchurian Candidate! The scarf was the initial step that the poor woman needed to take so badly -- and the answer to the audiences' heartfelt prayers that things would improve. They certainly couldn't have gotten much worse.
And yet I fear I've spoken far too soon. What in God's name... oh, Sarah, you'd made such progress with the scarf, you hippie wannabe -- and then you come back with this. I'm speechless at this huge step backwards. Make that two huge steps backwards. One for that awful polyester-looking monstrosity and one for those wee barrettes. Because. those. barrettes. look. awful.
Now, while I've always been more of a "put the barrette behind the ear with all the hair it can possibly hold" stylist, I totally understand a woman's need for such things... especially when her hair is growing out and in that awkward, weirdly-flipped look. I've been there, I've had that look, so I know the pain. I also know that nothing -- and I mean nothing -- can help at this stage.
Maybe Sarah should have left the scarf on her head, hmmm?
Thankfully, this outfit makes its appearance just as the serial is ending, so we're not subjected to it for much longer this time out. We'll continue along to "The Ark In Space" immediately, then... where we unfortunately find Sarah wearing the same polyester dress. Oh, my eyes! My eyes! Actually, since I've started this project, I've noticed an absolutely charming lack of clothing continuity where Sarah Jane is concerned. It's not in evidence during these serials, but it's quite pronounced in the two following seasons. Oh, I suppose it could be explained away by the fact that the later serials didn't follow one after the other as they did here -- but to find clothing for some of those outfits, Sarah Jane must have spent many a night culling the TARDIS wardrobe.
I'm digressing, aren't I? Gird yourself, for it's back to the space station Nerva we go to briefly express our utter disbelief that Sarah Jane lacked the fashion and logical sense to change out of the dress and heels and into something better suited to exploring and running from giant wasp things. Sure, the trip might have only taken a short time, but the Doctor and Harry would certainly have waited for her after the TARDIS materialized on the space station. They were gentlemen, after all.
That said, I'm quite pleased to say that with the exception of a repeated outfit last seen in "Planet of the Spiders" and later in "The Seeds of Doom", this polyester dress really is the worst of Sarah Jane's outfits for her remaining time with the Doctor. When next we see Sarah -- after she's wandered away from the Doctor and Harry, been rescued from a room with dangerously low oxygen levels, threatened to spit in poor Harry's eye if he ever calls her "old girl" again, and gone on record about hating brandy -- she's been put in suspended animation and is being stored in a room very reminiscent of an earlier serial featuring the Cybermen. It's almost too bad the white hat from "Robot" didn't make it this far because, quite frankly, it would have so totally gone with she finds herself wearing when Harry revives her.
And thank God Sarah was resuscitated wearing practical clothing! Her later activities in the serial included some serious climbing through air ducts, and who in her right mind would volunteer for such an activity in a dress? She even found herself wearing a pair of pretty seriously-heeled white boots, shown here because... well, it's Sarah Jane in boots. There doesn't need to be another reason, does there? This outfit also puts me in mind of another popular science-fiction program from my youth -- "Buck Rogers in the 25th Century" -- even though a quick googling of the program reveals a lot of shiny spandex (no doubt seen at outer space discos) that looks nothing like this at all. I also don't recall watching the show that much, but I must have for it to have retained such a prominent place in my memory almost thirty years later... erroneous as my recollection of it may be upon further investigation.
Last up for Sarah Jane and her adventures on Space Station Nerva is a wonderful outfit that also served her quite well during "The Sontaran Experiment". Even after rewatching both serials recently for, umm... research, I honestly don't know which part I like best. Is it the bright yellow mack, which is certainly handy and practical for visibility's sake when dematerializing through transmat thingamahoozits standing upright and rematerializing sitting down, hidden from view? Or the cap, because it's simply delightful (especially here)? Or do I prefer the boots, because Sarah Jane in boots always justifies more research? I'm going out on a limb here and declaring a tie between the mack and the cap -- if only because of their utter adorability when worn together.
The handy, practical, and delightful mack and cap even made it through the transmat as the TARDIS crew was hijacked and put down on Skaro for "Genesis of the Daleks" -- in which there's honestly just so much going on with Sarah Jane on just about every possible front that to shirk on this would be a crime. Where the bright yellow pants ended up, we'll never know, but the disappearance of the pants made my job as a Sarah Jane fashion analyst even more fun. Who would have thought she'd have been hiding a pair of trendy culottes underneath? The spelling of the word culottes needs to be reexamined: it should most definitely be spelled coolottes, at least where the girl from South Croydon is concerned. Okay, so here we see Sarah Jane still wearing the mack and cap, plus the coolottes, tights, and boots... the beginning of the funky for our Sarah. Finally, this ensemble signals the honest-to-God end of Sarah Jane's clothing middle ages and the beginning of her renaissance. When she decides it's high time to break out of that fashion shell, she doesn't muck about, does she?
I don't even mind Sarah's return to the very wondrous, geometrical and very, very 1970s-patterned sweater! There's nothing can that destroy this moment of fashionista-fu happiness. Nothing at all. That said, I have just made a somewhat puzzling observation. If you look very closely at the second and third screencaps, you'll find that Sarah's somehow managed to find a different pair of boots for her climbing adventure. There's no way those are the same boots -- not only are they different heights, but the color isn't even the same. That last pair above is a weird color, isn't it? Is it oxblood, or more of a burgundy, or, dare I say it, purple? Then, compare the two pictures even more and you'll see that whereas the boots in the second screencap are laced, the ones in the third screencap aren't. The absurdity of my noticing that can only be outdone by this: look very closely at the laced boots and you can definitely see she's done them up using the straight method, a style that's mainly found in Europe. For someone who laces up her own boots differently than most (I prefer the double helix method), this oddball observation ranks pretty high on my list of absolutely useless trivia, although I really don't think Alex Trebek will announce a Final Jeopardy answer having to do with Sarah Jane, her boots, and how they're laced. Which is too bad, really.
Anyway, forget the Daleks, the Thals, the Mutos, and Davros. Forget the Doctor failing to take advantage of the perfect opportunity to blow the Daleks to kingdom come. While you're at it, forget about Sarah's brilliant but aborted attempt to lead a good ol' rebellion against the oppressors, although that's pretty kickass of her. Instead, focus your attention on something else: the. best. outfit. ever. seen. on. television. Yes, those UNIT cammies finally make it out of a storage locker deep inside the Kaled bunker and onto Sarah Jane. Thank you, Doctor, for realizing Sarah Jane's coolottes simply would not do for another minute -- no matter how awesome they looked or how much more practical they were when compared to her previous outfits.
But judging from the somewhat pained expression on her face, Sarah Jane wasn't initially convinced that these camouflage pants would work for her. Perhaps she didn't want to give up the coolottes, or perhaps she just didn't like the Doctor intimating that she should change her clothes. Maybe she was really thinking about those tights she was wearing, knowing how frickin' uncomfortable and awkward they would prove to be underneath the pants. Hell, that would have been the first thing that forced its way into my pin-head. Tights can be bad enough, but wearing them underneath a pair of pants is something I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy, let alone my favorite companion. Harry didn't look like he gave a shit either way -- something in that storage locker got hold of his attention, and whatever it was was apparently much more interesting to him than a new pair of cammies for Sarah.
And how ironically fortuitous and strangely convenient was it that the Doctor was able to scare up a shirt and jacket to match the cammies so perfectly? Now, if the colors had been reversed, the theoretical green shirt would have been overpowering when combined with the camouflage. The hypothetical tan jacket wouldn't have evened it out, either, since the greens would have been far too close to each other for anything to help. Not to mention that putting the camouflage together with that patterned sweater would have proven to be dizzying experience for everyone involved -- Harry's first, since he wasn't part of Team TARDIS during "Planet of the Spiders" and was therefore spared the horrifying and infamous red-striped shirt and jacket combo. Seeing anything resembling that might have driven the poor young man back to the TARDIS in search of that brandy. Kudos to the Doctor on both counts, then!
For the rest of "Genesis of the Daleks", Sarah Jane is thus outfitted. I don't think the smile on her face above is connected to the Doctor finding the Ring of Time so the trio can make their way back to the TARDIS -- no, that's far too sensible and obvious an explanation. Rather, it's clear she's giddy as a schoolgirl because of the clothing, despite the collars on both her shirt and jacket reaching sizes in definite proportion to the width of her shoulders. Sarah certainly does have a soft spot for those oversized collars, doesn't she? Chalk up one more for fashionista-fu happiness even with the collars... and I've only gotten as far as the pants and tops!
With the help of that handy-dandy Ring of Time, our trio find themselves back on Space Station Nerva, just in time for "Revenge of the Cybermen". I wondered earlier if the expression on Sarah's face had to do with her concern over the cammies working for her, but, true to her resourcefulness, she was able to make them look totally Sarah-licious. Sometime between donning the pants and returning to the space station, she was even able to fashion what I affectionately call tie-ties! Although upon further reflection, it is entirely possible Sarah Jane simply tucked the legs into her boots... though I prefer the tie-tie angle. It doesn't really matter, since both possibilities achieve the same result of affording the cammies a more feminine look that nicely compliments the shirt and jacket and somewhat accents the boots. Score three for fashionista-fu happiness!
But wait a minute. What wackiness lurks in the confines of those boots? Only Sarah Jane knows...
...and now, for better or worse, so do we. Pink-striped socks! Perfect. Absolutely perfect. Well, of course they are. Despite all the aforementioned challenges that Sarah Jane encountered and eventually mastered, could we expect anything less from her? She's not screwin' around here, folks. She was mad as hell and she wasn't going to take it anymore! A white hat, gloves, corsages, huge collars and lapels, and that damn bathing suit -- I'd be mad enough to spit nails myself. Back to the topic at hand, however. I love the cammies, I love the boots (even if they're different from both pairs seen in "Genesis of the Daleks"), I love the shirt and jacket. But the socks? By themselves, they're probably not worth a second thought... but with this entire ensemble? Oh sweet Jesus, I love the socks so much that if I could, I'd marry them.
Two seasons down, one and change to go! Next time around, I'll be focusing on Sarah's wardrobe selections from "Terror of the Zygons" through "The Seeds of Doom". We've got an alarmingly old and impractical dress to discuss -- something so impractical that it's pretty much off the scale even for Sarah Jane Smith. As ever, there will be Very Important Observations regarding Sarah's always entertaining footwear. The pink-striped socks even make another appearance during Sarah's third round of traveling adventures, sans boots, as does a particularly horrid outfit originally seen in "Planet of the Spiders." With so many assorted adornments on the way, it goes without saying that you should be ready for a lot of accompanying screencaps!
**A quick note on the UNIT cammies: a friend of mine christened them as such and the name's stuck. Yes, I know that Sarah didn't really get the cammies from UNIT, but this rolls off the tongue a lot more easily than "the cammies found in a storage locker deep inside the Kaled bunker." It's also a hell of a lot easier to type!
You've come this far, so why stop now? Continue on to the next installment of Sarah Jane Smith Fashionista Fever! -- or revisit the previous episode!