Ben Kuchera

PAX East: the story behind the “Girl in the Fireplace” cosplay, complete with a clockwork surprise

PAX East: the story behind the “Girl in the Fireplace” cosplay, complete with a clockwork surprise

PAX East is home to many fans who love to dress up as their favorite characters from movies, television shows, games, and even books and manga, but it can be hard to find something truly unique. I ran into a couple who were dressed up as characters from my favorite Doctor Who episode, “The Girl in the Fireplace,” and had to stop for a picture. The man obliged, and as I readied my camera he pulled off the mask and I saw that the outfit included a false head that was made completely of clockwork, just like the characters in the show.

This reveal brought the house down; people began to clap and cheer, and the couple was mobbed by others hoping for pictures or even video of the big reveal. “Did you make this?” I asked the man, and he shook his head.

She did,” he told me, pointing to the bodice of the dress. A woman named Clara Kim was hunched over inside the dress, peering at the show through a see-through section of the dress. I began to interview the chest of the dress, in one of the most surreal moments of my career.

“A year ago I thought that would be a really cool costume, and he didn’t stop me,” Kim told me. “A year later, and here we are.” She disassembled five different clocks and ransacked them for gears and metal parts to create the head. “The aesthetic for the gear heads was tough, as there aren’t that many good photos of them, so it’s hard to get perfect. Sadly, the gears don’t rotate, but maybe in the next version.”

The rest of the costume was much easier to put together, as there was better reference material. When we say “easy,” we certainly don’t mean “quick.”

“The mask itself is closer to the TV show in terms of colors and accuracy, and the dress is very accurate,” Kim explained. The dress took an estimated 100 hours; she found a pattern for the dress but the intricacy required many of the details to be sewn by hand, and of course it has to be slightly larger than the standard dress to hide the entirety of a woman inside and allow for the fake head.

So how hard is it to walk around the show floor in this getup? “It’s not too bad, my first generation design had me in heels, and I was around six foot ten in them, so I was way too tall. Now I’m in flats and it’s much more comfortable,” she explained. 

And with that our interview was over, and they walked back into the show floor. “Can I grab a picture?” someone else asked politely, and once more the mask was removed and the crowd gasped and flashes went off. Inside the bodice of a dress that took a year to make, I hope a woman named Clara smiled.