Make It Sew – The Costume Blog – James Acheson

Three time Academy Award Winner: Restoration, Dangerous Liaisons, The Last Emperor.

The SciFi Connection: Dr. Who

The Superhero Connection: Spiderman, Daredevil, Man of Steel

“Every moment is a moment of research. The more curious you are about everything the more enriching life is and also the more information you have when you try to come to design something. It might be the way the light falls on this spoon, it might be a reflection, it might be something really subtle and sensitive. But the thing is you have to try and stay open to those things.” – James Acheson


2013 Man of Steel


2010 The Warrior's Way

2007 Spider-Man 3

2004 Spider-Man 2

2003 Daredevil

2002 Spider-Man


2001 The Mists of Avalon (TV movie)

2000 The Little Vampire

1998 The Man in the Iron Mask

1996 The Wind in the Willows

1995 Restoration

1994 Frankenstein

1993 Little Buddha

1992 Wuthering Heights

1990 The Sheltering Sky

1988 Dangerous Liaisons


1987 The Last Emperor


1986 Biggles

1986 Highlander

1985 Brazil

1985 Water (as Jim Acheson)

1983 Bullshot (as Jim Acheson)

1983 The Meaning of Life (as Jim Acheson)

1981 Time Bandits (as Jim Acheson)

1972-1976 Doctor Who (TV series)

Tom Baker sketch


Interview Excerpt:

Q: What about the long Doctor Who scarf? Was that your creation? How did it come to fruition?

A: The bloody scarf. It’s amazing how often it comes up. So extraordinary. There are these Doctor Who nutters and it’s the 50th anniversary this year. I’ve even been approached to dig out my old drawings of Doctor Who including, particularly, the drawings of him wearing the scarf. The story is, I thought it would be interesting to give this new Doctor Who a scarf. I don’t know why, it was such a long time ago. I didn’t know anything about knitting but I knew I wanted these colors so I went to this wool shop and bought all this wool in these different colors and I had a friend who had a friend whose mother could knit. Some Doctor Who nut even tracked down this woman, who’s still alive, Begonia Pope. So I went to Begonia and I said, “Look, start knitting. These are the colors, the repeats are here.” I went back a week later and the scarf was 22-feet long.

Q: So you didn’t ask for it to be that long?

A:.No, she just used all the wool up! The actor who was playing Doctor Who was very tall. He sort of wrapped it around him and was like, “Yeah, this is great, we could use this.” The image we used [to create the character] was based on a Toulouse-Lautrec poster so that was why he had the scarf. Tom Baker, the actor, thought he could use it as a prop. So it stuck. I think we shortened it a little bit though.


3 Responses to Make It Sew – The Costume Blog – James Acheson

  1. JR19759 says:

    That’s a pretty decent resumé. I didn’t know he’d worked on Doctor Who as well as those other movies (or the other way round as I knew his designs from Doctor Who).
    The great thing about the scarf is it had so many uses (at least 33 different ones, which I shall not list due to space restraints).

  2. Quite a few classics in there. “The bloody scarf.” Heh, I can imagine that a designer would tire of something that iconic. Kind of like a musician who stops playing a song or an actor trying to break out of a type-cast.

    Though I have not seen all of those movies, Mr. Acheson’s work is very memorable. Love Time Bandits. Have to admit, I’m not quite sold on his Superman suit. Kind of looks like Supes beat up poor Aquaman. Then added insult to injury by wearing Aquaman’s costume.

    I really like his use of muted and earthy tones. Especially with Doctor Who and the scarf. So there! Even Superman and Spider-Man aren’t overly flashy. I love Glenn Close’s dress in Dangerous Liaisons. I would look really silly wearing it… *Sigh*… dream on mech warrior princess.

  3. Myro says:

    Holy poop, that’s a hall-of-fame costume designer’s resume, if there was a hall-of-fame for costume design. Is there? I have no clue. Love the story on the 4th Doctor’s scarf.