About Crichton’s Costume in “Crichton Kicks”


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I received the Crichton costume from "Crichton Kicks" after I was the successful bidder from eBay.  I almost can't describe how cool it is to have it.  Sure, there are other Farscape costumes that would be more spectacular to have, but this is what fit in my budget.  Having this costume somehow fleshes out the character -- making both Crichton and Farscape seem more real.

Crichton's work smockCostumes, like props and sets, serve two purposes.  They help put the actor in the time, place, and emotional spot he/she has to be in to carry out their role.  That is, the right costume makes it easier for the actor to do his/her job.  The costume also serves as a visual cue to the audience to further explain the character.

Of course, as a one-time costumer for college productions, I was also intensely curious about how this costume was constructed.  It is made from a somewhat heavy linen fabric, which is more of a very pale brown (almost pink, even, but that could be due to careless laundering), rather than the usual natural colored muslin you normally find in fabric stores.  There are streaks and flecks of brown lightly painted on it, which was probably to make it look dirty.

It was hard to judge the fabric's hand and drape, as it had been washed, and was somewhat stiff from what appears to have been air-drying.  It is certainly heavy enough that it isn’t going to fly away or ride up on an actor’s body during any sudden actions, but it probably wasn’t this stiff when it was in use during filming.

It's a simple tunic, cut as a single piece, with a neck-hole torn out of the center.  The neckhole was originally a slit, but has been worn into a diamond shape.  The only seams are along the under-arms and the sides.  Leather strips, such as what you find used on lace-up boots, were used to crudely "sew" these seams.  The edges were not finished, although the seam edges seem to have been lapped, so that at least one edge was hidden.  Unfortunately, the washing that the costume got raveled the seam edges further so that a great deal of both the side seams are undone.  Worse yet, these edges have fabric fringing that was acerbated by the washing so that they're inter-tangled.  It's difficult to separate and de-tangle the fabrics at some spots. 

The leather "thread" may have shrunk in the washing, and most certainly stiffened up a little.  I am not sure how these leather laces stand up to water.  I recollect that I once had some work boots with laces like these.  Given the environment I worked in, those workboots were prone to get occasionally wet.  As I recall, those laces didn't exactly shrink, but they did stiffen.  However, constant use would soften them again.

Detail of underarm seam Nonetheless, it's interesting to see how the leather was used as a thread.  Even though these laces were fastened at each end with a knot, the fabric slips a lot along these seams.  This would seem to me to make this work smock somewhat difficult to get in and out of.  At one point along one of the side seams, the lace is doubled back, as if a prick stitch was used there.  I cannot see a similar stitch on the opposite side seam, but that may be because of how the fabric has unraveled. Perhaps this one prick stitch served as a way to help keep the two garment sides aligned.  (Presumably, a prick stitch on the other side would have done the same.)  Of course, a costuming assistant would ensure that the smock was correctly aligned on the actor (or stunt double).

The tunic, or work smock, has a belt, which is simply three leather laces braided together.  I'll have to study further just how this braiding is fastened at each end to see how it was kept from unraveling.  Also, I'm not sure if this belt was washed.  It seems to be more pliant than the leather laces at the sides.  Another observation I have is that this leather belt seems hardly long enough to twirl as Crichton did when he was trying to lure the Brndis Hound. 

Because this tunic looks extremely simple to make, and since it was used in a lot of scenes (half the episode, I think), AND because washing it seems to have proven somewhat destructive, I wonder if there weren't several of these made.  (One can see at least half a dozen of Crichton's grey astronaut outfits behind Terry Ryan when he is interviewed about Farscpes costumes.  Costumes get extremely dirty when used, what with makeup stains and sweating from hot sets, not to mention miscellaneous wear and tear from use by the actor -- and stunt doubles.)

My final thought is to wonder why exactly Crichton bothered to fashion himself a work smock.  One sees him doing plenty of tinkering and repair type work in other episodes, with no evidence of wearing any sort of work clothes or smock.  On the other hand, the storyline seemed to require him to be seen at the beginning as disheveled, half-drunk, and almost despairing.   He certainly wasn't going to seem as if he was on the verge of losing it if he was still wearing that slick black outfit -- regardless of how thick or long his beard were to be!  Having him appear in that rough-hewn smock helped show the audience his state of mind in a way that no line of dialog could adequately describe.   Or rather, the way the dialog was delivered (that's the acting) could explain his state of mind and this costume would serve to underscore and expand on it.  Notice that although there's plenty of exposition in the early scenes, the one thing that no one has to waste time saying is "Oh Crichton, you've really let yourself go." or "Gee, Crichton, you must be at the end of your rope." -- even if that's what the audience is thinking.

When he does get his act together -- and has a plan that he thinks could work, he transforms back into the Crichton we all have come to know.  He cuts his hair, shaves the beard and loses the ugly smock.   (Personally, I've always thought that Chiana helped to keep his hair groomed -- but that's another story)

By grapeshot
5/24/2007