22 July 2008

Back To The Future: Doc Brown Costume

I was invited to an “80s Movies” themed fancy dress party last month. After a quick brainstorming session at work, I decided to go as Dr. Emmett Brown from the classic 1985 movie Back To The Future. Just in case anybody out there ever wants to do the same, here’s what I did for my costume...

Doc Brown CostumeWig

I struggled to find a good white wig that looked like Doc Brown’s hair and eventually took my chances with a Smiffy’s Madman Wig. For some reason, this wig has ridiculous black frown-lines implanted in the forehead which I decided to cut off, meaning I had to wear the wig a little further forward than it was intended to be worn. But given that Doc’s not that bald anyway, this looked much better.


Although I wanted to go dressed as Doc at the end of the first BTTF movie – where he’s just returned from the year 2015 – finding the bits and pieces for that costume would have been a nightmare. Instead, I opted for the costume that we first see Doc wearing when he introduces Marty to the DeLorean.

For the radiation suit, I bought a ‘coverall’ disposable boiler suit and made some alterations to it. After cutting off the hood, I created the radiation symbol, broke it into parts (PDF download) and printed it onto an iron-on transfer.

Doc Brown CostumeWarning: Disposable overalls melt at fairly low temperatures – I learned this the hard way – so make sure you use a piece of greaseproof paper and put your iron on its lowest setting!

I also removed the elastic from the ankles to make it flow a bit more like the original costume, added the various bits of detail using a pink highlighter pen and made a slit for the top pocket so that I could attach a pen and a piece of paper with a bulldog clip. The Doc can also be seen to be wearing a wrist watch on each arm, so I did the same!

If you watch the film closely, you’ll see that the Doc is wearing a green shirt over a long sleeved cream t-shirt or vest, with the sleeves on his radiation suit rolled up. I couldn’t find the right type of shirt or vest, so reversed this and just wore a green t-shirt under a cream v-neck jumper.


For the gloves, I got some yellow rubber washing up gloves and cut them off at the wrists and made a small template to draw the radiation symbols on the back of each hand.

Doc Brown CostumeProps

I couldn’t find an old-fashioned square stopwatch like either of the ones used in the movie, so I unfortunately went without. But for the belt, I bought a tool pouch and threaded it onto an old leather belt, along with my camera case (for practical reasons) and a small portable speaker set so that I could play the BTTF theme from my iPod on entrance!

A while ago, I managed to “acquire” some fluorescent plastic test-tubes from a bar which was serving shots in them. These would become my plutonium rods. I tried to push one inside an old plastic bath gel bottle filled with water but it was too wide, so I ended up cutting it off short. I then filled the test-tube with some watered-down tomato ketchup. I tried some fruit cordial but it wasn’t red enough. For anyone who doesn’t remember the film too well, this does the trick!

To complete the costume, I downloaded and printed some of these paper props from the excellently obsessive BTTF Stuff website, including the Save The Clock Tower flyer, the letter from Marty and the drawing of the Flux Capacitor.

And there you have it – a complete Doc Brown costume from the brilliant Back To The Future movie. Now, before all the hardcore BTTF fans start telling me about all the inaccuracies, I’d like to point out that I know it’s not an exact replica of the original costume, but I tried my best given the small about of time and money I had to put it together. It was definitely good enough for everyone to know who I was supposed to be though and that’s the main thing!

Thanks must go to Travis Goodwin whose site I found via The Project Vixen DMCNews Mailing List Archive and was the only good example I found of somebody else trying to make a Doc Brown costume! During my research, I also stumbled across the fantastic BTTF Blog, an excellent blog for everything related to Back To The Future to which I’m now subscribed.

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Marty McFly: Wait a minute, Doc. Ah... Are you telling me that you built a time machine... out of a DeLorean?
Dr. Emmett Brown: The way I see it, if you're gonna build a time machine into a car, why not do it with some style?

Hé hé, great costume Tony :)

Excellent costume.

Lil says you are camper than a row of tents though.
by Anonymous Anonymous  

That is a great costume idea. I love back the future, and Doc is so funny in it.

Thanks. Costume looked good. The wig didn't do it for me tho.

Great work! I also went as Doc Brown in the radiation suit (pre-time travel test IE, no gloves) in '07 and I dressed up my DeLorean as well. I have to say I was embarrassed about my pathetic wig - yours was far superior and really made your costume shine. Good job!

I think i might do this. thank you tony!

Sweet! Out of all the GIS results, your costume was the best to replicate on a budget. Well done! I'm modeling my costume all the way in 2011 on your 2008 costume! Good job on it!

Good job! Thanks for sharing the PDF!

Good job! Thanks for sharing the symbol pdf!
by Anonymous Anonymous