Terry Dresbach

Outlander Costume Designer

Monthly Archives: March 2014

An 18th Century House




I continued to live in our lovely flat. Ron came and went, so there was a lot of alone time. I like alone time. I didn’t get married until I was in my 40s and there is a lot to be said for a single life. Mainly a lot of alone time. As I mentioned earlier, when you work in such a high stress business you have to figure out how you are going to manage that. People manage it in all sorts of ways. Drink, drugs, sex often become out of control as they can help to numb all the stress. Especially if on location, where the openly accepted attitude is that whatever happens there does not count.

It became clear as I got older, that those methods were dead end solutions. After a long search, discovered Sanctuary and threw myself into all things to do with my home. Cooking, gardening, baking bread, and of course my art work. I chose to live in a small, beautiful town outside of LA, where no film people lived. And tried to live an 18th century life. I did everything from scratch. It was marvelous, like a living meditation.

So, there I am so many years later, starting over, living the life of a young single graphic designer, alternating between mind numbing stress and complete boredom. Working my ass off all day long, coming home, eating a bowl of corn flakes and going to bed. If Ron was there, I would drag along with him to some restaurant and fall asleep over mediocre food. Not me.

I decided that there would just have to be more to my life than work and sleep. I needed to move to the country. Ron thought I was nuts, I suspect, as he likes routine, simplicity and above all predictability. For me predictability is one step from the grave. But together we are balance. He enjoys the adventure of life with me, and I appreciate the grounding he provides. At some point I will write about our relationship when I figure out how to make something intimate, public, but suffice it to say that we adore each other. We indulge each other in all things, both of us taking great care to make sure the other is okay.

So I announced that I needed something more. I always say to him “I’ve been thinking”, and he says “uh oh”. I said that if I was going to live on another continent from our family and our pets, I needed to create a real and full life. I needed a home and a dog/companion. I just cannot tell you how much he did not want a dog. He said that this was his pet free zone. I pointed out that this was my everything free zone, and he gave in.

(I will write more about the puppy in another post.)

I started looking for a house., spending my evenings perusing online listings. But it was a laborious endeavor as I had no idea where any of the listings actually were. So I went to our locations manager ( the crew member who finds all the shooting sites), and asked if he knew of anything. He did, and told me about a 700 year old house near a place we shot. I remembered the house, it had been the original germ of my idea.

Arrangements were made to see the house and the next thing I knew, I was climbing all over this crazy house, perhaps better described as a museum. It was ridiculously large, with 6 bedrooms sprawling in a mad hodgepodge. Rooms clearly added on over the millenniums, stairs everywhere, a major task to get from one place to another.

But I fell in love. It is an actual fortified house. Many of the windows on the lower level are made to shoot arrows out of. The original bedrooms are built into a tower with a circular staircase so that the resident had the advantage during a sword fight. There are secret passageways. Mirrors and walls that pop open revealing tunnels from one part of the house to another. The house was a Jacobite stronghold used to plan the uprising of 1745. Appropriate, considering I am doing the costumes on a show about  the Jacobite uprising of 1745. Even more appropriately a show about a modern woman who travels back to 18th century Scotland and builds a new life. At the time, the similarity did not strike me. That has grown more obvious as I actually live this new life.

There was no central heating, every room had a wall heater or a fireplace, it was out in the county, in Scotland. Not exactly the south of France, with constant rain and cold, and it was a 20 minute drive from anything!!

But it was completely furnished, filled with antiques and art. An incredible crimson dining room, pantries stacked high with gorgeous china and silver ware. Parlors and music rooms, deeply set windows with shutters to lock out the cold, looking over acres of countryside. Not a modern anything to be found anywhere.

Ron gave me only two requirements. It had to have a shower and internet. It had neither. 

I took it. I thought at the time it might be an enormous mistake. Would I be able to manage this monstrosity? What about loneliness, isolation? The owner actually asked me, “won’t you be scared here by yourself??”. GULP, YES !!!!!  The list of challenges seemed insurmountable. Maybe I was finally going to bite off more than I could chew in life.

I took it.

Remember when you were a kid and the first time you actually went off the high dive? You stood in line, waiting your turn to go up the ladder. Once you were on it, there was no turning back. You COULD NOT be that kid who turned and climbed back down, humiliated in front of all the other kids. You walked out to the end of the plank (yes it was a plank), and stood there looking down at the pool, feeling like Jimmy Stewart in Vertigo. You knew that you were going to die, what madness could have driven you to do something so stupid.

But you jumped anyway, because no one had made you climb that ladder, you had made that choice yourself and there was no turning back now.

So you jumped. So I jumped.




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I had a flat, WE had a flat, Ron and I. It was a nice flat. A VERY nice flat. I found it, I picked it above all others. It was devoid of black leather couches, it had Timorous Beasties wallpaper, it was unfurnished. I was pretty unimpressed with the state of most short term corporate rentals. Perfectly suited, I supposed, for a traveling business man who perhaps LIKES a black leather couch to watch sports on.

Not me, so much.

I had asked our housing coordinator if it would be possible to not look at flats with leather couches. She looked at me with puzzlement and suggested I just throw some fabric over it.

I really did not want to explain what a freak I am about housing. It has to be right. It has to give me pleasure, and above all it must provide sanctuary. A film production provides no sanctuary. It is a harsh existence. Long hours and dreary environments ( except my office, which I always decorate). We all work 12 – 14 hour days, and go home only to sleep. It becomes an unforgiving and stingy life. I discovered years and years ago that I HAD to have a sanctuary. I had to be able to close the door behind me, breathe a sigh of relief that I had come home once again.

Plus, I like the adventure of living in a new place, living local. Most people on a film crew live in hotels or more recently corporate housing. I have come to HATE hotels. Doesn’t matter how posh they may be. There is no personality in a hotel, it is an anonymous environment. I need to make a cup of tea and sweep a floor to feel like a whole person. So I gave up hotels 20 years ago. As a result, I have had some incredible sanctuaries over the years. Houses perched on cliffs, on inlets off of the ocean, a loft in Soho, apartment in Paris, a converted storefront in Vancouver, it’s a long list. It’s something I got from my mother.
We moved a LOT, but she never accepted anything ordinary. She would look and look until she found something incredible. Thus we lived in a string of really amazing homes, not expensive homes, but definitely out of the ordinary. We once lived in a 1930s house that was designed to look like an ocean liner. It had a teak lined dining room and a secret mirrored bar that popped out of the wall when a button was pushed, and a stainless steel spiral staircase that only lacked a Busby Berkeley Revue. Finding those houses required hard work and diligence. I remember we would wait outside of the newspaper office on Fridays so she could get the housing listings before anyone else. It paid off, and I am grateful for that gift of diligence and perseverance.

My sanctuaries are often off the beaten track and require a long drive to work. Other crew members think I am nuts. But that drive is part of the experience. I leave work behind, process the trials and tribulations on the drive home, and by the time I pull up to my home, my mind is clean.

Anyway, the flat. It was empty, it was all design-y, marble bathrooms, nice floors, brand new everything. Walking distance to all the shops and restaurants. Beautiful neighborhood, great view. It was like a very posh hotel.

I power shopped a day at Ikea and furnished it all. Two bedrooms, living room, towels, bedding pots, pans, dishes glassware. A trip to the nicer shop provided a rug, />a drama lamp and a couple of pieces of cool art work.

Very nice. If I had been a young graphic designer, it would have been perfect. It required nothing from me. That was the problem. It had no soul, and thus did nothing to feed mine.

One day while shooting at Doune Castle, I was standing in the middle of a field and looking around. It was beautiful, the light was amazing, the trees were a million incredible colors, ambers, gold, green, there were cows.I am passionate about cows. Some of you may have seen photos from that day, of our cast in the garden. And the garden was just the kind of garden I would have. An 18th century garden.

I said to someone. “why can’t I live here, I’d be happy here.”

So I started looking for a little house in the country…

My Mothers Meat Sauce


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A few people have asked for this recipe. It is pretty delicious.

Ron’s Favorite Meat Sauce-

Brown about a lb. of ground top sirloin an equal amount of ground pork, a diced onion and as much garlic as you can stand.

Add 2 large cans of diced tomatoes and two cans of tomato paste, a can of tomato sauce, a ton of basil and as many red pepper flakes as you can stand. Salt to taste. Add a couple of cups of red wine and simmer all day.

You can add whatever veggies float your boat. Mushrooms, zucchini, whatever, Ron likes meat and red, but I sneak green things in.

It’s my mom’s recipe so I’ve been making it since I was 8. He can’t get enough. He has even learned how to make it himself. Not sure how I feel about that.

Now that I am attempting a version of an 18th century life, I try to find the most tiny rural butcher in as remote a village as possible. Rabbits hanging in the window are a plus. I either make the sauce over a fire, or on and in the AGA. You can’t simmer all day on top of an AGA, so you have to roast it inside.

More on the AGA later.


Okay kids, GO…

The shoe


The Shoe

Let’s see if this works. Can I figure out how to get a picture attached to every post?

It all began with a shoe, or the tweeting of a shoe. With this shoe I began to document my journey, tweeting pictures of the shoe as it traveled about. I love these shoes, they are such a perfect design, so basic and yet the promise of so much more than the ordinary.

Almost a year ago…


ClaireAlmost a year ago, our family embarked on a new adventure. My husband Ronald D. Mooore, was going to be bringing Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander to the television screen, filming in Scotland.
I, Terry Dresbach Moore was going to design the costumes.

Outlander is a book about a modern woman of the 1940’s who travels back in time to the 18th century. What’s not to love. I read the book almost twenty years ago, and all of the rest of the series, many, many times. I loved the idea of going back in time, especially to the 18th century, my absolute favorite period.

Okay, so I figured I’d go to Scotland go for a few months and get the costumes up and running, then I’d travel back occasionally, when really needed.
We came over in July, and I have been back once, for Christmas. I have left my life, my family, my friends, my pets, behind, and it looks like I am going to be here for two years (if all goes well).

SO, here I am living in Scotland, doing a show about a woman who time travels to the 18th century, what to do next? See how much of that I can experience (within reason).

In another mome…

Down The Rabbit Hole

In another moment down went Alice after it, never once considering how in the world she was to get out again.

The rabbit-hole went straight on like a tunnel for some way, and then dipped suddenly down, so suddenly that Alice had not a moment to think about stopping herself before she found herself falling down a very deep well.

Either the well was very deep, or she fell very slowly, for she had plenty of time as she went down to look about her and to wonder what was going to happen next. First, she tried to look down and make out what she was coming to, but it was too dark to see anything; then she looked at the sides of the well, and noticed that they were filled with cupboards and book-shelves; here and there she saw maps and pictures hung upon pegs. She took down a jar from one of the shelves as she passed; it was labelled `ORANGE MARMALADE’, but to her great disappointment it was empty: she did not like to drop the jar for fear of killing somebody, so managed to put it into one of the cupboards as she fell past it.

`Well!’ thought Alice to herself, `after such a fall as this, I shall think nothing of tumbling down stairs! How brave they’ll all think me at home! Why, I wouldn’t say anything about it, even if I fell off the top of the house!’ (Which was very likely true.)

Down, down, down. Would the fall never come to an end! `I wonder how many miles I’ve fallen by this time?’ she said aloud. `I must be getting somewhere near the centre of the earth. Let me see: that would be four thousand miles down , I think–‘ (for, you see, Alice had learnt several things of this sort in her lessons in the schoolroom, and though this was not a very good opportunity for showing off her knowledge, as there was no one to listen to her, still it was good practice to say it over) `–yes, that’s about the right distance–but then I wonder what Latitude or Longitude I’ve got to?’ (Alice had no idea what Latitude was, or Longitude either, but thought they were nice grand words to say .)