Terry Dresbach

Outlander Costume Designer

Monthly Archives: October 2014

Outlander Halloween Costumes?


Anyone out there going as something Outlander? Let’s get your pictures up here!




I just had to share this awesomeness from Patti, over at Peggy and Me.

What can I say, that you can’t see for yourself. Talk about CREATIVE!!!!!!!!!

Make sure you go check out her tutorial.



Q & A



Okay. Copied a set of questions to answer, which I will try to do now and again. If you want me to answer a question, you really do need to sign into the forum, and ask in the topic thread.
I am not going to answer questions on this page.

A couple of topics come to mind:
1 – Given the Paris/Versailles setting for part of DIA, I’m guessing you’ll have options to rent costumes that you didn’t for other settings. What is the thought process around that?
Not really. One of the biggest shocks and challenges that hit us when we started was the terrifying realization that there was not a lot out there to rent. First of all it is a somewhat limited stock to begin with (what DID they do with all of the costumes from Marie Antoinette?), but there are fifty billion shows currently shooting in the UK. The Uk is giving really great tax breaks to studios who shoot here, so it is a stampede from Hollywood to the UK. And it used to be that American television wouldn’t touch a period piece, even a few years ago, no one wanted to do one. But now with the success of GOT, Downton Abbey, etc. everyone is vying for the same studio space, crews, costumes, set dressing. It is insane. So you stand in Angels looking at racks of clothing being held for other productions, and cold, icy, fear descends.
No one is going to believe it doesn’t exist, because no one ever knows what we do. Not even the people we work for. How the hell are we going to make it all, because that is what we are going to have to do.
So it was a breathtaking challenge in S1, and a lot of those extras costumes were truly lipstick on a pig. Thank God for plaids and arisaids, careful arranged fur pieces and a lot of scrambling. I think we had 40 extra costumes when we started and have been making more at a breakneck speed.
We actually have 160 now. Our biggest extras day so far has been 300. Do the math.

Season 2 has struck terror in my heart since before I agreed to do it, for this very reason. I turned down the show because of it. No television studio is prepared to do Versailles. They don’t know period costumes any more than any other average person on the street, and the elaborate, exacting detail required to do the French Court is beyond the scope of an American television show.
So, I have scratched, whined, kicked and yelled for a year about it. We finally were heard and I presented a kind of insane plane on how to make 1000 costumes, which we are embracing. Can’t go into too much detail yet, because we haven’t pulled it off yet, and there are a lot of hail Mary’s, crossing of fingers and perhaps a few ritual sacrifices before we know if we can pull it off.

We will make all of our principal costumes, because that is what we do. Claire’s costumes need to be Claire’s, and Jamie’s need to be Jamie’s. They need to be costumes made for Outlander, not Pirates Of The Carribean.

2 – Do you develop your sketches/ideas chronologically based on the story, or do you have some idea of potential shooting schedule, and (presuming it’s out of order) design that way? or something else?

I am so incredibly lucky on this show to have the book and to know it so well having read it multiple times over the years. Usually you just have to wait until the scripts come out, and pray you have enough time to make the costumes. There is also a shooting schedule that is SOMEWHAT reliable, which tells you which date scenes shoot. But it often gets changed around, and there you are nagging on doors again, telling people they are not going to ba able to shoot that because the clothes will not be ready. 80% of this job is negotiating, I could work at the UN.
But on this, since I know the story, I have a general idea of what is needed and have been able to build “closets” for our cast. So, I know there is going to be a Gathering, or a wedding, things I would not normally know on a show that is not based on a book.
It is a very complex tapestry that you have to weave. Costumes tell Day Night, when they are on the road, they have to tell character, and you never really know what a script or the requirements of shooting are. So, you may not initially plan for a fur timed coat, or a green plaid dress, but then the scripts come out, or the temperatures drop, and you have to add things at the last minute that were not planned for. There is a lot of scrambling and flying by the seat of your pants.

3 – Do you ever pick DG’s brain about costume?
I have enough brains to deal with. I am grateful that Diana appears to trust me.

5 – Are there any un-explored topics from Ep1-8 of S1? Besides putting on the kilt, that is?
I am sure there are.

6- Another idea … your To Do list had “construct season 2″ as an item … what does that mean/entail?
It means to make or build, we will design, pattern and make, is what we call “construct”.

7- When do you sleep?
I do on occasion. Not enough. We function mainly on adrenaline. Then when we stop, we crash.

8- Not sure if this is going to appear next to the relevant question, so I’ll repeat just in case. Regarding your team of makers…when production gets underway do they all come over to work in Scotland? You have mentioned before that you have no control over employing makers from the UK and would love to if you could, but I also remember you saying you’d purchased knitted bits directly from online makers…..I’m confused, because surely buying from them and commissioning someone to make an item amounts to the same thing. Doesn’t it?
I’m asking because I weave inkles, ( ribbon, tapes etc) that are frequently used for historical garments, both practically and for embellishment, trimming etc. and would love to be able to work on some inkles for Outlander!

We have to employ makers from the UK. To bring in makers from around the world would mean a massive headache in terms of immigration issues, and I believe there are UK restrictions about such things. So we hire a team of makers who come to work ever day on payroll. They are permanent employees. We rarely contract to have things made for us by outside vendors, but do on occasion. For example Dougal’s hats, or Claire and Frank’s sweaters.
Now, I can buy retail items from anywhere. If I was on a contemporary show, I wouldn’t make a pair of shoes, I would go buy them. It is a little trickier on a period piece, because there is not a line of 18th century clothing at Marks and Spencer. But I can buy things here and there, and do. I have purchased knit pieces, jewelry, and definitely fabric. We buy shoes and stockings, things you can’t see on camera, and all sorts of ribbons, trims, buttons, clasps, etc.



Terry, will time constraints allow for embroidery during season 2? 18th century France has so many possibilities, but I know you have a ton to do and only so much time to do it in.

Going off of that, is there room for extra help? I have heard that knitters couldn’t volunteer because of legal difficulties, but if you had ‘intern’ embroiderers stitching your designs, would that get around the legal issues? I’m only asking because it sounds like you could use extra hands, and there’s a fairly sizable (and skilled) community of historic embroiderers who would love to contribute to this kind of project.

The Plimouth jacket was largely stitched in this way – volunteer embroiderers were vetted for skill, then came to the jacket and volunteered their time to stitch on the designs with the materials provided. I don’t know if this could actually work on Outlander, but as an embroiderer I have loved the costuming, your creative vision, and am really looking forward to season 2!

Thank you so much for your kind offer. I get so many of these and they are most appreciated. My very first fan interaction was to reach out to fans at the start of S1, when we realized that rentals were so limited and were trying to figure out how and where we were going to get everything in such a short time. My idea was to include the fans in the making of caps, aprons, all sorts of accessories. Not only would it be helpful, but I loved the very spirit of it. After all it is OUR communal show. How awesome would it be if everyone was involved.
But alas, not to be. Giant corporations just don’t allow for such organic occurrences.
I would just kill to be able to utilize all the skilled hands out there, but it is just not going to happen.

I can’t accept goods, I can’t accept labor, and I can’t even hire fans.
We will all have to just enjoy each others company, and I will continue to find motivation in your support. The film business is a very interesting business. The positive reactions I receive, are mainly from all of you. We usually toll away with little or no recognition. This is a whole new world, where we get such a significant and immediate response to the costumes. To be so appreciated and to know our work is meeting with everyone’s approval is a very novel experience. If we are lucky, we hear good things about our work, around awards seasons, if not, most of get our approvals from being hired again. Other than that it is usually the sounds of crickets chirping.

So please know what a significant amount you all contribute to our morale and to our motivation! I print out a lot of your comments and post them on the walls of our lunchroom and hallways. Our hardworking crew reads them and it matters. It matters a lot.
Thank you all!!!


How many yards of fabric were in the wedding dress? Do you have someone on staff that weaves the special fabrics for you? I’m guessing season 2 will see much more in the way of fancy gowns, will you get most of your fabrics in Europe or do you already have ideas and ship from LA?

The wedding dress had 12 meters of fabric. We did have an amazing weaver in London weave fabric initially for the dress, in wool, but it just proved to be too navy to wear.

We will see a lot more fancy and elaborate gowns because it was, and still is the center of fashion for the world.

I brought back books and books of same fabrics from Europe, to make clothes from. I will design and choose fabrics then my team will purchase and begin to make the insane number of principal costumes.





I was just suggesting to Ron that I start doing a Costume Podcast. I am thinking that I will read through comments and questions here, and then answer them via podcast. Would you guys be interested? I would go back to Episode One and start from the beginning. Then Ron can do podcasts with the writers, Maril, maybe actors, who knows?

It’s an idea. Maybe everyone can watch the upcoming episode, post onto the forum, things for discussion, and we can work our way through the first half of the series. It also allows me to go more in depth about the Costume process, working with our actors, our crew, much more in depth.

What do you think?



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****Many posters have asked that we go ahead with this book. I will consider it, based on how many can find used or library copies. I will also try to find a second book, so that there are two options****

****Well, back to the Drawing board. I have an old copy, and bought another used one in the UK, recently. But the cost is just prohibitive.. I will look for something else.****

Okay, I have a few days rest. Going to crack this amazing book open again. It is a very beloved book, great, great research, wonderful images, just a great resource, written by Aileen Ribeiro. For anyone who has an interest, this could be a great book to  look at.

There has also been some talk about reading Outlander again.

Anyway, this will happen on the Forum, not here on the Blog.

Talk Amongst Yourselves…



I am a toadstool. Felt very spanky this morning, but sliding into opium like exhaustion. Reading everyone’s wonderful contributions, but just too damned tired to really write anything. PLEASE keep carrying on without me. I’ll be there soon. Pop in for little bits when I can.

My Wee Man…



I am just not sure I can stand this. He’s my baby…

Episode 8





Not a lot to say, other than what has been said. It is the end of the middle?

There are not many new costumes, this is where we get to the part of the show where the clothes become the same old thing. Lots and lots of repeats. Oh there is Frank in the same old suit. Is Claire wearing that bodice AGAIN?? I am very much looking forward to the criticisms about how boring the costumes have become because no one ever changes!

Wrapping up here. I leave Scotland on Sunday. Take a two week vacation and then get on with designing TWO.
Of course I have been designing it for a year in my head, but we are currently in process, making 1000 costumes for all the extras (need to write an extras post!) Still have to design all of the principal costumes, with no scripts! That’s a first.

What will happen on the blog over the hiatus. Many of you have contributed to a list of things you want to talk about, and I will work my way through those requests. I will also report on various aspects of how things work and what we have done, that there wasn’t time for during shooting. Definitely a book club, and maybe doing some costume classes. Those were a lot of fun on Twitter.

And I have to say, scrolling through the blog, there is a LOT to review here. Don’t stop at the front page go back to the beginning. Interesting to look at things in retrospect.

And the forum is really taking off. Come on in and join some interesting discussions. Doesn’t have to be limited to costumes on the show.

So, let me get my belongings packed up, the puppy off to boarding school, and to the airport at the crack of dawn. Who knows, I may find something interesting to write about at the airport!