Terry Dresbach

Outlander Costume Designer

Monthly Archives: November 2014

Happy Thanksgiving



Happy Thanksging everyone!
Ron and I are incredibly grateful for all of your warmth, your enthusiasm, your dedication and support.

Have a wonderful day.

Claire – The Gathering




Photo Nov 25, 10 22 10Claire, The Gathering.
OMG…THIS dress!!!

First of all, we had to sort of slam this on the mannequin because everyone is in deep on S2.

But, when I look at the dress, I just see a zillion crazy problems. Not with the dress itself, but with the making of the dress. This was done waaaaaaay back when. We had slammed together all of Claire’s costumes in two weeks, which was utter madness, and then we were shooting. Since Cait was in every single scene of season 1, making this dress was our first go round with trying to get fittings with her.
When you make a dress, first you make a toile, a dress out of muslin (calico/UK). That is to fit on the actor and work out any kinks, make any changes. It’s a rough draft. Then you make it out of the actual fabric, and you need two fittings, one to make sure it is all going well, now that you are in fabric, and then a final fit, just to double check everything. And then you need the time in between fitting to do the actual work.
So, it takes 2-3 weeks, with the fittings interspersed.
It is impossible to get Cait for a fitting. Impossible. It requires a million phone calls, negotiated schedules, missed fittings, “maybe we can do it at lunch fittings”. It is like being a negotiator for the U.N. And poor Cait, exhausted from running around in Scottish winter, wearing a “shift”, the last thing she needs it to be standing for an hour while a dress is being pinned onto her.
But it has to be done. Finally, after much hand wringing and threats it happens.

Then there was the fabric. You have to order the fabric, it is just not waiting in a store. You pick ten fabrics, call the mill, and see what they have in stock. That takes a while, because they aren’t on film business schedules. And the embroidered fabric. I had bought a meter in London. I liked it, but wasn’t totally sure about it, and I didn’t know what tartan I would end up with. But when the tartan finally came in, it was a pretty good match with the embroidery. But when we called the fabric store, they were all out.
Then the true panic began. We needed a MINIMUM of two meters, really more than that, because you always get a little extra just in case.And we needed a second dress for the photo double. We decided that we would do a digital print of the embroidered piece, to use on the double, and somehow magically stitch extra strips to make a sort of border to extend the fabric. It was ridiculous, but we were out of time and out of options. Very early in the game, everything on fire, daily crisis management, madly trying to make ALL the costumes for everyone at the Gathering. To make it more enjoyable, there was a ton of focus on the dress, because it was the first time everyone was dressed up. Television shows LOVE a party (or a wedding)
So there was just a wee bit of pressure.

At the final hour, the store called up and said that they had found 6 meters in India. FANTASTIC, who cares that it costs as much to ship it overnight as the actual fabric (which already was insanely expensive).So in it came at the last minute and we made that dress FAST.

Anyway, it all worked out in the end. I love the combination of plaid and flowered embroidery. You can find that kind of mix, often in 18th century peasant costumes, but I took the leap that they might have had that in Scotland. I think it works.
I like the dress, but it was definitely a product of circumstance. Made by master craftsmen, but hampered by the growing pains of the show.
It is interesting to see the journey from this dress to the green plaid dress, to the wedding dress and beyond.
We have come so far and become so much better as we learn the show.

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Blog Forum


discuss here

Just wanted to let everyone know that I will very soon be removing the comment section here on the blog.

I am really trying to get the forum established as a place for discussion, comments and a place where I can answer questions. I don’t want to keep using the valuable (and voluntary) time of our wonderful moderators, if the only place that gets used is blog comments.

It may be that a forum is just not right for discussion, and that is absolutely fine. If so, I can always close it, and just have the comments section on the blog. It could be that a forum is an outdated medium. I am going to give it one more shot.

As I don’t currently answer questions of comments on the blog comment section, so there is no point in further confusing things by having both options running simultaneously.

Anyway, thanks everyone for your patience and continued support of this endeavor.

If you want to join the forum, and are having trouble logging in, just let me know.



Blog Discussions


discuss here

Just wanted to let everyone know that I will very soon be removing the comment section here on the blog.

I am really trying to get the forum established as a place for discussion, comments and a place where I can answer questions. I don’t want to keep using the valuable (and voluntary) time of our wonderful moderators, if the only place that gets used is blog comments.

It may be that a forum is just not right for discussion, and that is absolutely fine. If so, I can always close it,  and

just have the comments section on the blog.

As I don’t currently answer questions of comments on the blog comment section, so there is no point in further confusing things by having both options running simultaneously.

Anyway, thanks everyone for your patience and continued support of this endeavor.


Bake sale


In light of my last post, I thought I’d pop this in as a sort of homage to organization and flexibility.

I have a love/hate relationship with Bake Sales. I resent that they are forced on us already overburdened moms and dads. I resent that they they are not in the least bit “voluntary”. I resent the endless intrusion on family time that they are, in the interest of making money.

And I hate all the rules. Nothing junky, gluten free, whole grain, sugar free. Then don’t have bake sales, and if your kid can’t eat something, don’t tell me not to make it, tell them they can’t have it.

It just brings out the bomb thrower in me.

But I love to bake. I love to cook, but maybe baking just a little bit more. It has been hard to almost give it up.

Baking one thing or another, got me throughout the depression of not working for long periods, waiting to get the next film. I taught myself to make real French bread, keeping a “mother” in my fridge. I taught myself how to make truly insane cakes.


But I don’t have time for that now. I regularly make a loaf of Irish Soda bread, because it is so easy, and reminds me of my mother, who made at least one a week.

Anyway, I returned home to face the mother of all Bake Sales looming up in front of me. The GIANT Bake Sale for the winter Faire at LM’s school. The one that half of Los Angeles County comes to.

I knew I was not up for baking. Not while rehabing the entire property and designing S2.

Not sure where I saw the “recipe”, probably on Pinterest. But it looked fabulous. it also appealed to me because it flew into all those healthy bake sale rules. Now, don’t get me wrong, I have a zillion healthy cook books, and I make a lot of whole grain goods. I am a very healthy cook, and our family eats really well. Organic, balanced, local, blah, blah, blah. We have chickens sand grow vegetables, so that they will understand where food comes from. I am one of those anti- industrial food people.

But a bake sale??? That is off limits to the Health Police. Or at least I think it should be. There is a time and a place for food not to be healthy. Christmas, Valentines Day, Easter, HALLOWEEN (do NOT hand out bottles of water!!!!), and Birthdays. No rules, all bets are off.

Thus I take a special delight in sending homemade versions of junk food to the weekly (yes, weekly) bake sale.

I make homemade oreos, twix bars, pop tarts, and anything else I can find. the HP can’t call me out because it is homemade and organic, and the kids LOVE IT. Homemade graham crackers dipped in chocolate are what has made legendary among children and men, but they are time consuming and I only make them at Christmas.

Anyway, enter the Chocolate Dipped Potato chip.

Sent 50 bags of those suckers out of here this morning, and it only took two hours to make, without turning on the oven. Genius. Reputation intact, and sanity in place, more or less.

You have to use a rigged chip. the chocolate stays on better. Melt the chocolate. I have a chocolate tempering machine, in order to deal with hundreds of those chocolate covered graham crackers, and tons of peppermint and nut bark every year, but there are many melting methods easily found on the internet.

Dip as many as you need in the melted chocolate. Use milk, white or dark, whatever you like. I bagged them up in small brown wax paper bags and tied them up with twine. (Buy a spool, it serves an endless number of functions, and apparently never runs out). I packed all the bags in a big zip lock, sucked out as much air as possible and sent them off.

Oh, and while I was at it, I dunked whole wheat pretzels, and clusters of dried fruit and nuts, just so the children of the HP would have something too.


Women’s Work.


Many readers of this blog have asked that I write about aspects of my life outside of the show. During shooting there are not so many of those, and one can only post so many pictures of the puppy, no matter how adorable he is.


But here I am, in between seasons, back at our home in Southern California, and trying to straddle two completely different worlds, different realities on two different continents. Seemed like a good time to write about something other than the show, but still related to it, because there is no aspect of my life it doesn’t touch.
I am still working, after all. I am just trying to do it from another continent. It sounded like a good idea.
I would set everything up before I left, so it could function without me. The process of making close to a thousand extras, would be all figured out before I left, and then the actually construction process would be managed by my very capable team.
I would come home and design the principal costumes, pick the fabrics, and then those would get made upon my return to Scotland in January.
It IS a great plan. Without it, we would be dead. It will save us, and probably save the show, allowing them to actually shoot. I keep saying that if I do this right, no one will ever know how bad it would have been without this plan. But convincing people that a disaster is coming that they cannot see, have no knowledge of. and don’t necessarily believe you know what you are talking about is tricky. Chicken Little and The Little Red Hen come to mind.

If you avert potential disaster that no one recognizes is there, then no one will ever know what could have been.
I know. Been there done that. (Carnivale) It gets really ugly when the disaster you have been warning about, actually happens. It doesn’t matter if you warned everyone, and they didn’t listen, it will still be your fault. Better to fix it behind the scenes, and hope the people who are forced to do what you say, don’t mutiny and throw you overboard, because they have to prepare for a disaster they can’t see either.
Anyway, I digress. See? All roads lead back to Rome.( and of course it has been a constant series of fires to put out every day. Best laid plans, and all that)
I come home and enter the reality of a home left in the hands of my wonderful husband and our 13 year old daughter, for a year. There are many wonderful things to be said about how the two of them have not only managed not to kill themselves or burn the house down, in my absence, but have forged a wonderful and magical father/daughter world. It is a lovely, lovely thing. But for the purposes of this essay, I will be discussing what has not been happening. I am not sure how many old lunches I have found in Little Moore’s room, or that some of last years Christmas decorations were waiting my return to be put away. Coming home was like some sort of surreal Twilight Zone episode. EVERYTHING was exactly where it was when I left. And I am not talking about furniture, I am talking about mail.
You get the picture.

So I have been digging out. Once I got things righted, I have been killing myself to rehab this place into a home, and system that is set up to support a home without a wife and mother in it.There can be nothing in this house that they do not use. They are not going to be baking cakes or making bread. They don’t need a candy thermometer or any rye flour. Closets must be organized, bill and mail systems set up, the garage MUST be cleared out, the home has to become minimalist enough to run without me here maintaining things.

Why? They are both relatively competent people. But this is not their area of expertise. Ron writes amazing television, but he just does not know what to do with mail. Little Moore is 13, and like most 13 year olds, finds picking her clothes up off the floor, an arduous task. Ron will never notice the piles of crap everywhere. I often find the two of them operating in the dark, literally. They have some sort of aversion to turning on lights, so if I am not up first in the morning I find them toiling away at breakfast and school prep, in the dark. What is that??? We have light, why don’t they use them?
They both always say, “it is so much cozier and homier when you are here.” I say, “well you can start by turning on some lights!” But it does not penetrate.

Once again, I will defend them against my own writing. Ron makes fresh waffles for LM’s breakfast during the week, and fresh breakfast burritos. I actually got a call from him in Scotland on a Tuesday afternoon (morning in California), asking me how to keep hollandaise sauce from breaking. I was deep in whatever that days crisis was at work, and asked what the hell he was asking about hollandaise sauce for. He explained that he had been trying to make Eggs Benedict that morning, but the sauce broke. ON A TUESDAY????? Seriously?
But how sweet is that? Insane, but incredibly sweet.
So my time here has been interesting. Hence my earlier post about being a little tired.
Like so many women, working outside the home, has not decreased the work inside the home. I am not sure how this all works. Being in Scotland is much easier, because there I essentially go back to being a single woman working in the film business. Cuilean and I stop at Marks and Spencer on the way home, pick up a stir-fry, or a thing of lentil soup. We both eat dinner in about 20 minutes, climb into bed, and start doing the rest of the day’s work. It is a fairly simple life, work aside.
Not so much here. People expect meat sauce and roast chicken, they need to be picked up from school, and a household needs to be managed. There is no Mary Poppins here (I need one).
But I sill have to design that goddamned red dress and about 99 other costumes. Fabrics have to be chosen and purchased, so the machine can keep moving on that other continent. And I like so many other women, have to figure out how to juggle it all.

Trying to push down that surge of panic, always just below surface. Which thing shall I ponder at 5am. how to help LM study for her SSAT’s so she can go to the high school she has her heart set on, or how the hell am I going to deal with the shoe issue looming in Scotland.
Can I get the bricks off of the patio so the 200 year old oak tree does not die? Can I get the shelving up in garage so that an actual car can in there, after all the moving boxes have been emptied and their contents dispersed.
Do I have a Thanksgiving turkey ordered 6 days before the day? No I do not, and I have no idea what anyone would like for Christmas. But given the amount of useless stuff I have moved out of this house in the last month, no one may be getting anything anyway. (Just need to figure out how to pull that one off.)
Why do I do this? For my family and their well being? Yes, of course. I know my absence leave a hole. LM says, “I hate to admit it, but we do need your nagging.” I want their lives to feel complete, and for them to feel my love and care even if I am not here. I also want to come home next year, and maybe not have my time here be spent in exhausting rehab. We will see if my system works.
So I muddle forward, or perhaps charge is a better word. I know I will leave here with things in much better shape than when I left last January.

As I travel further into this blog, and writing, I realize that what I sit down to write is rarely what I end up with. It is a catharsis, a “stream of consciousness”.

What comes out of this post for me? Working women. The lives of working women. Let me be frank. I have it pretty good. I come from and live in a pretty privileged world. College educated (more or less), affluent, I do not face what most women in this country, in this world face, every day. I am not minimizing my life, it is damned hard. I live on a different continent from my loved ones, and I work at a grueling job that requires almost a 24/7 commitment. But at least I am paid well in return. That said,  I’m not working two jobs to make ends meet, while my husband does the same, or having my entire salary going to childcare costs. And my husband is staring down how to make hollandaise sauce instead of the drive through line for dinner after picking the kids up from day care at 6:00 at night.

There is no point in making comparisons. I am not sure which segment of women has it easy, and even if they exist, I am not sure how appealing that life might be. A life made up of trips to the manicure shop and endless yoga classes, just  seems like a different kind of hard.

So, hats off and a pat on the back to all of us. (And to Claire, a woman who continues to inspire)

Let’s all take our shoes off at the end of this day, and have a communal sigh of relief, along with a cocktail, that another day of women’s work is done.




Costume Podcast Episode One.




Okay, so I have recorded the first Outlander Costume podcast. Weird not having Ron there, I wasn’t prepared for so much time to talk about the costumes. I think I will get better at it, as I learn to pace the info as I go. There is actually room for a lot more discussion than I think I did in my first one.

So bear with me.

It has been sent off to Starz, and will be hosted by them. Not sure exactly when. Stay tuned.

A wee bit tired.



Think I might be nearing that proverbial wall. Getting a wee bit tired.
Overhauling the house, managing Season Two from a different continent, budgeting, scheduling, talking people off of ledges, kids, pets. I think it is starting to get to me.
I need to figure out some ways to get short breaks, as I don’t think there are too many long ones coming my way. Getting a little nervous about being this tired as I enter into the biggest season that Outlander will ever have. The show will be fine, but how do I survive?
And i miss my family already.

I was able to get my first podcast done today…

Dashing Dougal…The Gathering


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Cuilean’s missing bone…


Everyone has been patiently waiting.

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