Terry Dresbach

Outlander Costume Designer

Monthly Archives: April 2015

The Laird and his Lady Return Home. Ep 12



So, our heroes return home.

Beaten, ragged, and yet triumphant. We needed to see that in their costumes. Claire wrapped in Jamie’s plaid, proud and strong. Jamie returning to his family home, vulnerable, but now a man, no longer a boy.

Jamie in trews. I think I have received more comments about this than any other costume. No maybe it is neck and back with why the wedding gown is so low cut. But people want to know why Jamie is in trews.

It is not the first time he has worn them, but it does have significance in this episode. He did throw his cloak around Claire after the trial, but he couldn’t have known he was going to need to do that. The trews are there because we needed to do some character development. Jamie has had essentially the same costume throughout most of the series. Now we are seeing a different side of him. He is now a married man, and as we find out, a man of substance. A Laird.

Trews were worn most often by men who had the means to own a horse. It was more comfortable, for obvious reasons. We’ll see his kilt again, and again. But we need to add dimension, shadow, nuance to him, and to all of our characters as they develop over the years. Even Clark Kent had two costumes to show two sides of his character.


Same thing with the coat. I thought of putting the coat on both Brian (Jamie’s father) and Jamie, as a way of showing how important his father was to him. And when Jamie returns to Lallybroch he can literally “assume the mantle. It is the kind of character development/storytelling that I love to do. It is a small “beat”, but like Claire wrapped in Jamie’s plaid, it add dimension and depth, and helps us to “feel” the story.





And here they are, the Laird and Lady Broch Tuarach. In their Sunday best.

I guess there is theme to these last few posts.



The Arisaid



I was so excited to get to do this.

It went against everything that you are supposed to do on a lead actress, any actress, any woman, really. A GIANT piece of tartan wrapped around a GIANT plaid skirt that is worn over a padded roll designed to make your hips look wider???????? And then you belt it all in the middle with a man’s belt?

I mean, look at Claire, even she looks wide. I could NEVER EVER get away with that on network television. I had my fingers and toes crossed that I would get away with it on cable!!!

BUT look at her. She looks amazing. Sexy and kind of wild, stunningly beautiful. Someone said, it the 18th century version of “the boyfriend shirt”! I thought that was great. I always loved it in the book when Jamie rescues her, and wraps her in his plaid, and I really wanted to keep that. I thought it was such a small, protective and loving act.

OMG a woman who is not squeezed into a size zero bandage dress so we can see every bone, and she is still sexy and insanely beautiful???? How is that possible.

Well it is. We did it, and the world kept spinning. Maybe Hollywood creaked a tiny bit on it’s axis.Was that the cracking sound I heard last Saturday?


Beautiful Day



Creating a World…What we do. The Devil’s Mark




I’ve been thinking about this episode and what to write. There are no new costumes, unless you count Ned Gowan’s lace stock, and maybe Jamie’s trews, though we did see those once before.

But our job is so much more than designing really great looking costumes for the stars of the show. It is about creating a world that YOU the audience can believe. It is about what we do TO those costumes to make you feel that world, to make it feel real. It is about the costumes for all the rest of the people you see on camera, some of whom never say a word. Some have a few lines, but they are as essential as the lead actors.

There are hundreds and hundreds of them, way more of them than our leading cast. They all have to be costumed. We make all those costumes, we age and breakdown all of them, and then we fit hundreds of them over the course of many days, continually through the show. It is a staggering amount of work. My team on this show is truly brilliant, and there is no one whose costume is not as important as Claire’s or Jamie’s. In a way the costumes on the day players and extras (supporting artists), can sometimes be MORE important, because they don’t have to look good, they just have to look real. They are the ones who sell the authenticity, the ones who make you believe what you see on your screens.

Many of you now look at the details on our lead actors, but when you watch an episode for the 5th time, look at all those other people. Look at the crowd surrounding Claire and Geillis through the streets of Cranesmuir, or in the courtroom. Some of those clothes are made out of old bedspreads and vintage sweaters that have been completely repurposed into 18th century villagers costumes. It is extraordinary work, full of absolutely beautiful details and textures. My team seriously rocks.

Then there is what we actually DO to the costumes. If Claire and Geillis are thrown into a filthy, vermin infested pit, you have got to believe it when you see them.

We have a zillion meetings about what is in that pit.


“How wet is it, REALLY?”

“What do you mean, there will be water pouring down the walls?”

“How much water?”

“What are they sitting on?”

“Dry leaves and filth, or wet leaves and filth?”

“As long as everyone knows we only have two of their costumes, and one has to stay clean”

“Are you shooting in sequence, or out?”

“As long as you understand that we are going to have to predict how filthy and torn they are, if you shoot the end before the beginning”

“It might not match in continuity if we do it that way”

“Just want everyone to be absolutely clear!”

Once all of that is done, we set our aging and dyeing on the task of destroying the costumes, slowly, stage by stage, to match what we are shooting. Except Claire’s skirt, because we are going to need that for a few more eps, so you can get it sort of dirty, but you may not tear it!

They paint them, dye them, scrape them, burn them in their magical alchemy lab.

And you go from this-





To this-




It all goes back to Storytelling. The visuals are as much a part of things as the actors, the words, the music. It is all a part of the same piece. Again, that symphony. If the music is wrong, or the costumes too clean or modern, the sets jarring, the hair and makeup too contemporary, then the whole piece is not working in tandem.

Everyone watches television episodes many times now. One of those times, just look at all the sets, then look at how they work with the costumes. Gary Steele, our production designer and I are lucky, we inhabit each others creative brains, after 25 years of being best friends. I suppose we became friends because we saw through the same eyes. You should be able to see that when you watch the show. In truth, you can see Ron and I when you watch. We are always in synch creatively, it is how we came together.

It is that old buzzword, synchronicity.

Our Lallybroch


So many have been asking for pictures of different parts of our house. It is hard to believe, given that we are doing Outlander, that the house actually has a Priests Hole.

Here is some info on what exactly a Priests Hole is:
“These hiding places were created to conceal priests during a time when Catholics were persecuted. Under Queen Elizabeth I, priests were often imprisoned, tortured and even killed. Priest holes were specially disguised within a house to baffle search-parties.”


Anyway, this is the one in our Lallybroch.





We don’t have any priests to hide, and though we both have a lot of catholicism in our pasts, there isn’t much need for the Priest Hole these days. That said, both children have been showed the “wee room”, and should anyone step too far out of line… 😉

Amazing, stunning, sooooo excited!


Not more to say, except a giant thank you to Alana at Starz publicity, for letting me have these amazing pictures, and allowing me to be the first to publish them. Thank you so much.

Outlander 2014


Outlander 2014

Last but not least…The Raven Dress.



Like I said earlier, this is where we really started designing.

I love this dress. We call it The Raven Dress, for obvious reasons. This dress is all about the materials. I was in a fabric store in London, and this fabric got up off of the shelf, and said, “HEY!!! I am Geillis’s widows weeds”. HAD to buy it, absolutely no choice. I had no idea what I was going to do with it, but there it was, and it was glorious. It looks like feathers. I have no idea what the fabric content is, it was an end of bolt special, but I know it doesn’t have a natural bone in it’s body.

I started sketching. I knew I wanted it to be the most outrageous mourning gown one could imagine. And I knew I wanted white in it. Lots of it. We found this amazing white linen, that looked like sea foam. Put them together according to me sketch. There was no embellishment, the fabric was all the embellishment that was needed. It still wasn’t quite right, it need a bit more wild added in. So hit the white with scissors and started shedding it further, and wild emerged.

The dress looked like it would fly away on its own. The final touch was a pair of wings, made of a bit of beautiful black, antique lace I had been saving for a costume just like this.

Pretty great stuff, if I do say so myself.




More Ep.110…


Green Brocade_edited-1

This episode is when we were really able to start DESIGNING.

Up until this point, we were just scrambling one step ahead of disaster, trying to make sure that everyone had clothes.

Things had settled into just enough regular mayhem, that we started focusing on designs, details, colors, tones, and how costumes work together in a scene. The coats for Claire and Geillis being a prime example of what you ultimately do as a costume designer. Our biggest struggle as designers is getting enough time. Everyone thinks we just rent it all, including the people we work for. So there is very little time to make the clothing needed. Every show the time to prep gets shorter and shorter. Everytime we as designers deliver impossible deadlines, we undercut ourselves, and all other designers, and set a new normal, we all have to work to. It is truly a Catch 22.

Anyway, this dress was one of the first costumes I got really excited about. We finally had a permanent and very talented cutter, our third in about two months. The result was very exciting.

(Sorry, there wasn’t time to petticoat the mannequin, so the dress doesn’t quite fall the way it should)





Green 3




I kinda love this one.



Coming Soon, Watch This Space, Next!!!!



Dear Diary,

Things are getting a tad intense at the Factory. Every day is crammed to bursting. All I want is one night that I an mot dreaming costume detail/fixes/resolutions, all night long. The bed looks like a war zone when I get up in the morning.

Where is that damned Calgon?

But, this is all to be expected, we are a few weeks away from shooting, and getting down to the wire. You have to push past all the anxiety, the idea that you have completely lost all mojo/what the hell what are you thinking/what is up with artists, why do we do this to ourselves, kinds of thought, and get on with it.

It will all be fine, we are going to kick ass!!!!


Somehow doing this blog adds an amazing dimension. VERY cathartic. So I will try to keep posting. My next post will be about this dress we saw on Claire in 110.

Got AMAZING news yesterday from Starz publicity, and will soon be able to post the most glorious of pictures.  Very exciting. A very special thank you!!