Terry Dresbach

Outlander Costume Designer

Monthly Archives: April 2016

Jamie Pt.2…Posh Jamie


IMG_0728 (4)

We needed to create costumes for Jamie that would move him into very formal wear. Personally, I find the embroidery on mens suits incredibly sexy. There is something about a man so confident in his sexuality that he is not threatened by decoration. That men’s clothing has to be stripped bare, or it MEANS SOMETHING (gasp), is such a conceit of a later time, and an attitude that I think is very narrow and less progressive than earlier times. Again, we think we are so advanced compared to earlier periods of history. We had a recent discussion on Twitter about how restrictive corsets were to women, but once I posted pictures of Victoria Secret pushup bras, the discussion expanded.

ANYWAY, case in point.

IMG_4016 (1)

I LOVE THIS SHOT. I took it on set. It was the moment I knew we had got it right. Here is a very relaxed and confident man, a very masculine man. A very confident man. A man secure enough not to be threatened by some embroidered silk.

This shot is taken between takes, so this man is not Jamie Fraser, it is Sam Heughan. I knew at this moment that Sam felt comfortable with the direction we had taken him in Paris, and could get on with the business of playing Jamie. Languid, is the word that comes to mind.

IMG_4017 (1)Another great shot. I love how Sam/Jamie is cradling his wounded hand.

The Waistcoat. It is not called a vest, people ;).

At some point, Liz bought an 18th century waistcoat on eBay, for a ridiculously low price. She brought it in for us all to study. It was later in the century, but really fit into the direction I wanted to do, cream with gold and silver embroidery.Very masculine. I THINK we copied it, don’t remember exactly, we probably modified it a bit, but pretty damned close to the original. I am in love with this waistcoat.

IMG_4019 (1)

IMG_4020 (1)Beautiful glass buttons from Britex Fabrics in San Francisco.

IMG_0724 (4)

IMG_0719 (4)

We made the buttons, I love them. Decorative, yet once again, masculine. Notice his cuffs. No lace. That would have pushed it too far. When designing, you really do have to imagine that you are the character fitting clothes with a tailor. I could just feel Jamie saying to the slightly scandalised tailor, “No lace”.


Jamie Pt.1…



Soooooo, Jamie.

Our challenge with Jamie’s costumes was actually not unlike our challenges with Claire. We needed him to move into the inner circle of the French Court, and yet retain his essential character. He is a Scotsman and a warrior, Unfortunately he is not a time traveler, so we had no way to reach back to another period of time and find a clever way to meet that challenge.. But what I did decide to do, was something similar to what I’d done with Claire. I had to reach into his character, find the defining characteristics and make sure that we remained true to them.

  1. Commanding
  2. Heroic
  3. Masculine
  4. Simple and Clean Lines
  5. Lethal
  6. Solid

I also could feel Sam reaching out psychically, “Terry, please do not make me wear lime green, drenched in lace”

Sam’s relief was palpable when he arrived for his first fittings, and saw the manifestation of the list above. It was a pretty great moment. What I had decided to do was to go with as classic a look as I could manage. A 6’3″ ginger slamming around in some bright color and high heeled shoes, would be distracting to say the least. Another one of those moments where the mind of a reader is very different from the eye of a viewer.

But, every man looks great in a black suit, with a white shirt.

Blk Suit

I read early on that most men in the 18th century (wealthy men), had three staple suits. Black, great and brown (just like now), but that very few examples survive, as men wore them out.

This is one of the early examples I was able to find. LOVE it.


Not only does Sam look great in a black suit, but considering all that Jamie had been through it seemed very appropriate. He is not in literal mourning, but he has been absolutely shattered. Wrong time in the story for azure blue.



So that is where we went. I think he just looks insanely elegant. His costumes are made of the highest quality of silk I could find, the embroidery and decorative details are absolutely exquisite. I feel like he looks wealthy enough to be accepted, yet not part of the French Court, like Claire, and even Murtagh in his new clothes. I used black and shades of grey, with the exception of a couple of pieces.

CeWWiZDUUAIGTKL.jpg-largeWe will get to those boots in a separate post, and I will cover this costume and some of his other pieces.

I really love where we ended up. I think we stayed true to who Jamie is. Sam was very happy and most important, he was comfortable and felt right. He could still inhabit Jamie, and didn’t have to try and access him through layers of embellishment.

Here are some BTS shots…


We made this fantastic sort of relief pattern with the fabric (silk/wool blend). The technique creates light and dark, which makes for a more interesting texture on camera. The small buttons are some of my absolute favourites. They are a burnished metal surrounded by small rhinestones. We embroidered cloth buttons to compliment.

A very simple suit becomes simple, yet not.

IMG_0710 (5)

IMG_0707 (1)

IMG_0709 (4)

You can see our first pass at Jamie’s bandage in this pic. Costume still covered in tailoring threads.





Inspiration Walls…


…my office. There are just sooooooo many photos I took this year to post. So every once in a while I am going to post a few random bits.








Not sure there is very much more to say about the red dress, that hasn’t been covered extensively.

Mood boards and various notes, below…

© Mark Shaw / mptvimages.com











Interesting re invention of a classic Dior from the late 40s. The New Look has been reinterpreted so many, many times.


I was so worried that because Cait is so very fair, that she would be overpowered by brilliant red. It is neither an easy color to use onscreen, but it can eat up a mere mortal. The color made Cait glow like some sort of natural candle flame.

Extraordinary. The dress will NEVER look as good on a mannequin as it does on this particular living, breathing, being.


A quote from Cait-

“It’s a beautiful dress and such a fan moment in the books. Jamie has to say, ‘You can see all the way down to your third rib,’ and it had to fulfill all these different things, so Terry did such an incredible job with it. But walking anywhere, I had to do this kind of sideways crab walk. It was like, ‘Wide load, coming through!’ I thought all that I was missing was the, ‘Beep! Beep! Beep!’ that these massive trucks had.”

One of Balfe’s favorite additions that the writers made is the fact that Claire helps design the dress herself.

“It was nice to be able to see Claire explore her femininity, because she’s usually such a practical and pragmatic person, and not at all interested in her appearance. Being able to see her dressing up for the first time ever, that was a nice element.”

( Fifteen yards of Duchesse Satin)



red bodice





IMG_4757 (2)

When trying to figure how to address the notes from the book, I came across this painting.


It gave me the idea that if Claire took a traditional bodice, such as this-

Red Sketch 1  took the embellishment off, and then she opened up the front seam, she would end up with this  –Red Bodice 2

I think it worked for the story and paid homage to the book and the fans of the book/


One last thing- I insisted that we make this. So my amazing team did. They are, once again, the best.


There you go







Master Raymond


He was always by my favourite and there is no costume I have looked forward to doing more on Outlander.

Let’s start with the mood boards.

Mst. Raymond

Master RaymondWe were pretty deeply into embroidery at that point, really playing with what we could do.

I wanted him to have just one costume. His pharmacists coat. Does Master Raymond take it off and hang it on a hook at night, or does he lie down in a pallet in the back of his shop, never taking the magical thing off?

I thought that I would like to tell a story about his work. So two images illustrate principles of alchemy. The Tree Of Knowledge and The Hand Of Mysteries. The other two are diseases and the herbs that cured them.

The Coat:



IMG_1064 (1)We decided to represent the disease with a monster, having found a fantastic array of monsters while doing research.

The Bird represents Yellow Fever, placing his yellow claw into the eye. One of the symptoms of yellow fever was that the white of the eye would turn bright yellow.

The other panel is Gout. A delightful Gout monster is gnawing on the inflamed foot.

The herbs which are supposed to cure it, are woven into the disease. I don’t have my notes with me, on which herbs they are, but it is not hard to find the info, if you are interested.

I don’t remember the genesis of the back, if it was a compilation of images we’d found, or if it was based on something we found. I fell in love with these illustrations of potion bottles. There was also a lot of skull imagery. An easy combination.

09a6472a452a1e3a1c3e0f32385b86c4 e0838554988d3e37065d1b9014178fb7







Work in progress-



  • A very special shout out to my Embroidery team – Liz, Fiona, Julia and Francesca, and to Helen Galogly, our textile artist. They are the best.


When Doves Cry.



Cruise Journal – Day 11.rtfd

So I fully expected to wake up feeling better about this. I literally kept saying to myself yesterday, “things will feel better tomorrow, it always does”. So why do I feel engulfed in grief and sadness today?

This is not something I do. I do not worship celebrities, not who I am. I have known too many, for one thing, but even before I worked in this business I didn’t. I have never had a picture of one anywhere in my home, unless you count the slightly ironic pics of Keith Richards and Blondie on my fridge. More like pics of attitudes than a person. I’ve never had a picture of Prince on my fridge. So why is this feeling hanging around.

Today, I am retracing my steps.

So I do what I do. I read, I read a lot yesterday about Prince. There is a wealth of material out there now. I read about the spontaneous memorials, I real all the journalists pieces on what he meant to them, to us. I watch the TV coverage obsessively, I talk about him on SM.

Finally, I can’t anymore, and I turn it off. But I am wide awake. I think that maybe I will find solace in acting on Ron’s words about it all, and write up a post on Master Raymond’s costume. Go into the art, there is always a good feed there.That was good, started to feel a bit better. Watched a GIRLS marathon and scanned around the Outlander universe, something I do for distraction on occasion. I read the good and the bad. The good outweighing the bad these days, which is really nice. I also read some of the scraps of negative that are like a pot simmering on the back of the stove. every once in a while, someone lifts the lid and throws something in.

The latest thread, one that perhaps replacing the narrative that I am a drunk, with the new one… that I am socially awkward, and probably need to hire a professional who can manage my interactions on SM, and most importantly craft a more appropriate “professional” persona. I find this much more entertaining although just as ludicrous as the charge of public drunkenness.

But it is enough to put me to sleep, finally. I dream about being a character on GIRLS.

But here I am this morning. Engulfed again. I am forced to examine what exactly did this man mean to me??? What was it that resonated so deeply?

I was a young woman when Prince exploded into my world.

My parents were civil rights activists who felt that you had to walk the walk. So we lived in predominantly African American neighbourhoods as I grew up. I was the little white girl. Actually,I was the ONLY white girl. I “integrated” our neighbourhood school, me, alone, all by myself. Even the white progressive who were active in civil rights, thought my parents were nuts.

But the black community took me under their wing. I was too young to be a threat, or someone that you needed to pull down that screen that was always there when white people showed up. I was sort of invisible and overlooked as kids so often are. But I was included. I went to family gatherings, picnics, church. My best friend’s teenage sisters and their friends got a kick out of teaching me to dance. My parents home was a very political and intellectual place, but very quiet, everyone was reading. My other world was filled with noise, music, it was full of life. I soaked it in, and it formed me.

When I was 13, we moved to Berkeley. The hot seat of political activism. It was the 70s. Martin Luther King and Malcolm X had been assassinated and the Black Panthers were now at the forefront of the civil rights activism. Earth Wind and Fire, Sly, James Brown, Marvin are all over the place. EVERYONE is dancing. We are black, white, brown, yellow. My friends are a rainbow of color and culture. Music and Dancing is the centre of our Universe. By the time I am a HS school senior I have abandoned all pretence of an academic life, because I need to dance. All the time.

Every night, I am in the clubs, on the floor. Still the only white girl, but now rocking hard to George Clinton, Stevie Wonder, but also to the Stones and Bowie. ‘Miss You’ is an enormous hit on the floors of black clubs. It is a whole other kind of integration that is going on. It is no longer just an intellectual and political ideal. We are living it. We are all wild and free, multicultural, on our platform shoes, wild hair flying, it is the biggest house party ever.  It was incredible.

Enter Prince. I suppose you have to be atomic to have the impact he did in a world where huge explosions are happening everywhere. When ‘Come Get to This’ and ‘Atomic Dog’ are pumping, how do you get bigger than that? Well if you are Prince you do. In he comes, glorious, beautiful and brilliant.

What the hell IS he? Mixed, creole?? Do we care? Is he straight, gay, bi? Who cares. No one. He is gorgeous, flamboyant, insanely sexy. And most of all, he is breathtakingly brilliant. you know from the first moment you put For You on your record player. You know you are experiencing something never experienced before. He has not evolved into this being, he has emerged fully formed as this, whatever it is. He is a culmination. He is the genetic offspring of the 60s. the 70s, all the marching, the sit ins, the music, the sex, the drugs, the rock and roll. He opens for The Stones, the greatest white R&B band ever. He is perfect, and he is us. He represents all of us. All of us who are thumping it on the dance floor, who are living openly, exploring, experiencing every aspect of every culture, the music, the food, the art, the life.

I have always been a music junkie. My mother talks about me at two, with my hands placed on the TV screen, swaying back and forth to American Bandstand. My entire childhood is enveloped in music. I subscribe to Rolling Stone at 12, when it is little more than an underground music paper. I have an enormous record collection, holding my own with the boys, because music is a male domain. In adolescence I sneak out to the Filmore Auditorium, smoke my first joint. I stand on the seats in the Berkeley High School Auditorium at 13, watching Jimi play the guitar with his teeth onstage (Jimi plays Berkeley), and Prince, when he shows up in my twenties, just rocks my world, HARD. By this time I know everyone in the San Francisco music scene, which is  thriving. I am making band posters, album covers, trying to eke out a living after art school.

One thing leads to another, and I know members of Prince’s band. I cannot count how many times I saw him in concert.

Everyone is blown away by him. A perfect blend of R&B, funk and rock and roll, again, just like all of us. His band is filled with women musicians. “Women not girls rule my world.” He brings in Latin percussion with Sheila, making the circle complete.

So, not only is he an incredible artist, he is a man of principal and ethics, he is fiercely independent, he is going to do things his own way. He is not going to bend to the commercial interests of corporations. He is going to control his own art. He may be as famous for his willingness to go to the mat for his work. Famously giving up his own NAME rather than control of his music, scrawling SLAVE on his face for public appearances. He refused to give up in the face of the corporatization of the music industry, fighting to the end for the rights of the artists.

So what did he mean to me?

Who am I? I am an artist, first and foremost. I am a product of my time and place. I am part of a generation, who very briefly danced together in the streets, celebrating the victories hard won by brothers and sisters, whose blood ran in those streets where we now danced…together, truly multicultural, gay, straight and everything else in the rainbow.

As the child of union organisers and political activists, I struggle every day as an artist in a corporate world I struggle as a human in a human world. Ron constantly asks me if I could not make everything into one of my “social justice” issues. No, actually, I can’t. I will always struggle against the tide that says we all need to be managed and formed to a polished symmetry that never colors outside the lines. Whose voices and very existence, should be managed and tailored to fit into an expectation. Group think.

Well that ain’t gonna happen. I am going to continue to be me. I’m going to throw elbows at anything or anyone that tries to control me as an artist. I am not going to hire anyone to manage me or my voice. I am going to fight hard against anything like that, big or small. And I am going to play Prince as loud as I can while doing it.

I guess that is what Prince meant to me. That is what he represents, for me. I intend to honour him every day, every single day.  I am going to speak my mind and dance in the streets and on your screens. I am going to party like it’s 1999.



Captains Log…


I almost didn’t post this, because it is a personal letter.

But I asked Ron, and he said it was fine. It is such an incredible insight into the man, I thought some of you might find it interesting. Those who don’t, please don’t use this in a way that is ugly or cruel. Please don’t make horrible memes or rip us apart because I put this here. Please?

Thank you.

Well, I have removed this post, because exactly what I asked for, was ignored. Thank you.


Claire S2 Moodboards


These are the images I gathered for Claire inspiration. Mostly mid to late 40s, but a couple drift in the early 50s. Images for inspiration, not meant to be taken literally.


Claire Moodboard



Claire moodboard 2



Claire Moodboard 3

Claire Moodboards 5





rene gruau blue outfit




Image 60

I spent a lot of time looking at a LOT of 18th century French Costumes.

The vast majority did not feel like Claire. They felt like Louise. They felt like any member of the French aristocracy, but not Claire. Cait and I had worked pretty hard to maintain a sense of who Claire was, when she was flung into another century. In S1 Claire was given was given hand-me-downs by Mrs Fitz. She didn’t really have a choice and was probably too shell shocked to care anyway. All she was focusing on was surviving and figuring out how to fit into a foreign land. Once she married Jamie, we started to give her a little bit more stability in her costumes. They change, they became a bit more solid. It didnt feel like a giant leap that she would have had some things actually made for her, but even then she was still focusing on navigating this strange world and on getting back to her century.

In season two Claire has made the choice not to go back to the 1940s  and to stay with Jamie. They are crafting a life together and they have accepted this mission to go to Paris. There is a commitment to a time a place and a marriage. She is committing to remaining in a time that is not hers. But the heart of the story is still Claire, and how she maintains that heart in another century. This is not the story of the woman who gives up her identity easily. So it seemed essential that once again we look back to the 1940s for our inspiration.

The question I asked myself – What would Claire have been wearing if she hadn’t  travel through time? I started looking at fashion from postwar Europe. This is the world Claire would have lived in.  The direction we needed to go came pretty fast. I found it in the house of Christian Dior.

It is probably the most singularly exciting moment I’ve ever had as a costume designer.

I was looking at all of  this incredible fashion and because I had been doing a show about the 18th century, I was able to see for the first time how directly the fashions I had been working with, connected to the fashions of the late 1940s. Fashion is cyclical, but I had never before connected those particular dots. The first thing that jumped out at me was a picture of the Bar Suit.

Image 80

Image 54

Image 84


Image 78

Designed by Christian Dior, it is one of the most iconic pieces of fashion history. I knew the suit, everybody connected to clothing in any way knows the suit. But for the first time I saw that it was an 18th-century riding suit.

Image 75

Image 76

Image 74

Image 73

If you look at the pictures it is absolutely clear. Christian Dior had clearly looked back to the 18th and 19th century to find his inspiration for the New Look and further research confirmed that.

Once I had that the rest was easy.


Claire and Christian Dior came from the same time the same place, the same generation. They had both fought in the same war. They had both known women’s clothing of the 1940s as very masculine. Women were wearing suits that were cut very similar to men’s suits. Wide shoulders, narrow hips, women were wearing trousers for the first time as they entered the work force en mass for the first time in history.

Image 77

The new look was quite controversial. Women actually demonstrated in the streets against it. It reintroduced women into corsets, wasp waists and very very full skirts. Women had been liberated from that kind of constrictive clothing and didn’t want to go back into it. But ultimately back into it they did indeed go. And a fashion revolution was born. Many argued that it was a backlash against emancipation, and was forcing women back into the VERY traditional and repressive roles of the 1950s. The population was depleted, men were coming back home, to women dressed in ways not considered very feminine. The traditional world needed to get things back on track, society needed to be rebuilt, babies needed to be made,and women needed to go back to their place.  How fashion reflects history and politics is a fascinating study… for another day.

Image 85

Politics aside,  It seemed logical to me that Claire would do in the 18th century the same thing that Christian Dior had done in the 20th century. He stripped the traditional 18th century riding habit of all of the embellishments and details and decorations all the bows the bells and whistles. He took it back to its basic Silhouette and that became the Bar Suit. I decided to have Claire look at the riding suit and do the same. She never saw the actual Bar suit obviously.but her reaction to the original riding suit of the 18th century, could plausibly be very similar to Dior’s, a man of her time. It was a suit after all, something she would have seen as the most familiar garment in the 18th century. It was a garment designed for a practical function, and Claire is a practical woman.

So we just put Claire in a recreation of the Bar Suit.  I have never had a costume so perfectly define a character and fit into a story so seamlessly before. I still marvel at how absolutely perfect it is. When I told Cait what my plan was she just broke into this huge grin . She knew the suit, knows fashion, and she could easily see where we were headed, and was delighted.

Image 90

I didn’t want to make something that echoed the Bar Suit, I wanted to recreate it. I wanted to fire a shot across the bow, and announce what we were going to be doing in S2. Make no mistake, it was a statement. I knew that when it hit the airwaves it was going to cause a commotion.

Outlander Season 2 2016

Outlander Season 2 2016

She is perfect.

It is not an original design. It is a copy of someone else’s. I have never done that before, but it worked. It worked, because as I say ad nauseum, it serves the story.

We stayed as close as possible to the original, with the exception of the hat. I decided to go with black. I thought it looked better. I question that choice, sort of.  Maybe it was my subconscious need to put something of my own view in there.

anyway, enjoy!

Image 68


Image 64

Image 66 2

While you wait




The Film is called Christian Dior, the Man Behind The Myth. You can rent or buy it on Amazon.









There is a really incredible movie you all might want to check out. Really fascinating, even Ron liked it.