Terry Dresbach

Outlander Costume Designer


It really IS a good story. Ron and I are in Britex. This store is like a fabric mecca. I make a pilgrimage once or twice a year, because they are the absolute best. I have been in a LOT of great fabric stores, but nothing compares to them. Not only do they have the most incredible fabrics, but there is an entire floor of trim and buttons. The most exquisite lace. The place is to die for.






This is Sharman, the queen of Britex. Her family has owned Britex for a few thousand years. This woman has the most incredible eye for amazing fabric.

Anyway, when I go there I plan on spending the entire day. On this particular day Ron went off to some bookstore, and came back in the middle of my button buying and surprised me with a little gift. He decided to stick around and watch the magic. I think I promised I’d be fast.

I went downstairs to the fabric floor and started digging around. I found some spectacular fabrics, and was chatting with my wonderful salesman. I asked him if there was anything really out of the ordinary they might have squirrelled away, and he zipped off to the magical basement and came back with THIS.


What the hell was this?? What could I do with it. It was amazing, outrageous and so over the top, I wasn’t sure it could be a dress. It was an extraordinary woven fabric. But I was pretty sure I was going to buy it and figure out later what to do with it. But there was 12 yards, and we need 15.  I could pick up one of the colors and make a petticoat, but that still wasn’t quite enough. While it was spread across the table and I kept saying to Ron, “it’s incredible, right, is it too much??”, and the poor man has no way to answer, so he just agrees. A customer walks by and stops, “that is amazing fabric, have you ever seen a show called Outlander? That looks like a fabric they would use!” I said, “yes as a matter of fact, I’m the Costume Designer on Outlander.” She was somewhat flabbergasted, and then said, “Do you know the guys who runs it? He did my other favourite show, Battlestar Gallactica.” “You mean this guy?” I asked, pointing to Ron. It was too much, I thought she might faint (kidding).

I bought the fabric, obviously. I sat with it for a few weeks and finally decided that Claire would wear it. It felt like a 1940s chintz and fit into my overall scheme. Or it would be a riff on these fabrics from the mid 18th century.











We made the gown, piecing it together so exactly, it was painstaking work for us. When there isn’t enough fabric, you have to get very creative with pattern placement, and this fabric was even more difficult because you needed the repeat on the skirt. So the bodice gets made with leftovers. It was difficult, but we thought the result was spectacular. It was Cait’s favourite dress from S2.



While this was going on, the whole pregnancy belly discussion was happening. I wasn’t sure where we would end up on that front, so I added in the side lacings so that it could get expanded if we needed. Thought it might be something Claire might decide to do. I needed her to think that way. That’s the way things work sometimes.


IMG_1003 (1)


we made a fabulous hat.


IMG_3963 (1)


We dyed the silk hat lining to match the dress.


Made some butter yellow gloves and Voila, it was done!

I will do another post about the embroidery we had to add.

Oh, one little addition:



45 thoughts on “

  1. Jenny Jeffries

    THAT is the BEST story. Wish I could have been a fly on the wall to have overheard it. And I think that is my favourite outfit for Season Two as well, and so good to hear how it came about.

  2. kukrae

    Hands down, this is the gown I could NOT step away from at Saks.
    How you pieced this together so damn perfectly I will never understand! I probably have 30 pics of this through the window just so I could piece it together perfectly into one photo when I finally have the time.
    The hat just frames the ensemble exquisitely and it’s the pleated (ruched?) lining that adds such a contrasting pattern.
    The colors are so darn common yet when together, what a spectacle it creates!! And considering it has to go against the gorgeously costumed King Louis, boy o’ boy, does it ever hold its own!!
    Terry…Outlander needs to offer a charity fundraiser that offers either 1) an afternoon of watching your team work (winner pays way to Scotland and back) or 2) a day of shopping with you/chatting all things fabric & costuming at Britex 🙂 I’d bid on both!!!
    I just spent a few hours 2 weeks ago at M&J Trimming in NYC while there for fun and I was totally overstimulated idea-wise. Thankfully, I knew what I was looking for and came home with an exquisite 18″ piece of beaded lace (:choke: $110/yard!!!) I will cut apart to use on the upcoming (wool arrives this week!) Phantom’s opera cloak I’m making for a friend. Never have worked with either the fabric of the beaded lace, but there’s a first time for everything, right?!!

    Any favorite Los Angeles hidden fabric gems you can recommend? 🙂

  3. 1pens

    Is there any way to get a scrap of that fabric?
    I eagerly look forward to each of your posts when I’m checking my emails. Your work is incredibly lovely !
    What a wonderful job you have!
    Im sure there are many of us who would be your assistant for free just to be a part of such a design team and wonderful show ….
    Can’t wait your your next post:)

  4. hazel loftus

    Thank you for another fantastic post Terry. I had not heard of the fabric shop Britex !! and feel quite in awe of their array of choices of cloth and haberdashery, what a special place, I would spend hours in there.
    It’s so amazing that you have time to write these snippets and pics for fans which make us feel part of the whole experience of creating the Outlander world. All this on top of your sublime designs, we are so lucky. Big Thank You.

  5. Anne H.

    Wow, the skill it took to cut and piece the fabric so that the bodice can be so beautifully matched out of leftovers! Thank you so very much for these posts!

  6. Martina

    Spectacular doesn’t even begin to describe that dress…exquisite, magnificent. And fabulous! Britex is one of my favorite places in the world…when you walk in and just are bombarded with all the colors of the rainbow…it’s color overload, in the best way. It reminds me of coming down the escalator at Filene’s when I was 5 or so and seeing all the girl’s stretch pants hung up in a rainbow. I wanted one of each, and that’s the way I feel in Britex! (Well, most fabric stores, to be honest).

    Britex posted on their blog that they are getting more of that fabric in stock. $99 a panel, which is a little over a yard.

  7. debelene

    Love these posts—the work is mind boggling and such a feast for the eyes! The millinery is a subject in itself. I’m still not over Louise’s gown.

  8. christine

    Dying with how much I love this dress. The floral design is simply gorgeous and looked stunning on Claire. And the hat? Sublime. Also loved Jamie’s costumes on Saturday’s episodes. The richness of the fabrics, the embroidery. I felt as if I could actually touch the materials, they were photographed so well.

  9. mwdesigns2014

    I can’t determine who’s the luckiest lady walking this planet, the talented creator of these unique costumes or the lady who gets to wear them!! It’s truly a delight reading about the adventures involved with the costumes . On another note, seriously, Caitriona is a rare beauty that glows in both warm and cool toned colors, what a treat for Terry and the team!!

  10. Pingback: It really IS a good story. …Terry Dresbach  – The Bonnie Kilt

  11. ellenchristine

    I have to turn the sound off to watch this gown. From the moment it appears and waltzes through the garden, near the fruit /food tents ( oh, God, that set!), and smack into the entire BJR confrontation…..sound off. Those flowers just breathe. This is one of the gowns we were lucky enough to have in the Saks windows here in NYC, and it’s a wonder. a wonder. the texture of the fabric is surprising in person, and makes it pop all the more, imho. And the pleating on the underside of the hat. OH, Lord, Terry…milliners around the world are bowing ……you’re helping the millinery industry in ways you will never fathom. Thank you for this, and for every single stitch of this show.
    Glorious Britex, may they live on and on and on……

  12. Laurapylatemalorzo

    That gown is by far my favorite one. I love this story. It brings back memories of my childhood. I would spend HOURS in fabric shops with my grandmother looking for the “right” fabrics. I so miss those days.

  13. Gnome

    So happy to see details of, and read about, this dress! Ecstatic to see pics of Britex (weird, huh?). Reminds me of my visit to Mink’s in Montreal (not sure they still exist). Fabric, trimming, buttons — nirvana! Thank you for posting.

  14. LisaW

    This is by far my favorite dress that Claire has worn. I can see why it was Cait’s favorite, and made better because of how it came together. Bravo Madame Costume Designer!!

  15. CatStussi

    It is an amazing store. If you can’t find something in that store to get your creative juices flowing than somethings wrong. I do contemporary quilting and I’ve found some interesting fabrics and notions there. I’m do for another visit. I live locally so it’s easy to get there.

  16. Katie (@bunnums)

    This is one of those outfits that when it was released in the stills, I wasn’t sure about it. Obviously gorgeously made with such attention to detail, but it just felt “off” to me. But then. Then. Seeing it in episode 2.06, after watching the first five episodes of the season, with living and breathing characters and context and dialog… it just snapped right into place and feels so perfect and precise and exact. I love experiencing that transformation.

    Thank you.

    1. Terry Dresbach Post author

      and there you go Katie. Things work in context, in the flow of the story. I know I am a broken record on this front…

  17. melaniedresbachwarman

    The fabric and dress caught my eye during the show on Saturday. I’m so glad that you blogged about it. Who else but Cait could wear that strange color so well? Is that fabric painted?

    Oooooh, the shots from the Britex Store made me drool. I dragged my husband around the garment district in NYC a few years ago, but did not visit this one. Definitely on my list for the next visit. Not that I am a seamstress, but I sew and I love textiles. It makes me happy just to look at them. I enjoy your posts almost as much as seeing your amazing work!

  18. mdudiak

    I can’t click fast enough when I see a new “Terry” post. Not only are you an artist but a great storyteller. Loved…every…minute…of…this!!!

  19. joanne1202

    terry i must give kudos to all the folks that work for you. they have to understand your visions as well! as claire was walking through the gardens, i noticed how the flowers in the background did not match but enhance the dress!! britex looks as though it’s your own personal candy store. no wonder they have been in business for years, they know customer service!

  20. jeancard

    To finally see this dress in the show was worth the wait. Claire is a vision and the attention to detail is amazing. Cait was make to wear that dress!

  21. dreamylassie

    Britex is a wonderland that I could spend all day exploring! I miss it from my San Francisco days. I love the funny story, but guess it’s no surprise costume drama geeks would congragate in fabric and notions Mecca. What a stunning fabric, you and your team did an extraordinary job showcasing it with the design.

  22. hockeyirene

    Terry – I love that you didn’t know what you were going to do with it, but you “needed 15 yards”, not 12! Thanks for showing us non-costume sewers ignorant of 18thC. fabrics how similar they were to this outrageous (_your_ word!) (and agreed!) fabric, plus the dress (40’s?) with the self-belt and buckle. This was a most pleasant surprise for my birthday – thank you so much! Your genius is apparent, but sharing the process that you go through is above and beyond any call of duty, but we love it, as you can tell. Thanks for all that you do.

  23. MagsLang

    Heavenly shop!!
    I thought id struck lucky when i found a street of fabric shops in NY when i was over..but boy was i deluded !!
    Gorgeous gorgeous fabrics..and to think it was a lucky find too !!!
    Your costume department certainly do a fine bit of dressmaking n stitching..theres can be no better feeling, when you see your designs made up in such beautiful fabrics. X

  24. lacable

    What fun you must have had at Britex… all that gorgeous fabric. And I would SO have loved to be the fan you met, especially when you introduced her to Ron. Your work is just fabulous… you make Sam and Cait look so good… but then they’re just beautiful canvasses themselves! I look forward each week so see how you’ve dressed them.

  25. M&M

    I’ve been waiting for the post ever since I first read the story about the fabric. I just love that story! I thought this dress was a print, this is why I LOVE those huge pictures. It is even more spectacular now. I remember these really loud floral prints as curtains when I was growing up in the 60’s, not sure if they were left overs from the forties or what? *g* This is one of those stories that it happens for a reason, it was meant to be……..you know! Love it all!

  26. Martina

    Terry, you’ve told us you don’t sew…have you ever brought in a fabric that the drapers were confounded by? I know I’ve bought fabrics and then asked myself what was I thinking because they shred, or twist, or break needles, or shrink…all the things that fabric can do that makes sewing them tough!

    1. Terry Dresbach Post author

      No, I don’t sew but I know fabric, and I understand construction. A Costume Designer is like an architect. I don’t have to actually be able to BUILD a building, to design it. I have to understand how to build it.

      1. Martina

        Cool. I know that at the ballet, some of the designers want things that just aren’t doable or practical, and it can drive the people who have to build the costumes insane. The designers want their buildings able to withstand a hurricane, but be built out of cardboard, to use your analogy. 🙂

  27. Cackie

    Perfect in every way and a fascinating story of the process. The wearing of the dress in those magical gardens – absolute perfection! Thank you so much for sharing this.

  28. MonicaP

    While this dress is gorgeous .. I seem to still have my eye on that beautiful purple gown with the blue scarf .. even though it’s rather plain compared to this floral beauty .. I just love the fitted top and voluminous skirt of that lovely purple dress.

    I’m a pear shaped gal – I would have rocked that century in those gowns .. lol.


  29. pissarro

    What a lovely story and a surprised customer. You Milady have quite an eye and a vision. Thank you for this beautiful dress and all the magnificent costumes.

    Back in 2000 I lived in Petaluma Ca. Our daughter was getting married and I needed a mother of the bride dress. My dear friend and wedding planner took me to Britex. With her help we able to find just the right fabric. She convinced me to purchase $75.00 buttons, something I would NEVER have done on my own. I have worn that dress to five weddings.

    Thank you.

  30. Leeann

    I do love this dress. I have never seen bust darts like that either and really like them.
    Re Britex, it looks amazing. When my son was visiting San Fran he bought me some fabric there and said the place would blow my mind! I live in New Zealand so unfortunately I won’t be able to visit it myself. Nice to know it is one of your favourite places too Terry

  31. andrejenn

    I adore Britex – one of my favorite destinations when visiting my parents who lived in the Bay Area. Terry, you are a genius – just as DG’s writing is full of rich detail, your designs are detailed and a delight to the eye. I see something new every time I watch an episode or see BTS pics! Didn’t you shop at Lacis for S2 also? Another wonderful place! Thanks for sharing so much with us!

  32. grahamlass

    Yep, that’s Britex. Same location. Same red sign. A place to solve problems (‘will I ever find the right width trim in chartreuse?’) and answer questions (should I get this green or choose from the 12 other greens in front of me?.) It is also a place where one can design on the fly, going from one floor to the next coordinating fabrics.

    I saw this get-me-the-smelling-salts of a dress in the Saks window last March. Terry had a vision to put into action. I thought the fabric was put to its highest purpose by using a length of skirt waist to floor; wide pleats to give the flowers ‘room’; and faultless tailoring. Then to see Claire take it for a stroll between the parterre of Versailles was perfection realized in form and function.

    (I’ve been going to Britex since junior high school. I made my senior prom dress from a fuchsia Dupioni I bought there in 1968. I still have the dress, waiting for its higher purpose.)

    – – – –

  33. claudscaro

    I just wanted to say THANK YOU! You have been such an inspiration to me, I discovered your blog, and read the 20 pages I found in one night.
    I’ve always been very interested in costume design, but by getting all these little insights in the world of costume design, I made up my mind; next year, I will apply for Costume Design here in Oslo. I’ll spend the time I have before that to make a lovely portfolio, and maybe, just maybe, I’ll be one of the 15 people to get in.

    Anyway; again, thank you so much. Your life seems so exciting, so colorful, creative, stressful and productive; I wish I could do something similar with my career.

    Best wishes,

  34. acapsimalis

    Terry – hello! I’m the ‘customer’ you met in Britex when you found the fabric. I so enjoyed meeting you and Ron and have been patiently waiting to see the marvelous creation you created. Absolutely stunning! I have been smiling and kicking my heels all week after reading your post and that you included my little part in the story. I’ve share the story of meeting you to may Mom, family and friends since we met; what a wonderful treat to re-experience it through your post, the dress and Outlander. Kudos to you and your amazing team.

    Warmly, Arlene

    PS Tell Ron my son will be going to UCSB this fall to study music composition for film and TV. We’re huge Bear McCreary fans in the Capsimalis home.

    1. Terry Dresbach Post author

      Oh, how lovely of you to check in Arlene!!!
      You made the story, you really did.

      Passed on your message, Ron asks to pass on all his best wishes to your son!

  35. Pingback: Fashion Rewind: ‘Outlander,’ ‘11.22.63,’ and the Style of Time Travel – Observer – Wedding Inspirations.top

  36. Pingback: Fashion Rewind: ‘Outlander,’ ‘11.22.63,’ and the Style of Time Travel – Observer – Classy Fashion

  37. Simply stunning! Love the story and love the bodice construction front and back.

Leave a Reply