Terry Dresbach

Outlander Costume Designer

Are Costumes Part of The Story?




For those of you who follow me on Twitter, there has been a lot of discussion about spoilers in relation to Costumes.

Heated discussion.

I have expressed my disappointment that the costumes have been revealed outside of the context of the story.

“But they are beautiful”, “why don’t you want anyone to see them”, “it keeps us happy”. “it’s good for PR”, “it keeps us going during Droughtlander!”. There is more, some really nasty stuff about me censoring people, chastising fans, sending minions out to harass and belittle, all sorts of fantastic motivations attributed to me.

All around a simple statement about wanting costumes to be revealed within the story.

But after lots of heated discussion, I think we finally got somewhere. At least I feel like I did. Perhaps a better understanding of what the issue is. I don’t think a lot of people know the purpose of costume design. Not just the audience, it is a prevalent issue within our business. We are a long way from the last Golden Age Of Hollywood, where storytelling was at the heart of film and television. Films like The Godfather,  Goodfellas, shows like The Sopranos, where costumes are not there just as eye candy, but a vehicle for telling a story. (we have entered a new Golden Age, but haven’t quite caught up about costumes)

In truth I left the business over this very issue. Not spoilers, because they didn’t really exist ten years ago as Social Media was not part of the equation back then. But the pressure from above to throw character development overboard in favour of “fashion”, became just to overwhelming to the creative process. Everyone had to look like they stepped out of the pages of a fashion mag. Young characters  struggling to make ends meet, tripping around on pair after pair of seven hundred dollar shoes and couture clothing. Waitresses wearing Gucci, everything had to be shorter, tighter, sexier, more low cut (don’t get me started on cleavage). It didn’t matter who the character was, where they came from, who they were, what there economic status was, everyone had to look the same. Lawyers dressed as sex workers. Costumes as part of character was out and “style” was in.

The era of the stylist began. I remember when producers and studio execs started calling Costume Designers “stylists”. We would cringe and politely correct them. “We are Costume Designer”.

But that era was ushered in about twenty years ago. So an entire generation of viewers has grown up with that on their screens. Cute clothes, “I want to wear that!!” Nothing whatsoever to do with Costume Design.

What does this has to do with spoilers? Well, I had to realise that my approach to costume design had become somewhat arcane. How on earth could seeing a costume be a spoiler?? In the age of cute clothes on the screen being the focus, I guess a costume can’t be a spoiler. It is a magazine page, often with a link that tells you where you can get “the look”, that your favourite character is wearing. More and more historical shows “contemporize” history, so that you can go to the mall and buy what your favourite historical character is wearing. Who knew so many men wore leather pants in centuries past?

But that is not what I do. That is not what a lot of designers do. And I think there is a disconnect a broken link between what we do and the audience expectation, and it causes confusion when we object or express distress over spoilers.

Costume Designers don’t pick “cute clothes”, we design characters to serve a story. We carefully craft Costumes within the story to create subliminal messages about who our characters are, what is happening to them, how they relate to each other and most importantly  to serve the story. That is the difference between us and Fashion Designers. Fashion Designers design for anyone who sees themselves wearing those clothes, Costume Designers design for particular characters within a particular story. We are Storytellers. Look at the Costumes, not just on the big period pieces, but on shows like Breaking Bad, True Detective, lots and lots of shows, they are the same, and they are brilliant, because we all have the same goal, to make you BELIEVE what you are seeing is real, if only for a brief period of time.

There are a few posts here on the blog, about “What we do”, and “Storytelling”, outlining how and what that approach is and how carefully we plan it. There is nothing random about the costumes you see on the screen. There isn’t a closet of cool clothes that someone chooses from according to the mood that day. Costumes are carefully chosen for that particular scene, based on the writers words and many discussions about what needs to be conveyed in a given scene. What do we want the tone to be, how do the Costume Designer and Production Designer work together with the writer, director and show runner to tell the story?

So how is a Costume a spoiler? If we carefully orchestrate a Costume for a scene where we need to to tell the human story, stories of pain, joy, loss, whatever, we want you to feel it in the moment. It is designed for that particular moment. It is part of a tapestry, as I have said before, and when you pull out random threads the entire piece is impacted. When a costume is seen outside the context of the story, that thread has been pulled.

So, where do I go from here with this?? Nowhere. It is a losing battle. In the age of Social Media and instant gratification, the need for constant fullfilment is a tide that cannot be held back. This is what it is. When they made Casino and The Sopranos, and even Dallas or Dynasty, there were no cell phones, no selfie sticks, no Twitter, no FB. We just watched and enjoyed the finished product. That was it. But those days are gone. Perhaps only in theatre can that tapestry be protected.

I read a piece recently about how some artists are now putting their unfinished work on social media as they work on it. I suppose if then Mona Lisa was painted today, Da Vinci could have posted his progress for comment and audience input as he worked. It seems like a kind of communal ownership of the creative process, the audience as shareholders. Maybe that is a good thing, we evolve and nothing remains as it has been.

So, in the end it is what it is, I guess. Nothing will change that. But I wanted to at the very least, give you some insight into what I think the confusion and the disconnect is about. That is why I do what I do in terms of pulling back the curtain. While I don’t want to reveal the final creation until it is complete, I do love sharing the creative process. I think it really adds to the audiences’s appreciation of that final piece to understand what goes into it.

I have no interest in chastising or scolding. No ill will,  no annoyance, no censorship requested. don’t want to kill the fun. I get it, I understand the joy and the enthusiasm.

Just explaining, sharing and hopefully illuminating, putting a different perspective out there for consideration and understanding.

That is what this blog is all about. to showcase what Costume Design really is. And we move forward.

Thanks to everyone who participated in the spirited discussion.


70 thoughts on “Are Costumes Part of The Story?

  1. roxlet

    You have done a magnificent job on the show in terms of not only the exquisite designs you have created, but also in terms of your objective of illuminating character through costume design. And you are right: trying to have the costumes revealed for the first time when they are viewed in the context of an episode seems impossible to achieve in this age of social media. Add to this the particular obsessiveness of some Outlander fans, and you have a potent brew of unabated desire for news — visual or otherwise.

    The main complaint I hear over and over is that Sony and Starz are not keeping up with the fans’ desire for news. I have heard many say that this period is worse than Droughtlander when small promotional pieces were meted out along the way. Having been in the TV business for some time myself, I have tried to explain that both Sony and Starz have other priorities at this time, such as shows that are premiering now, and would the fans like to see promotions for shows that are in early stages of production at the time when Outlander is about to be aired? It’s at least 6 months, if not more, until DIA will be broadcast, far too soon to start promoting the show. Add to this that the show is not a continuation of a story as the second half of Outlander was, making ever reveal a kind of spoiler. But the fans’ desire for something new to cling to makes every argument moot. They want what they want and they want it NOW. Seeing costumes while the show is on locations fulfills this desire.

    I have nothing but admiration for you and your team and the job that you have done. My only consolation would be to say that you alone seem to be providing the fams with what they are desperate for: a glimpse into the future.

    1. annalapping

      I appreciate every little tidbit you give us, whether about upcoming episodes, or ones we’ve already seen, like the one about Hugh Munroe. I look at them as little pieces of gold that I would otherwise not have, and I try to understand people who spend their entire lives complaining about stuff, especially on social media.

  2. Katrina

    Great Blog Terry. You have explained why you feel and felt the way you did. Not to spoil peoples fun but to actually enhance it when they see your costumes as part of the story they are going to be telling.
    I was once probably fairly casual about costumes but you have shown so much over the course of OL of how things really are. I love that you show the truth of your job.
    I love the “spirited” discussions on twitter though maybe a little less shit storm would be good for all of us LOL.

    Thank you for being so good to us all. For teaching and sharing.

  3. lorilbell

    Totally “get it”, Terry. I hope that you continue to enjoy your work and realize that there are more people loving it and appreciating it. I find the Twitter conversation both interesting and a bit sad. I can’t believe that some people feel so entitled to have something given to them. Wishing you and your team the best.

    1. sorsha22

      Hello Terry,
      I feel somehow sorry that as an artist you obviously have to explain yourself and your point of view to people on TW etc over and over again and even come to defend your way to see things. It’s sad. I do not share the POV where fans feel entitled to get pictures before the episode/show airs and their weird way of thinking that the production owes them something.
      If one is a true fan, than you should have respect for the show and the people working on it and most of all you should show some respect for what they create. How the many people involved go about their business is not up to fans to decide and sure doesn’t give them the right to criticize.
      A fan is IMO not someone who behaves like a 4 year old child stomping with tiny little feet on the ground and pouting because he doesn’t get immediately whatever he desires and the way he wants it.
      Yes there is droughtlander and waiting is boring but that is why I feel so lucky about the tidbits you post and all the time you always take to talk and discuss things with us on Twitter. And if that isn’t enough for people, well sorry, but they have to realize that the power they think they have is imaginary and doesn’t matter.
      That might be hard to swallow but its reality.
      Neither the production team nor the many people working so hard for this show have to give us anything in advance. If they do it’s a sing of consideration and respect and that should go both ways.
      People that are “stumbling” by accident on a location and take pictures can treasure them but keep them as something special for themselves. The bragging and look what I’ve got is understandable but is as unpleasant and disrespectful as people taking pictures of victims in accidents.
      I have a very strong feeling and POV about this and can’t find a valid argument in their position.
      If I had spent hours in cutting and sowing and creating something and suddenly I see it on Twitter shown to the world totally out of context I would be disappointed and angry. Their two seconds of “fame” or joy or whatever you want to call do not justify such disrespect and your comparison to the Mona Lisa is right on point.
      Little glimpses for us fans YES, tiny tidbits and partial images to tease and let us wonder and marvel about OF COURSE and YES PLEASE but others than official press releases with your permission I find inacceptable. It is not about us or what we want -and let’s be honest whatever pictures you might show us they will never be enough and people still would want and claim for more- but about the show and the piece of art it is in its whole and that includes the costumes who belong to the characters and specific scenes.
      And to compare it to something most people could relate to:
      Do you really want to receive your so much wanted and desired Christmas gift November the 5th and then when it’s actually Christmas sitting there with empty hands? The value of things goes along with desire and time, the more you have to wait the bigger the joy is, when it’s finally there. Those who do not appreciate that fact grow up!
      Or if you care so much go into producing shows yourself and see how you feel about copyright, property of your own work and see if you want someone to steel it from you and use it for his own egoistic and narcissist purposes.
      And if you don’t like the way the production team is handling things well watch others shows in the meantime and bite your time like the rest of us.
      Name me 5 others prod*-teams that are so open to fans and communicate and dialog and discuss things while at the same time being under constant pressure to fulfill a workload that most people are forgetting about. I love to talk about things with Terry and read all those discussions she has but those minutes spent on TW FB etc. are time off production or rare brake moments or private time and we should appreciate that and not bicker about it.
      Nobody obliges her and her team to give us time or pics or tidbits so when somebody offers you something say thank you and be happy about it.
      We are IMO very privileged that Ron& Terry give us access to the whole process and so many intimate moments and thoughts and we should value it and not spoil it.
      Sorry if that sounds harsh but just because TW FB etc. is a virtual world that doesn’t mean it’s a world where everything is free and due to anybody.
      I wish those who bicker put the fact of showing pics of costumes in prospective of their own work. Never prepared a project, a presentation, wrote a paper or build something of your own? Imagine how you would feel if a colleague or so called friend distributed it on Twitter claiming that he did it because he was a fan and therefore wanted it to share it “with the world”. I bet you wouldn’t like that either!
      So why should the team and Terry be cool about it or share your POV?!
      I think communal appreciation or social media appreciation is a nice thing but it has its limits and if you can’t respect them you are just selfish and not a true fan.
      I want to see season 2, having Claire in Versailles walking into the hall of mirrors (a place I have been more than 20 times myself and still be overwhelmed every time), lit with thousands of candles and have a first look at her costume putt in context and perfectly made for this one scene and marvel how well the light, the camera-angle, the composition of the frame for this scene supports her astounding acting craft and be blown away be the scene as a whole. I want to be overwhelmed by it and so transported into this world that has been created.
      I do want to see that saffron dress and think ”ah well yes I saw that dress a couple of month ago, hm looks nice in the castle with all the people around..”
      We all are used to movies to be protected by law and with great efforts in order to not have early releases etc why should that be any different for a TV show? Especially one that is produces like a big movie?
      So Terry and the team many many thanks for all the wonderful work you all are putting into the costumes, I admire you all very much -being unable to correctly stich a button back to a blouse myself- for the love and passion you have for your craft!
      I am grateful for all the tidbits you so kindly share with us and the time you offer us when talking on TW etc.
      Wish you a lot of energy and endurance for the next couple of months until season 2 is completed!

    2. c10_ali

      While I do not know you personally, I had typed and then deleted a message to you several times during the Twitter conversations. I was just going to tell you how much I enjoyed your interactions with the fans and how lucky we ALL are considering everyone is so lovely and gracious to us. And that any photos or info you all shared was not expected but greatly appreciated! I don’t know when any of you sleep because you are so busy working but you still take time out of your personal lives to include the fans in everything. It’s as if we/the fans are part of the Outlander family and I can honestly say I’ve never followed another show that did that, EVER!. I never expect anything when a show isn’t on the air so between the posts, the contests, etc I have been enjoying interacting with new people and I haven’t forgotten about Outlander at all. I don’t understand the business so I don’t know if PR makes or breaks a show. I fear too much PR would take away from the great fan interaction we have going right now. I’ve watched Season 1 several times (okay i fast forward through To Ransom a Man’s Soul/certain parts once was enough for me). Each time I focus on something new. First time the story line, next time facial expressions/body movements, the scenery/set, next time gaelic spoken, etc. You learn something new every time you watch an episode. I watched episodes Sassenach through the Wedding again last night. This time after having checked out your blog I focused on the costumes (specifically the wedding dress). Knowing what it looks like up close as well as how much labor had to be put into creating it made me appreciate it so much more than I would had I not been following you on Twitter and reading your blog. The Jugglers costume is so beautiful but of course when i watched the episode previously I noticed it but didn’t really give it a second thought. I’ll be paying closer attention when I re-watch that episode this week because of the beautiful photos you have shared with us. You and those working with you deserve an award for the magnificent creations you’ve come up with. Of course when Season 2 comes out I’ll need to watch it more than once to appreciate the costumes as I’ll be focusing on the story line first. (okay I’ll be honest, I”ll be focusing on Sam first)! thanks for everything you do

  4. nolakate

    i have a copy of Hollywood History by Edward Maeder, and the Janet Arnold books. it is fascinating to see how closely your costumes follow the original designs. Maeder’s book touches a bit on your essay: explaining how the current fashion style affects the costumes – most particularly the 1920s. if a show set in the 20s doesn’t have the forehead covered, a few of us know you didn’t check the history. and vice versa, shows filmed in the 20s DO have the forehead of cleopatra .covered! I know I don’t have to look for zippers in Outlander!

    have no idea what kind of doofus has to argue on Twitter. I think it must an abomination i8nented for fools. all TV shows have a hiatus – who’s complaining the Hawaii 5-0 has no spoilers during the hiatus? some people have no life. rant of twitter over. thank you so much
    for your designing – I hope your designs result in doll series like Gone With the WInd; meantime I occupy myself making doll dresses myself!

    (I posted my CLaire and Jamie dolls on one of the forums earlier this year)

  5. AngelaS

    I agree completely Terry. I feel that costuming when done well, is as much a part of the show as the characters, script and set and the costuming you and your team do is extraordinary. So I tend to avoid looking at the spoilers whenever possible. If I’m missing the show I will re-read the books but I don’t want anything spoiled for me I want to enjoy the show as a whole and take it how it is presented. If I see snippets along the way I find myself watching for those details and analyzing them too much.

  6. melaniedresbachwarman

    Thanks for your thoughtful response to the topic of costuming as an integral part of the character’s story. I remember the time that “fashion” dominated costuming. I groaned each time that I saw this, and my experience of the film or program was diminished. It was probably around this same time that I was drawn to productions by BBC, since the attitudes around authenticity seemed to be quite different.

    The issue of revealing costume images in advance of the presentation is, as you noted, about instant gratification. I will admit to occasionally “binge” watching several episodes of something that engages me but I could live without it because I have lived without it. It’s probably a generational issue. We are becoming more and more expectant of immediate satisfaction of even the most mundane things.

    I guess that this demand for anything Outlander during the “drought” is the curse of success. Your costumes are amazing, and I admit that I re-watch episodes just to take closer looks at the visual feast of the production values, most especially the clothing. Thank you.

  7. chrisjanaan

    It makes me sad when you endure abuse & criticism online. I feel very fortunate when you, Ron & the rest of the Outlander cast & crew share anything with us, the fans. I have never followed a show that has given us such access. Thank you for all that you do!

  8. katejlongo

    Terry, as we all know,
    “You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time”.”.
    What you have helped a lot of “outside the business” people understand is the connection between your groups beautiful costuming, the characters and how it all fits together. I personally want to thank you. You are a gracious woman and to even let us see glimpses of your work for “Outlander” is above and beyond.
    Drama belongs on the big screen or the little screen not in social media.
    Thank you.

  9. Purl99

    There is always a party pooper in everything…although I do not have a problem with knowing the ending or “spoiler” if you will., heck I always read the last page of a book first! 😉 I can see where this might be frustrating for the artist and understand that.
    Thank you again for bringing the costumes to life and your husband for bringing the characters to life.

  10. Connie Sandlin

    Once again, THANK YOU for educating us. It is enlightening as well as mind-and heart-expanding to learn and understand someone’s point of view, the reasons for their actions and statements. I appreciate so very much that you take the time to help us understand! I feel we are very privileged to have you as a mentor as we take this journey into the realization of Jamie & Claire’s story.

    Thanks, once again, also for the tidbits you share on Twitter.

  11. viveka

    Hi Terry!

    I think i’m in a difficult position, because while I understand your point of view, and agree that your costumes are an integral part of the characters and describe them soo well (you have succeeded in that!), I can also understand the fans point of view.. I’m one of those who absolutely loved seeing the photos posted yesterday from the shooting in Prague, because it whet my appetite, reminded me why I love the show so much (your fantastic work is a huge part of that) and just made me want season 2 to get here that much sooner.. I think that if Starz/someone working on the show posted that kind of photos it would go a long way to satisfying the fans’ “need” or wish to see what’s going on, while also keeping “unauthorized” pictures from spreading the way that they do.. Curious if this kind of setup would feel more okay for you?

    Love you (though I don’t really know you) and your work!

    1. Terry Dresbach Post author

      Well, it would be exactly the same wouldn’t it? I understand people like to see things, and that is why I post all the pics I do, to keep people feeling engaged. But it is not enough, I guess.

      1. viveka

        well, in a way, yes, because we as fans would still get to see what’s going on and get pumped up about the new season, but I’m thinking if it was the team that posted them, you could get input and more power about what was going out (as well as not getting the heat you get on twitter (which you don’t deserve).. I’m not sure if more power over what goes out would change anything for you, it was just a thought on how to maybe compromise..

        1. Terry Dresbach Post author

          Thanks for your thoughtful questions. No, it wouldn’t change anything, I don’t think. And what if it did. One of the trickiest things one has to navigate is design by committee. We often have to manage the input of LOTS of people connected with the show, who usually don’t know anything about costumes. It’s difficult.
          What would it be like if studios and networks started taking fan input? Which fans? Would all the fans agree as one solid voice? What if they were completely wrong?
          What if everyone wanted the men in leather trousers?????????? LOL

          1. viveka

            Hi Terry!

            First, love that you’re actually answering, kind of a fangirl moment!
            Well, I certainly didn’t mean that you should take fan input into consideration, I realize that the opinions of anyone not involved in production is pretty much insignificant at this point.
            It’s really just something that I’ve been thinking of, if it would be a kind of middle road between your tidbits and the fans taking photos and sharing, for you/someone in the team to share bigger pictures (maybe of fittings or whatever) to minimize the risk of fans taking photos during filming and posting online.. The thing I’m thinking is that no one wants you to feel upset or unappreciated, which seems to be the result of these photos, and for you to decide what is shared (like you do with the tidbits) and thereby having the power could help..
            I have no idea if I’m making any sense or if my thinking is anywhere near correct, this is just things that go through my head, but like I said, I don’t expect you to take this into consideration, my opinion (or the opinion of anyone else in the fandom) doesn’t really hold any weight in this..
            Anyway, even though I loved seeing the photos this weekend, I wan’t you to know that I love your work, and seeing the photos won’t stop me from pausing and zooming and whatnot when the show airs to look at your amazing work!

      2. sselhtur

        For some, it will never be enough. And it is all about them…”I want it, and I want it NOW!” And most, I suspect, don’t appreciate the costumes so much as they want to moon over their favorite star who is wearing them. Please ignore the thoughtless, disrespectful ones and continue to do your wonderful work.

        This piece has educated me about costume design and the incredible amount of historical research and artistry goes into each outfit, each scene and each episode. It boggles my mind. Your abilities and energy likely are not going to be appreciated by the average Twitter-er who possesses a 140 character or less attention span. My heart goes out to you.

      3. Kiddo_13

        Hi Terry, I think it’s more than enough! I love waiting to see the costumes/hairstyles/sets in their full effect on the show! All adds to the excitement of it! It’s like when a movie trailer is like 2.5 mins long! They practically show the full film in it!

      4. libperry

        From a different view, I think it _is_ enough. I have been reading the books for over twenty years and know what it’s like to just get tidbits on compuserve forums and daily lines from Diana Gabaldon. I look at your costume designing the same way. I love the little bits here and there as it builds the anticipation for the next season. Too much and it’s like getting too much of the next book. I enjoy the element and beauty of surprise. My mother made period costumes for a while and is quite an accomplished quilter and pattern editor, so I _know_ how long it takes to create and make something as magnificent as you and your team are doing. I would just like to sit on a stool in the corner of the room and absorb the ambience of the work going on (maybe that will happen some day–a girl can dream. I do know how to sew on buttons). 🙂 I say keep on keeping on with how you are doing things. Sometimes fandom can be a blessed/cursed thing.

      5. catethomas

        As a former theatre director/producer and dramaturg, I fully agree with your statements about when and how the character’s costumes should be revealed. Costumes are designed (if designed well and properly by the designer) as an integral part of the directorial vision of the play (in theatre) and as an integral part of creating the world of the film/TV show so to remove them from the context of the venue in which they were designed to be seen removes a lot of their meaning. I firmly believe that costumes, especially for a historical show such as Outlander, should be revealed in the context of the story otherwise it’s just clothing and may as well be stuck on a hanger in some boutique somewhere.

        Social media has unfortunately made spoilt children of so many people: “I want and I want now . . .” seems to be the refrain of many hence the insatiable demand for details of every aspect of the production and everyone connected to it (Twitter feed of Jamie’s horse anyone?). Outlander’s fan base is as rabid as the best of them which in turn leads to huge pressure on the studio and the producers to feed the machine just in case the fans wander off and get distracted by some other shiny bauble. Which creates the need for the drip feed of spoilers. When the studio and producers run out of juicy tidbits on the actors (and with the professionalism of the cast they aren’t feeding the machine by falling drunk and half naked out of nightclubs every night) so the studio casts around for anything and everything else to feed the fan base.

        As the costumes on Outlander are superb so they are a logical avenue for spoilers. If everyone was running around in rags I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t find the same clamour for the costumes. Terry’s comments about the industry so often reducing the costumes on a show to mere fashion are, in some ways, merely an extension of the marketing obsession of the studios. If what is seen on screen is just fashion then what the characters wear (or a reasonable facsimile thereof) can be picked up by the fan at their local mall which will then cement their obsession with the show, boost viewing figures and thus studio execs bonus pots.

        Humans express themselves in the 21st Century by the clothing they wear. It defines our “tribe”, how we see ourselves or how we want the world to see us. We have moved beyond the need for clothing to keep us warm and dry to it becoming mere decoration and expression of identity. We no longer buy clothing because we need it, we buy it because we want it, because we believe it will make us feel better about ourselves and will make us belong to the cool/glamourous set we yearn to belong to.

        In the mid 17th Century, clothing served a very different purpose because you couldn’t nip to the local mall to pick up the latest gear with your weekly paycheque. Back then clothing was handmade and depending on your social status it was either made by you, your family or a local seamstress. The clothing you wore defined your social and financial status as well as your familial or clan affiliations. It was made out of local materials because unless you were very wealthy you couldn’t afford to import exotic fabrics. The difference in costumes between Seasons 1 and 2 will naturally reflect where the characters are (though somehow I can’t see Murtagh adopting the fripperies of the French court) and their roles within that society.

        So many of the interviews with the actors all express their admiration for the costumes and how they have helped the actor to find the character they are portraying because the costumes are an essential part of that process. Tobias Menzies in particular is clear that the very different costumes for Jack and Frank helped him to find the differences between the two characters. You can also notice the differences with Caitriona Balfe in the different era costumes we see her in. If you wear a corset you stand, differently, hold yourself differently, walk differently and sit differently than you do in more modern clothing. Men wearing kilts tend to move differently to men in trousers or breeches. Wearing a uniform again makes you stand and move in a different manner to wearing civilian clothes. If the costumes in Outlander were mere fashion, the actors’ performances would be noticeably diminished and the world of the show would not be as satisfying for the audience.

      6. fatratpat

        Having had a career in costuming/wardrobe for 30 years it is a joy to see a show so well conceived, lovingly done, historically accurate, and fiercely protected. It is a point unrealized by most of the viewing public that business is business and getting the basics of the complications of the trials of that business off your chest is unique to this time in costuming history. The volume of work, physical, organizational, and mental needed for producing the costumes for this show is daunting. I can’t imagine the number of racks of clothing that accumulated by the end of season 1 that won’t see the light of day again until the last half of season 2, maybe. Most likely they fill half a gymnasium somewhere in Scotland. So while you are steeped in the wonders of the french court in 1740, a part of your brain is worrying if the damp in storage is growing mold on dozens of highlander boots or if the moths are getting to the woolens( well that might just add another level of character history.)
        I most appreciate your frustrations and desire to have your work unfolded over time to the public in the form it is meant to be, on screen. As many fans are avid readers of the series, perhaps they can relate to the concept that flipping to the end of the book can spoil an ending that an author has labored 800 pages to create. Seeing photos of your designs in advance is a similar situation. You have created a story visually that wants to be revealed and grown upon scene by scene. That also is revealed in movement on film rather than in hastily snapped off screen badly framed stills.

  12. ellenchristine

    Not so much “communal ownership” from my point of view, but more akin to communal appreciation. When people come into my studio, just next to our showroom, they stand fixated on whatever bit of fluff has captured their attention. They express awe and wonder at the process, once described. It adds to the popular perceived value quotient and aids in building our brand somehow. When you release your tidbits, they are bits of a story, indeed, and some of us do not need to read the whole page or listen to the whole treatise at once. The bits are enough to whet, stimulate and keep us salivating. Perhaps some need more, direct , confrontational hit-on-the-head pages of history, but in my learning process, as a designer, the historical bits, the geographical inspirations, the architectural references all become part of my inner dialogue. Who else would understand that excerpted language but my doppelganger? Not the public at large. The designers of the world admire, if I can use such a humble word to express our sentiment, and respect you and your process. Do some fans need spoon-feeding? Yes. But not all. some of us thrill at the process, speaking each new word out of context until the entire story is revealed. And then, what wonder! How thrilling will be that moment? The chills rush through my veins even now. Hype? Not necessary, but for the fractured, instant- gratification crowd, who constantly hammer at the gate to be let in, we, the costume, language, music, director, cinematographic – philes live for the day when the reveal becomes the moment of Cellini’s St. Theresa. Glorious.

  13. lisatooes

    Wonderful Terry. Thank you for this thoughtful honest piece. Your craft is a gift not just to you and those working with you. But to all who relish seeing how those creations help create and enhance character and story. It’s a pleasure to see those creations. Anticipation for the return of the series and to see the costumes is high. I love that waiting personally. Makes it part of the excitement. I always enjoy and am enlighten by the writings on your blog. Again thank you.

  14. Missvickie

    Twitter confounds me so I confess I had no idea this was going on. But thank you for explaining your thoughts (and passion!) in such a clear, concise and contextual way. As a fangirl (woman), I completely understand that fans are starved for more information, but there is a lot to do while we wait for the show to return. We can read the books (again, for some of us!), watch the show (again, for some of us), read books about the time period, watch other shows about the time period (Poldark is slightly later and is quite awesome, and the books are good, too). There is a lot of good entertainment out there, and a whole lot of Outlander in particular. I think we’ll survive.

    My point is that you (I mean the collective you, including the actors) don’t “owe” us anything, other than to continue to produce the creative marvel that is Outlander, just as you’ve been doing. I’m sure we can all live through “droughtlander” without sneak peaks (not that they aren’t delicious). I think in the giveittomenow social media environment we live in, people feel somehow that they need to have their love of a show fed. It’s just not true. And since the costumes are your work, your gift to us, I believe you should have the last word in how — or when — they are brought to the public.

    Hang in there. I understood your post loud and clear (and the Da Vinci part made me snort) and support you wholeheartedly.

  15. kladislaus

    Dear Terry,

    Happy to say I wasn’t involved in the most recent Twittergate. But I have been in past and found it necessary to block some of those fans that take the argument too far and way too personal. Twitter is not a suitable forum in which to have meaningful discussion. For someone like myself who forgets not everyone knows me, often my sarcastic, shot from the hip remarks lead to unintended insult and misunderstandings. Some more easily resolved than others.

    What I find myself increasingly pondering, is the obsession and in some cases, outright stalking of the television production. Yesterday there was again an explosion of fans that just happened to be in Prague and came across a film location for Outlander. How lucky for them. Or was it luck? I understand how exciting it is to boast to the world, but I don’t think a lot of fans realize what they are doing by posting pictures of Sam or Cait in costume.

    Hopefully word of your wonderful post regarding the role of costume in a production will spread and perhaps fans might think carefully before posting their pictures.


  16. LindaMordan

    I could liken it to a surprise party. No one throwing the surprise would want their birthday girl (or boy) to find out ahead of time. If they do, well, it will still be a great party, and the person will feel loved, but a part of the joy will be taken away for the hosts and the guest will know that a big hurrah will go up when they walk in the door, so their joy is dimmed just a bit as well.
    A wonderful time will be had by all, but it’s bittersweet to know the element of surprise is gone. (Spoken as someone who tried to throw her sister a party but the beans were spilled accidentally.)

  17. mttk28

    I really appreciate your technical posts about the creative process. I love reading about the challenges of all those buttons and shoes! Please keep posting tidbits and details.

    Your costumes do tell the story and establish characters. I can’t wait to see the S2 costumes, but I am very happy to wait to view the completed production.

    And then, maybe next summer, you will ship some of those costumes back to The Grove in LA and I will once again be able to wonder at your beautiful work in person!

  18. woolfarmgal

    Well…another reason I have abandoned Twitter….how tiresome for you. I appreciate you sharing your take of the struggles you face with all the pushback. I think the Mona Lisa analogy is brilliant. Stick to your guns and your principles. I for one, want to be surprised as the story is revealed as it airs…or when I can purchase it on DVD…as I don’t subscribe to Starz. It is like getting a peak at your Christmas packages, destroys the experience of the surprise. And I look forward to a closer look at the costumes after the airing. I enjoy your creative process. I enjoy the historical connection as to why characters wear what they wear. I do what I do because I simply love textiles and what goes into creating them. So I start at the bottom…I raise sheep, process wool..angora..mohair…weave, knit..design patterns…felt,.embroider..dye..I do it all…mostly for the experience of it and as a creative outlet. So what you do fascinates me. So I thank you for your insight, including the challenges you face.

  19. S. A. Young

    Of course costumes and costume design are part of story-telling. It’s sad and disheartening that you would have to make this point. Perhaps I’m in the minority, but I pay very close attention to the choices a costume designer makes. A waitress in $700 shoes is a “speed bump” and will take me right out of the story (and it certainly doesn’t make me rush out to buy a pair).
    This is one of the reasons I am so enamored of your work on “Outlander”. Your attention to detail and (whenever possible) historical accuracy is evident from what we can see, but also from what it helps the actors and thereby us, know about the story and about their characters. That’s true of everyone in a scene from the extras to the principles.
    One of the things that sets “Outlander” apart from other “period” shows or even feature films, are the high production values. Your work, from the design to the execution, is integral to that.
    I can’t lie, I love seeing sneak peeks at the costumes for the upcoming season. Knowing how very different they are from season 1 and the fabrics and colors that will be used to help delineate the two, is cause for excitement. That said, it’s not up to me when and where I get to see them. If you, as chief Costume Designer, want to keep them under-wraps then that’s where they should stay and we should be happy with the tidbits and teases we’re given. Just like a scriptwriter doesn’t want his script leaked and why directors and producers don’t want footage leaked, if we recognize that the costumes are an important component of the story-telling, then we need to respect your desire not to have them released in their entirety. Until we see them in “action” we can’t comprehend exactly what they’re meant to convey. Until we are allowed up close and personal glimpses, as when a select group of costumes was publicly displayed, we can’t comprehend exactly what kind of painstaking work went into creating them.
    After everything is said and done, I certainly respect your decision to go underground, as it were, by removing yourself from social media. Once something is “out there”, it’s out there and for better or (usually) worse, it is no longer under your control. Trying to put the cow back in the barn is like playing “Whack-a-mole”, to really mix my metaphors.
    I do, however, hope you know that any sharing done by “Outlander” fans, was done out of love. (Or most was. There are always going to be crazies. They are the moles of which I spoke.)
    I look forward to continued posts and behind-the-scenes glimpses shared here on your blog, and most especially, to seeing your work “in action” in season 2.

    1. Terry Dresbach Post author

      Thank you!
      I am going to stay on Twitter. I really enjoy it and this is not something that will drive me off. But I do want to create a robust and thriving environment for those who do not want to be spoiled. One of the things that became very clear in the past few days, is that there are many who want to participate in Outlander community, but do not want to see things ahead of the season. So I would love to offer them something of a haven.
      I absolutely recognise the love, excitement and enthusiasm of Outlander fans in seeing and sharing photos.

  20. SusannahStrong

    Hi, Terry! I’ve been following you on Twitter for awhile now and excuse me for a moment…..(shaking off the Twitter word confinement with considerable relief). Ok, that’s better. I’m new to all this because I’m old so it was quite a shock for me to join Twitter but I did it because of Outlander. Then I happened upon you and you are like a wonderful breath of fresh air (plus I fell in love with Cuilean but who wouldn’t). So this forum thing…great idea as it provides the ability for everyone to complete a full sentence and a full thought. I really don’t know much about costumes to be sure but I know what’s good…and you are really good at what you do. So although I can’t contribute much it would be my pleasure to be an encourager of yours. Carry on, my dear, because what you do matters to a lot of people (and Outlander people really are a special group of lovely spirits because otherwise Outlander would not have resonated with them). LOL as they say.

  21. Aimee

    I love the stories you weave your costumes. And though I marvel at the exquisite intricacies of the formal clothing, I reveal in the the ordinary day-to-day costumes you design for the characters. Those are always my favourite. You can see the lives of those people in the clothes they wear. Their story whispers its secrets in the folds of cloth, the ragged hem, the threadbare shirt.

    A love for Outlander has been a slow burn for me. Many times over the years I had tried to read the books – to no avail. My Scottish love affair was with the Lymond Chronicles by Dorothy Dunnett, a Scottish historian and writer. I fell in love with Outlander, the TV series. From the opening credits I was hooked and when Clair stepped out of the car in her 1940’s clothing, well I was swept away. But. I am not a fan that needs sneak peaks, teasers, or glimpses of the crew on location. Indeed all the teasers that were part of the promotion for the second half of the first season actually took away from my viewing experience. So I failed back my participation in all Outlander-related social media.

    I want to be surprised. I want to be swept away. I want to experience that creative process in its totality. And I will be, as I’ve not seen or read one single thing about DIA.

    As for Twitter, after the storm at the end of last season, I decided that forum was not for me. I miss your insights about the production and costume design process, but I get bits and pieces of that on this blog. And the pleasure of reading a thoughtful essay, for me, far surpasses any instant gratification I may get from Twitter.

    As someone who is a textile fanatic (whether it be knitting, weaving, embroidery, sewing, or spinning) I love the passion you have for your craft and am grateful for the pieces you share. 🙂

  22. JulieC

    Hi Terry,

    I LOVE the fact that you let us in on the creative process! I enjoy seeing how the costumes are made as well as the intricate details that are hard to see on screen. That was my first reason to follow you on Twitter (as well as follow Liz Boulton). However, they are storytelling works of art and as an artist myself, I respect the fact that you want to wait until a piece is finished before it is made public – you are the creator and it should be your choice (or Sony’s or Starz’s…). SM has changed how we get information, how we interact with people – even how we think (the average human now has an attention span of 8 seconds – a goldfish, 9 seconds – source: Statistic Brain / Microsoft). I see the value in crowdfunding, but not necessarily crowdthinking. It’s a growing trend in my industry – involving the client in the creative process. IMO though, it has bastardized my craft. I went through years of schooling and training, honing my skills. I just want to scream “I’m the expert” when a client reduces my skills via a flippant comment, thinking he can do just the same.

    I am very happy to see the OL cast and crew interacting with fans. The OL fandom appears to be a very loyal one – fiercely protective at times (I am celebrating my 1 year OL anniversary myself). I am flabbergasted at how much money is raised for the star’s charities. However, this past week, I witnessed the ugly side of the fandom, from bullying on Twitter to posting spoilers, to shoving people to get close to the stars. I thought we were all adults… I seriously thought of abandoning SM related to the show. While Prague must be thrilled with the tourism boost, I felt sad for Sam, Cait and the rest of the crew who are just trying to make something great for us. I know you can’t shut down a city and you have to have a certain limelight, but you can try to respect people and their right to privacy.

    For fans demanding more official PR, I can tell you that SM is the new PR: Sony and Starz probably could not dream up something better. Not all stars are willing to interact at the same level as Sam and Cait – especially Sam! The fans keep the show top of mind by voting for those infernal online polls (yes, I got sucked in), creating their own merchandise and attending fan expos in huge numbers.. For some shows, the drought between seasons is a much longer one (GoT, Doctor Who and Sherlock, anyone)? So we as OL fans should be happy with what we have. I really mourn the loss of surprise that the Internet has brought. I also dread a world of “citizen journalism” where anyone can post something about you, unchecked, and call it news.

    So all that said, thank you Terry for your tidbits about costumes and mostly your willingness to discuss a wide range of topics. That has become my #1 reason for following you on SM and I truly appreciate the honour of being able to interact with you. All the best for S2 and as a fan, I really, really hope for a S3 (and beyond)!

  23. bwismer5

    Dear Terry, I’d like to add my comment just to let you know how joyfully I welcome each and every one of your posts. I have learned so much and appreciate so much more of the process of costume design. And I am so grateful for your attention to historical accuracy – and that includes Ron and the whole team, really. I want to add my voice to those of your followers who say we are simply grateful for your sharing of the process, and whatever little details you care to share. Personally, I enjoy seeing close-up the little bits and pieces – some embroidery here, a fabric’s draping there. I always think of Dylan Thomas and ‘I am a draper, mad with love…..” when I think of you, Terry! You have the full appreciation for all the fabrics, etc. We are just grateful for whatever you wish to share with us and if others want more, why, that’s their problem, isn’t it?

  24. lmarkum

    Thank you for the insight. I alway look forward to your “tidbits” and have also liked seeing the posted fan photos taken during shooting. I didn’t really think about them being in or out of context before, but now I understand. Somehow I don’t think DaVinci would have shared his progress on the Mona Lisa for comments during his process 🙂

    So glad you are able to do your job as it is intended on Outlander- costume design and character creation that serves the story. And I’m grateful for this forum and your generosity in giving us glimpses of what is in store.

  25. larrouxgirl

    I daresay one of THE most important parts. Ask any actor in a period piece, and he/she will tell you they don’t truly arrive in that period until they don the costume. Fans are spoiled children, many of them. (Sorry. I suppose that politically incorrect, but so be it.)

  26. KimTBarnesCPA

    The details (intricacies) that Terry shares just blow me away. It’s pure craftsmanship. For me, the costumes are part of the story but the pace of the show doesn’t let me linger enough to appreciate all the wonderful details. And when I rewatch to see what I missed, the hubs teases me (lovingly) about my Obsessanach tendencies. ;-). I created a TW account years ago at the urging of the company I worked for back then. But I started using TW BC I discover Outlander a year ago (and devoured the books and the binge watched the first 8eps. So here I am now, plaguing you all with my confessional. Thanks to the admins/Terry for this site!

  27. rphelan

    Terry, thank you for investing your time, talent and phenomenal imagination and creativity in each and every costume on the show. I was listening to podcasts from the Outlander series recently and thoroughly enjoyed your and Ron’s conversation about the costumes in Episode 7. So much thought goes into creating that “just right” bit of costuming whether it is that magnificent wedding gown or the awesome undergarments that go with it. I am completely blown away by your creations.
    When you shared close-up photos of Hugh Munroe’s costume, I found myself trying to visualize how a piece like that even held together. He looked exactly as I had pictured him from the books…a walking pile of rags! But what rags!!! That costume defined Hugh, just as you intended.
    Bless you for sharing so much with the fans of the books as well as the show. Do you “owe” us anything more? I would exclaim a resounding NO. I appreciate your considerable (truly Emmy-worthy) talent and believe you deserve to make your own decisions regarding how, when, and where your creations should be revealed. I, for one, would rather leave you in peace to allow your creativity to expand than demand you fulfill someone’s desire to be the first kid on the block who has seen the latest and brightest new thing.
    I love your work Terry and look forward to Season 2 (and hopefully well beyond).

  28. @punkiBrenda

    I refuse to twitter bicker……hmm like that! Its all good I will just say I LOVE ALL that goes into what you and entire Outlander team does to bring us the fans our favorite best books to life. You know how I feel nothing has changed appreciate, respect all you do and have to say you are a very gracious lady to give of your time and incredible talent to all of us so with that THANK YOU and much love your way………

  29. Becky U

    Terry, First of all, Thank you for this blog! I am so pleased that you have it here and only joined recently though but have perused it many times for referencing over the last several months. I really feel that you and your team do work very hard to create such gorgeous and period accurate costuming that gives the fans a rich and realistic feel for the periods represented by the Outlander stories. I for one am thrilled to see your “tidbits” on twitter or Facebook and sad that when something is leaked, that it creates a dismay for you. Being a costume creator in miniature, I relish your blog, your tidbits with the detail. Please keep the bits coming so that we can enjoy and anticipate the full impact of the costuming in the future episodes!!! My dream job? being an assistant to a costume designer such as you!

  30. Hadley_LP

    Wow! So many great comments & thoughts here. I have to admit that I waffle daily. Between being amazed at the artistry when the costumes appear, wanting to know more about the production and yet being afraid that knowing too much might spoil the magic of the reveal in seeing them before they are meant to be seen. I don’t really think that I can add much in the way to decide anyone’s opinion beyond myself because my own position on this changes from moment to moment. I’m torn.

    I do want to say how much I enjoy the creative team’s willingness to engage with the Outlander community. I also love that you are a fan of the book series and are willing share the tidbits with us. Getting to see into the process of creation and the detail involved is a treat. I appreciate everything that you and team do to bring Outlander to life.

    Thank you!

  31. mmbrock2014

    I’m an artist and have admired your work since “Carnivale”. I make wearable art in micro-macrame and make most my own beads with polymer clay. The history of fashion and the art of adornment have always fascinated me. I’ve been following your blog and don’t always have something to say however when I do I have a voice. I would love to join your tea.

  32. Katiscotch22

    Thanks Terry I can only imagine how annoying it is for you when costumes are revealed before they are shown within the context of the TV episode. In so many ways social media has taken over our lives and people think they have a right to know everything a.s.a.p. I’m as eager as any other fan to see your wonderful creations but didn’t understand your take on the “spoiler” photo’s until now.

  33. manotherm

    I’m happy no matter….. I like seeing the verra up close sneak peeks by you or even shots from the show that show the whole ensemble that someone got with a cell phone. BUT…… what I really love? When you post that big ass picture of the completed outfit on the character or just on a mannequin and we get to see it waaaaaaaay close! And you go into detail on how it was made, why you did this or that… that’s what I wait for………the Terry view! So just keep doing what you’re doing….. just thankful you share what you do, and make us fans a part of it all!

    1. Wow, you took the words right out of my mouth!!! I wholeheartedly agree…..there is nothing better than that “big-ass picture”, those up close images of detail that just make my fingers tingle. Only thing better would be to touch them! So thanks, Terry, for driving us all a bit crazy:)

  34. tammymac

    Costumes as part of the story….your post brought to mind some of the fab costumes from Gone with the Wind and their part in telling the story….Scarlett in her white crinolines at the beginning, all innocence and frivolousness (is that a word?) and then the wonderful green velvet dress made from the curtains, showing not only how low Scarlett had become but also her residence and resourcefulness. And from your own work, when Claire slips out of her twentieth century smalls and is trussed up by Mrs Fitz, you realise how different this world is from her own, and my favourite costume..Claire wrapped up safe, travelling in Jamie’s plaid (and love) after Cranesmuir. I think the massive problem here is that SM. and the Internet have created the culture of instant gratification, we want it and we want it NOW! The fact that that people are willing to become so nasty over your wanting to protect the integrity of your work defies belief…really people you can’t wait six months? I love the tidbits you post, I wonder who their for and which scene, and from reading your blogs I really appreciate the enormous amount of work that is required to create these amazing costumes! I’m as eager as anyone for season 2, but the the anticipation, to me, is part of the fun…anything worth having is worth waiting for ( as my old Nan used to say). To me the fact that the show takes so long to make is reflective of the quality of the finished product, if it only took a couple of months we wouldn’t have the show we love! SM is creating a lot of ugliness and possessiveness, I honestly can’t bring myself to read a lot of the comments people make. I’m sorry that you have to deal with the negativity, but I’d like to believe for every irrational, nasty commenter there are 50 more simply enjoying your fabulous work!

  35. @auntbabs74

    One of the downfalls of SM (especially TW) is there is a limited amount of characters and it makes it difficult for one to express their opinions without the “shitstorm.” I enjoyed reading Terry’s blog. I also enjoyed reading the responses. It is great to read responses that are supported with logic and reasoning.

  36. fleetinglogic

    I’m a writer, and always appreciate those who put storytelling first, especially appreciating how everyone involved in a movie (sometimes) contributes their part to enhance the story. As soon as I see a character who is ostensibly living off minimum wage but can afford expensive designer clothes and live in, for example, a massive exquisitely-decorated Manhattan apartment, it pulls me from the story.

    I appreciated Quentin Tarantino’s comments in a recent Vulture.com article (you can google it) where he compares the films The Fighter to The Town, and talks about the casting in The Town, how the story doesn’t hold up because everyone cast was gorgeous. “…next to The Fighter, it just couldn’t hold up, because everybody in The Town is beyond gorgeous….the crook is absolutely gorgeous. The bank teller is absolutely gorgeous. The FBI guy is absolutely gorgeous. The town whore, Blake Lively, is absolutely gorgeous…. if you look at The Fighter, and you look at those sisters, they’re just so magnificent. When you see David O. Russell cast those sisters, and you see Ben Affleck cast Blake Lively, you can’t compare the two movies. One just shows how phony the other is.”

    Terry and her husband are the increasingly rare, smart, insightful, discerning AND gifted storytellers, and Hollywood seems to increasingly emphasize the pretty shiny object over any attempt at story. I’ve been blown away by what Terry and her husband and their team have done to tell Gabaldon’s stories. To have such an intelligent woman lend her talents to these stories of the time travels of the intelligent Claire is exceptional good fortune. Kudos to her, and to her husband for realizing it and bringing her back.

  37. sheliadene

    Wow. Fans can be Beasts. In this day and time, fan appreciation gets highjacked by fan bi polar disorder. I love the costumes you and crew create. I want to experience them during the story Ron gives us. I want to relish the Costumes the actors we love and admire are wearing as we are all transported back in time, TOGETHER.
    I do not need to be first, I do not need a scoop with pictures. I want you and your crew to love what you do, everyday. That kind of Fan is out here. We patiently wait and watch. Greatful for your glimpses. Happy to have Outlander on our screens AT ALL.
    Not long ago, we didn’t even have a prayer of seeing our long loved books on screen! How quickly FANS forget.
    Just wanted to say. Just let me be worthy!

  38. Blacklanderz™

    Some people just go too far on social media; it’s really sad. This is what we love about you, Terry. We appreciate your insight and it makes a lot of sense. We also appreciate you letting us into your world. We are so in awe of you and your creativity.

  39. LisaW

    As Michelle said above, I love seeing the little sneak peak at a part of the costume. I love being able to think about where this costume may be used, or who it belongs too, in the story. I completely understand how what you do is so different from a fashion designer. You DO make the story come alive even more, with your costume designs. Thank you again and again for your wonderful work and the team that works with you. I am so glad you were talked out of retirement for Outlander!!

  40. jerseygirl52

    Terry, I love this blog and I agree with your points. I remember reading once that in the early years of film the studios wanted their actors to wear evening gowns and tuxes even if they were playing the part of hired help. They thought that everyone should look glamorous, that the audiences wanted to see that. I could see the disconnect there, and I’m thankful that they put it together that they needed to integrate all the components setting, costumes, and dialogue in order to give the stories more power. It’s kind of like the three legs of a table. They are all crucial to success. I love how your costumes stand on their own, so powerfully a player in each scene. I do not want to see them ahead of time either, but how can it be curtailed in the information age. I get your point though and you said it so well. I will try as much as I can to overlook the postings. I believe in and want to honor your vision. It’s still so true that the costumes embody the narrative.

  41. Hi Terry, I got here at last. You know how much I appreciate your interaction & how much I love you & your teams work, I tell you ad infinitum. So it was with a sad heart that I saw how things went on twitter yesterday. I’m in two minds on my appreciation though, I fairly itch to see your next tidbit (have most of them saved to a photo library) & wait impatiently for the next one but I also understand the need to present costume in the context that was intended as a part of the story. It occurred to me that unlike some shows where I get sidelined by the costume & distracted from the story, Outlander costumes become one with the character until I only see it as a whole. I soak up all the costume details more when you post the still pictures. Just know how much you are appreciated by me.


  42. MelPflueg

    Thank you so much for continuing to do this blog/forum. I’m extremely thrilled to be able to follow along in your creative process; it’s certainly something new to me. Outlander is the first fandom I have ever been a part of or so enthralled with. It is an absolutely stunning series and I don’t think there has ever been anything quite like it. I’m in awe of you and your team’s talent; it’s truly breathtaking.

  43. JaimesGrannie

    Dear Ms. Dresback, I am nearly 68 yrs old and remember all the “good stuff” about costume designers in great films like Gone with the Wind, the black and white films of the 30’s and 40’s and just way to many to name exact films! When films were films all around! But the costume designs are, like you said, what make you feel like the film is a real “slice of life” at that time! Even when tv was new….think of I Love Lucy or Lassie or the variety shows! The series pieces had costumes that fit the time of the series! The variety shows didn’t have the contestants dressed up like movie stars but like themselves! (I know that is different from exactly what the discussion is but it still fits!)
    I would 1000 x’s rather see a film, tv series or documentary where you feel like you are a literal mouse in the corner watching real life when you see the characters moving around in costumes that fit the period of time the film is set in! Your costume design for Outlander is perfect! The characters costumes fit the period they are set in whether the 1700’s or the 1940’s! That is one of the biggest reasons I felt like you and your team deserved not only an Emmy nomination but an Emmy, period! The costumes fit the characters to a “T”!!! The designs themselves were just simply incredible!
    I am not trying to impress you or anyone else with what I am saying……just expressing my humble opinion! You and your team have done an excellent job!
    I would also rather wait until the series starts again to see any of the costumes and just be allowed to be that mouse in the corner watching what seems to be a real part of the characters life on that day in the piece whether in a stable with Jaime in a kilt or King Louis at the palace or Frank from his classroom in the 1940’s! I want to feel like I am there watching from the corner out of the way! Your costumes are a large part of what makes the series seem so real to the book and the scenes described!
    I truly love the work you and your team are creating! It is magic! Thank you so much!

  44. janetcanning

    Here, Here

    I think that there should always be some anticipation for something, and I don’t want spoilers per say. I appreciate the tidbits of small details on your Twitter cite, and it may just be a closeup of something, no character mentioned. I appreciate that, I am happy to play spot the costume with just a tiny bit of embroidery, other cuff detail maybe.

    I think a lot of the young Cosplayers out there hunger for everything right now because it is part of that generation, instant gratification. I love a good mystery!

    That said, any small bits of just a trim idea or something is more than I would have seen 10 years ago, yeah I have costumed for 20 plus years so I have seen things change so much over the years and understand where you are coming from.

    So, it is completely right to not show the last page of the book! Everyone enjoy the mystery.

  45. MimiK

    I’ve (aka HneeB on Twitter) been itching for a couple days to be able to comment. Your blog is so well written. I think I already had a good appreciation re: costume design, having been brought up in an era of those big production period movies and musicals, also having seen older classics like GWTW, Little Women, Wizard of Oz, etc. The costumes complete the characterization of the role the actor plays, and I’d bet aids the actor being able to take on their persona. Your point about it not having to be a big production movie for this principle to be true, though, did make me stop, think and nod my head. I realized: even in the same character, would we appreciate as much the changes they go through if their clothes were the same throughout? (for dramatic example, think My Fair Lady here). And, would they have the same effect if we are viewing all these, out of context, well ahead of time? I think not.
    Further, as a creative art, would/should your designs not also be protected by copywrite? Surely their concepts are your intellectual property. Anyway, please know this fan very much appreciates your work, and I am patient enough to wait for the big reveal during the episodes, to get the full effect! ☺

  46. joanapolis

    Hi Terry, I care about the costumes in this show because you have brought them to my attention by being you! I admit, I was not one to delve into this aspect of a show or film and it has become a new dimension for me to add to my viewing pleasure. I watch the show once, then a second time with CC on to see what i missed or heard incorrectly. I watch a third time with Ron’s (and yours when you joined him) podcast. For 101 and 102 , iIwatched again just to focus on costumes as soon as those were available (of course i watch a million times independent of these scenarios, but this is my immediate regimen. Am looking forward to when you have time to do the rest of the episodes, which you already said a couple weeks ago you were going to try to find the time to make. Thanks for writing your blog about this whole issue. It was not caustic or demeaning or negative to the fans like a couple of the comments here. Very well and carefully worded. Gracious for you to find time to write it. The phrase “it is what it is” is really what it nets down to, aye? It’s gonna happen. However, knowing your stance on it helps ME to consider whether or not I will look at the pics OR save them OR share them. I manage myself and don’t need to be managed. Just as with spoilers, they are out there and I don’t care if people want to talk about stuff, as long as they label it so that fans who haven’t read the book yet (for instance) are protected. I saw on one fan site today, when they posted the prague costume pictures, they labeled the tweet with *SPOILERS* and included a link to the photos versus attaching them to the tweet. That was a great way to do it so u can’t see them unless u click on the link AND it serve both kind of fans, given it is what is it. There are a lot of folks that like to act like police on your behalf (self-appointed of course) and I think that creates negative reactions and arguments within the fans. I wish those folks would just stop because they aren’t truly representing you and others misconstrue that they are or have seen a tweet by you that leads them to believe they have a right to speak for you. It just causes trouble. I think that if you had a blanket statement in your twitter profile and on your website that says “The only pictures of costumes for season 2 that you have authorized are the ones on your website or those released officially by Starz”. If one wants costume info, come to Terry’s site, the source for all things Outlander costume-related. Period. Otherwise they are fan photos that could spoil your viewing experience. Stuff like that. They don’t need to be taken down or the poster accosted by other fans, just be labeled as spoilers and all may be a little bit better in the Outlander fanworld, IMO. As for the social media and everyone’s comments about how it has created the “i need or deserve it now” attitude and behavior, I would take it a bit further and blame McDonalds. It is the fast food industry that created this culture and it has snowballed ever since! Thanks so much for the S2 tidbits you show — i think that is an ingenious way to engage and serve your fans.

  47. carpecakem

    I so miss your contributions to the Outlander podcast discussing the costumes and their connections to the scenes. Learning about the process of acquiring the materials and the accessories and the repurposing of materials to make use them for unexpected parts of costumes was so enlightening. Hearing about the tight schedules and how you and your team produce so many clothes in such a short time is just amazing! I so appreciate hearing about those facets of the storytelling!! Personally I don’t mind not seeing the costumes until the show starts. I feel like the spoilers do in fact spoil so I try to avoid them. But I loved hearing about why those particular costumes were chosen after the show has aired. As someone who knits and sews I have such appreciation for the craftsmanship and the time that is put into each garment, and I LOVE to hear about the design process and the details that we could miss while watching the show. Like the Mica!! 🙂

  48. mwdesigns2014


    Every morsel of costume production you share is truly a slice of heaven. Being one who appreciates the detailing and understands the time and labor involved with your works, every tidbit you share with us in your blogs and on twitter will always leave a far grandeur impact compared to the random fans who take photos of your creations and churlishly posts them on social media before the show is aired.

    I imagine that instant gratification has been around since man walked the earth, we just now have media’s capability of recording it and instantly spreading it. We’re all learning to live with it on so many levels.

    On another note, in the majority of movies and tv shows being produced, for the last 20t years, we’ve seen the credit of Costume Designer, given for most productions. For those of you working that circuit, why has that title not changed? As Terry stated, they’ve been Stylists, not Designers. Of course there are some exceptions, the science fiction stories, period pieces, etc. required designers.

    And another note, I belong in the category of those who would like to give ourselves a title of being a Costume Designer. For me, living in a wonderful rural area and having big city dreams, I found a way to make it happen, just on a much SMALLER scale. I’m playing the role as “Costume Designer” for my daughter’s high school color guard. I’ve had the pleasure of creating a variety of 18, early 1940’s era, middle class women’s dresses. (To humor myself, I pretended to be Terry, and rolled through the process of rendering sketches, I might add… of dresses that Claire could have worn, gathered the appropriate fabrics, did muslin fittings for each student, and sewed the costumes, and presented them to all the young eager Claires. )

    One more little tidbit: while traveling 5 hours away from home, to Minneapolis, MN, to gather appropriate fabrics for this early 1940’s era, I also made a special stop to the Celtic Croft, Direct Merchants of Scottish / Irish Clothing and Accessories. They are the licensed merchant for the official Outlander woolen goods sold in the US. The Outlander woolen goods weren’t in yet, but they allowed me to see and touch the samples they had on hand. Thank you Terry for having the vision of using a plausible color combination for a Scottish plaid from the mid 1700s, and the fortitude to find a source to produce an authentic version. This attention to detail reigns though all the costumes; it’s just so lovely to see!!

  49. nurfah

    Terry your story of how costumes don’t fit the characters make so much sense to me. thank you for allowing us to follow your process here and take the everyday fun for Twitter. I really admire your work as well as your teams. You guys really work magic.

    Lots of love from an Icelandic fan who loves the textile works of the show …
    Hafrún Ásta

  50. We love you Terry! I do not know why people argue with you so much. Your costumes are part of the story. But unless you film inside on sets all of the time someone is gonna post a picture. Some people want to feel important or make a buck. But some are just excited they have seen the cast and don’t even understand what they are doing. It is so sad how no one ever stops and thinks anymore about how other people might feel. Too much ego and not enough love for one’s fellow humans.

  51. MonicaP

    I’m probably the odd one in left field, but when Outlander is on break – I find other things to watch, so no ‘droughlander’ for me. I’ll have plenty of time to be obsessed in season two. That said, when the Claire’s Paris dress (yellow silk) was posted, I thought it was a beautiful piece, but I have nothing to go on “why is she wearing it”, “where is she” etc. So I hear ya on how a costume shapes the character and I’m happy to wait and see it all when the show airs.


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