Terry Dresbach

Outlander Costume Designer

Category Archives: Random Thoughts

Such an Important Story.




The Production Designers who design all the spaceships, the prop guns, or bows and arrows that get sold in toy stores for decades, the Costume Designers who design all the costumes that are also sold in toy stores and in Halloween shops FOREVER, make absolutely nothing off of any of it.

The composers make money off of the music they compose. The writers make money off of the words they write. In Perpetuity. Even the Directors and Assistant Directors make money every time time a movie or TV show is aired.

But the artists who create the visuals??? Not one red cent.

Things that make you go hmmmmmmmmmm.




Reblogging these two fantastic articles from Beth Stanley Wesson:


Thank you Beth. I am very grateful to read your very thoughtful assessment and insight into Ron as a writer. Time and time again, Ron explores in all of his shows, “what does it mean to be human”. I suppose it is at the heart of all drama, an exploration all writers take on, but Ron has always so deeply explored the human psyche and what motivates us all.
Outlander was another perfect vehicle to continue that journey in. I think for many of us fans, it is exactly that deep exploration of character, which has held us for so long.
Thanks for another great piece.
Terry D.






Women’s Work.


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




Much To Do About Nothing…


To Do List

Ron says this is an important time for the blog. How do you all stay engaged and interested, during the hiatus?
So, I put up my BIG to do list, I will spare you the pages of to do lists under all those headings.
Lots to do, lots to talk about.

So, two questions.
What are you going to do during the Outlander Hiatus?
Anything you want to know about, to do with the costumes, or really anything to do with the show?
I have set up a topic on the forum to post your ideas.

Don’t forget the forum! I am hoping for lots of energy and spirited discussion! The Tea Room is open for just general chatting, doesn’t have to be show related.

See you there.


And onto the Honeymoon…


Leaving Scotland


photo copy 18


photo copy 17

I guess I am leaving Scotland. I will be gone until the end of December, and I am in mourning. I am going to miss most of October, November, and almost all of December.

Let me begin with the very clear statement that I am going to be insanely happy to be with my kids, my pets and my friends. This post in no way reflects on that joy .

But I am  not sure how to leave this place. The leaves are turning! The air is crisp, the sky is bluer than any blue, unless it is greyer than grey. The smell of fireplaces is in the air. The variety of apples in the grocer is staggering. How come I am not making apple crumbles that we all ravish in front of the fire, instead of making packing lists?

At night we have to close the windows in bed, while reading, or writing, or our fingers get numb. Then open them again, and burrow down under down comforters,  sleeping/hibernating like woodland animals.

Cuilean is almost 10 months old!!

I am in love with a place. There is not a single day that I don’t come around a bend, or over a rise, when I am not overwhelmed by some moment of beauty.

Scotland does not come gently. There is nothing subtle about this place. When I first moved into this house with a tiny puppy, it was the dead of winter. The fires burned unless I was asleep, the shutters were closed in all the rooms, to keep out the cold that sort of wrapped itself around the stone walls of this house. The first record of this house is in 1632, but the house we live in, was built for the most part, in the 18th century. It is all made of stone. There is a fireplace in each room, for very good reason.

I come home from work in the winter, and grab some wood from the woodpile and build the evening kitchen fire. There I, or we, if Ron is here, spend the evening. With all the shutters closed, the fire going, and the AGA churning, it is like a warm womb. When it is time for bed, we bolt upstairs to crawl under the blankets waiting for the chill to leave the sheets. The wind HOWLS, and the bare trees sway. It feels like there is no life to be found anywhere. It is winter, no if, ands or buts about it.

When spring finally shows up, it does not delicately float in, it erupts. It is almost brazen, the harlot of the seasons. Not a few scattered daffodils, but millions of them, almost garish, in their brazen loud presence. Same with the tulips that follow close behind, unwilling to wait patiently for the daffodils to get off the stage. They crowd in, elbowing their way in, creating an absolute riot of colors. There is color everywhere, and nothing subtle about it. The trees and hedgerows go from bare, dead skeletons, to outrageous green. Birds are everywhere, rabbits hopping about and everywhere you look, and I mean everywhere, lambs are gamboling about. It is like that scene from Bambi, when  Bambi first goes to the meadow and meets Thumper and Flower. It is technicolor. But it is real life, not a cartoon. It finally erupts into a horticultural orgasm of peonies and roses.

Summer slides in, undulating and sensuous, the afterglow of spring. Everything moves slowly, and it is not even hot. In fact you can sit in the sun, and not feel you have to slather yourself in sunscreen and protective gear. You can actually enjoy it. The kids go down and climb around in the river with the puppy, wild strawberries are picked for summer pudding. Summer here does not want to kill you, it wants to embrace you. The world does not dry up and blow away here, it does not burn to the ground. Summer does not want to annihilate you, it just wants you to slow down and relax a bit.

I am just now starting to see Autumn, and relish the knowledge that I will be here for ALL of it next year, and I am going to make lots of apple crumble, and take long walks with my very mature dog.

I am just now realizing that this is a love letter. I am a passionate lover, who is forced to take my leave from a beautiful embrace. I know I have to go, but dammit, I don’t want to!

I will reluctantly climb into that horrible metal can, to be flung across the world. I am not afraid of flying, but I sort of resent it. I don’t think it is natural. If we were meant to fly, we would have wings. It is not part of being human, and it is made even less so by the humans who ship you about.

I have carefully crafted my re-entry. I will not be diving head first into America. I will be very slowly wading in. we are headed to San Francisco, often called the most European of American cities. I grew up there, and I think that is why Europe is so comfortable for me. I love it there. It is home, and a place that gives me great comfort. It will be icy cold, and the leaves will all be in color. The food is amazing, friends and family are there.

Then we will drive slowly down the 101 to Southern California. I will not lie and say we like it there. We don’t, which makes it all the much harder to leave Scotland. But we have created a home there, something of a retreat from the surrounding environs. I will pray it doesn’t blow away, or burn up, cuddle close with children and pets,  be very grateful for how lucky we are, and dream of my lover across the sea.


THX – T.



A Movement Worth Supporting.





Pick a song that suits your mood, or play the soundtrack!





So, tomorrow there is a wedding I believe you have all been invited to.
Thought it might be fun to tell stories of courtship and marriage.

I will start it off, by telling you a lovely story, or at least I think it is.

I met Ron on Carnivale. He was my boss. I thought he was kinda fabulous, but he was my boss.
Well, it was an absolutely horrible show to work on. Insanely beautiful and wildly creative, but so absolutely out of control that I went blind in one eye, one day from the stress. After a van of costumes suspiciously burned up, and I had a crew from hell that I was trying to manage, Ron and I had more and more meetings to try and do damage control.
I was smitten by this time, while trying to talk myself out of having a crush on my boss.

It was pretty late one evening, and we had been having a disaster control meeting in my office. We’d been talking about all the horrid details, and drinking scotch at the same time.

We were just about done, when he said, “I have something else I need to talk to you about”

I was flooded with terror. “Here it comes, this is where I get fired.”

Ron says. “you know when we are in meetings, and you are sitting over on the side and I am up in front?”

(WHAT the hell ????????? I am thinking.)

“Well”, he says, “Everytime you lean forward to say something, it is as if the lights get brighter in the room, and then when you lean back, they go dim again”

I will tell you the rest of the story after the wedding episode.

There Once was…



I was attempting to bring a bit of humor with this piece, into the discussion about the knit pieces we have used on the show. Sadly it has just incited more discord. I should have just ignored it all. My apologies to everyone who got sucked into the wormhole.
So, I am going to move things along.


Highland Widow’s Lament


The Highland Widows Lament