I just checked the blog to find a post by Helena Jensen taking me to task about what kind of research I do, and how long it takes us to lace a corset on Outlander.
Hers was one of many posts of a similar nature. Apparently there quite a few blogs and forums that are concerned with how I do my job. I thought I would take the opportunity to answer all of the queries and concerns.
Here is Helena’s post:
“Your definition of research is not one that a serious academic would recognise.
And the idea that it takes twenty minutes to put on a corset, stays, jumps or bodies is risible.”
Actually Helena, you actually have NO idea what kind of research we have done or not done. Or apparently, what my job is.
The point of costume design for a television show or a film is not to educate the viewer about how long it takes to put on a corset. It is to tell a story about people, it is to transport viewers to another place and often another time, and to help them believe the story. There are many approaches to that process. Some choose to tell that story completely out of context, it has been a device used in theater for centuries. We have seen Shakespearean works presented in many guises.
On Outlander I have chosen along with other members of our creative team to tell the story in a historical context. Ron Moore, the shows creator has said that we will try to be accurate, but something we choose might just be from 1760, instead of 1744, since storytelling is our goal, not making a documentary.
I am sorry that you and some others take issue with the work we have done. It is disappointing since we have put tremendous effort into trying to do good and creative work.
We had seven weeks to make hundreds and hundreds of costumes. At the beginning of those seven weeks we stood in an empty warehouse and started to build a show, We put in walls, lighting, tables, sewing machines, hired a crew and started making costumes. Gowns, frock coats, corsets, stocks, breeches, petticoats, bodices, skirts, fichus, gloves, belts, sporrans, waistcoats, redcoat uniforms, 1940s clothing, military uniforms. We wove meters and meters of tartan to make kilts. We had shoes built, we made hats. And that is just for SOME of the hundreds and hundreds of extras we have this season. We simultaneously made costumes for our actors, when we got them (Caitriona Balfe was cast two weeks before shooting). We had to design and make 12 of those white shifts you see on screen, and 6 of every other principal costume you see.
We had to plan for stunts and sword fights, bullet wounds, maintaining continuity and comfort in freezing cold rain and mud. We pounded, dyed, sandblasted, torched, baked and painted all those costumes so they would look used and worn, instead of pristine as they are on some shows.
My stellar and dedicated team has worked eighteen hour days to get this show on the air, and then have continued to do so over the past year, making a couple of thousand costumes and dressing a few thousand people over and over, at 4am, over the course of the show.
And after we finished those seven weeks and the cameras started rolling, we started making all the other hundreds of costumes for extras and principals for the rest of the season.
We have fought and argued to keep bum rolls, fichus, stocks and pretty much every conceivable period correct garment on the show with those who wanted us to modernize like so many other shows. I do regular interviews with reporters who all ask why I don’t make it contemporary.
I have a similar answer to the one I have given you. “Because it is not our show”
I am incredibly proud of the amazing work the consummate professionals on my team have done. They have worked themselves into complete exhaustion because they want viewers to have a rewarding experience and because they would never consider doing anything less.
So, what we do has absolutely nothing to do with wether it takes 10 or 20 or 60 minutes to lace a corset. It is not about whether our shape is created by a bum roll or a pocket, it is not about how many stitches we use to make a hem, or if we have done the same kind of research an academic would, or anything else of that nature. So let me go on the record about that. I don’t expect to put any of our characters in neon spandex, but if I or the others I work with decide that is the creative choice we want to make, that is what we will do.
Hopefully that will answer the complaints, once and for all. But I kind of doubt it. LOL
Other than that, I will co-opt Diana’s answer and just say Pfffffft. It just takes so much less time to write.