Terry Dresbach


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It is a lot of pictures, I know. But having the costumes you design, in the window of Saks Fifth Avenue is a once in a lifetime indulgence, and you will have to indulge me, as Ron did when he hired a photographer to take these.



Saks…Moving Day



Slide show below, just click on the image for a bigger size.









Saks..Pt. 2










Oh HELL, all the wigs are too small.



Saks…Hair and Makeup.


I keep thinking that I am going to write these long fabulous posts about various things, but time is just running out. So I have decided to quick ones…

When the Saks windows came up, my first thought was “We need good mannequins!!!” Mannequins are a huge problem for period costumes. The costumes are built on corseted forms, and modern mannequins are not corseted. So you have to do surgery. I had to buy mannequins in NYC, and then go through a very complicated process of having them modified on another continent, from Scotland, via email. A less than perfect process, though Frank Glover Mannequins could not have done more to help us. Even offered to pick me up at the airport in NYC.

Once I arrived in NYC, there was a lot more to do, including remaking all the wigs that turned out to be too small.

But you can see the elaborate production, from start to finish. I started with the hair. We bought a couple of used mannequins to play with. Started with printer paper.




Order 18 mannequins, fingers crossed

What Terry does with her weekends…


Playing around with makeup, still wish we had gone with mannequins with faces!



But progress is made.


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






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

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

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


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

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











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



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


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we made a fabulous hat.


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We dyed the silk hat lining to match the dress.


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

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

Oh, one little addition:



These Boots Are Made For…



Some things are just not very complicated.

Viewers are very easily distracted. Focus can easily devolve into minute examination of one corner of a frame, one tiny detail, a zillion blown up screen caps, and endless discussions about that tiny corner of a frame. Plus, most viewers are not costume historians, and often period details, like incredibly low cut gowns, or wigs, or high heeled shoes on men, can seem so outlandish, that everyone forgets what the character says and focuses on whatever that costume piece is. Not good.

It is a fine line. I am attempting to be both historically accurate and true to the characters. So I can neither throw out history, nor make a documentary about historical dress. Fine line.

Sprinkle that with general above the line terror of certain historical fashions, it becomes a neat little sider web of lines. Things Hollywood don’t want to see, and for good reason: Cod pieces, Wigs, Historically correct hair and makeup of any kind, mens calves, and large hips. We have all of those, except the cod pieces. People get lost in those details and about a zillion more.

So part of your job as a designer, is to find ways not to distract.

You can make everything contemporary, because we all accepted corsets as outerwear in the 80s, or you can find ways to dance around the distractions, not wave them under people noses. All of those things go into the decision to use boots. Not to mention the horror that a lot of actors have of breeches, codpieces, wigs, and large hips. But we know that we are not going to make that choice…too late to go back on or entire aesthetic.

Or you have to find an example of where you need to go. Since my goal was to stay as accurate as possible, I needed to find boots that Jamie could wear in the French Court. Is it 100% accurate that he would wear them to a dinner party? Maybe not…maybe, if he didn’t give a shit about the rules. Hard to say absolutely what an individual does in the face of societal norms.

Anyway, the same things about character apply here that did in my post about Jamie’s suits. Not only do our faithful viewers not want to see him in a chartreuse suit, but they are not going to be happy to see him in high heeled shoes. I know this to be true. It is going to be a bridge too far.

We found the boots.  They were pretty hot. Another criteria in our world.

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So we made them for Jamie and for St. Germaine.




Jamie Boot




We made a pair in leather and a pair in silk. Don’t know why I don’t have a picture of the silk ones!! I’ll have to add it later.




Frills, Furbelows and Bows


I have planned for a long time, how I would present the methods we all use to deal with the scale of the show. We started prepping everything a year before shooting. You have to have almost a mass manufacturing approach. One of the big things we needed to deal with was trims. French 18th century gowns were awash in trim.



These are actual museum pieces. Look carefully at all the applied decoration.




Untitled-1So, while costumes were being made, en mass, my team made trims, trims, and more trims. They made trims for months. Trims, furbelows, bows, stomachers.We needed thousands of yards of very complicated trim, but we also needed everyone to know how to make the enormous variety. I am sure everyone wanted to kill me.

Here are pictures of our trim and stomacher samples.














Okay, I am tired of copy and pasting…

Jamie Pt.2…Posh Jamie


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

ANYWAY, case in point.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Jamie Pt.1…



Soooooo, Jamie.

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

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

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

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

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

Blk Suit

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

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


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



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

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

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

Here are some BTS shots…


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

A very simple suit becomes simple, yet not.

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





Inspiration Walls…


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