Terry Dresbach

Outlander Costume Designer

Claire – The Gathering

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Photo Nov 25, 10 22 10Claire, The Gathering.
OMG…THIS dress!!!

First of all, we had to sort of slam this on the mannequin because everyone is in deep on S2.

But, when I look at the dress, I just see a zillion crazy problems. Not with the dress itself, but with the making of the dress. This was done waaaaaaay back when. We had slammed together all of Claire’s costumes in two weeks, which was utter madness, and then we were shooting. Since Cait was in every single scene of season 1, making this dress was our first go round with trying to get fittings with her.
When you make a dress, first you make a toile, a dress out of muslin (calico/UK). That is to fit on the actor and work out any kinks, make any changes. It’s a rough draft. Then you make it out of the actual fabric, and you need two fittings, one to make sure it is all going well, now that you are in fabric, and then a final fit, just to double check everything. And then you need the time in between fitting to do the actual work.
So, it takes 2-3 weeks, with the fittings interspersed.
It is impossible to get Cait for a fitting. Impossible. It requires a million phone calls, negotiated schedules, missed fittings, “maybe we can do it at lunch fittings”. It is like being a negotiator for the U.N. And poor Cait, exhausted from running around in Scottish winter, wearing a “shift”, the last thing she needs it to be standing for an hour while a dress is being pinned onto her.
But it has to be done. Finally, after much hand wringing and threats it happens.

Then there was the fabric. You have to order the fabric, it is just not waiting in a store. You pick ten fabrics, call the mill, and see what they have in stock. That takes a while, because they aren’t on film business schedules. And the embroidered fabric. I had bought a meter in London. I liked it, but wasn’t totally sure about it, and I didn’t know what tartan I would end up with. But when the tartan finally came in, it was a pretty good match with the embroidery. But when we called the fabric store, they were all out.
Then the true panic began. We needed a MINIMUM of two meters, really more than that, because you always get a little extra just in case.And we needed a second dress for the photo double. We decided that we would do a digital print of the embroidered piece, to use on the double, and somehow magically stitch extra strips to make a sort of border to extend the fabric. It was ridiculous, but we were out of time and out of options. Very early in the game, everything on fire, daily crisis management, madly trying to make ALL the costumes for everyone at the Gathering. To make it more enjoyable, there was a ton of focus on the dress, because it was the first time everyone was dressed up. Television shows LOVE a party (or a wedding)
So there was just a wee bit of pressure.

At the final hour, the store called up and said that they had found 6 meters in India. FANTASTIC, who cares that it costs as much to ship it overnight as the actual fabric (which already was insanely expensive).So in it came at the last minute and we made that dress FAST.

Anyway, it all worked out in the end. I love the combination of plaid and flowered embroidery. You can find that kind of mix, often in 18th century peasant costumes, but I took the leap that they might have had that in Scotland. I think it works.
I like the dress, but it was definitely a product of circumstance. Made by master craftsmen, but hampered by the growing pains of the show.
It is interesting to see the journey from this dress to the green plaid dress, to the wedding dress and beyond.
We have come so far and become so much better as we learn the show.

Photo Nov 25, 10 18 28 Photo Nov 25, 10 20 03 Photo Nov 25, 10 20 57 Photo Nov 25, 10 22 10

23 thoughts on “Claire – The Gathering

  1. Hadley_LPHadley_LP

    Love reading about the process of getting this dress & the double made. Cannot begin to imagine the volume of time & effort that Season 2 requires to get ready right now. Thank you for sharing the details.

  2. AvatarConnie Sandlin

    Lovely blend on the colors of the embroidered panels and the plaid fabric. I thought from seeing the dress in the show that it had a train, of sorts, that flowed from the shoulders down the back, but that’s apparently an illusion, at least to my eyes, from the very fine flow of the plaid panels on the back down the length of the skirt.

    Question: I see what I would call a lot of “raw” edges on fabrics in this show. Is that historical usage / custom? I can see where hemming everything could be somewhat wasteful of material.

    Thanks again for another glimpse into your professional world!

  3. awabbitawabbit

    Oh My!
    I am writing this from rainy Seattle (a lot different from our home airport–Burbank –at 11 a.m. today where it was 80 degrees).
    Nice to see moisture coming from the sky.

    I have a question and an observation.
    Question: how does Cait put this beautiful dress on? I dont recall if there were zippers (definitely not velcro!) in the mid XVIIIth C.

    Observation:The kerfluffle you went through to produce this garment reminded me of ALL the stress of putting together a Vogue Magazine special edition and watching the movie about it. from several years ago–“SEPTEMBER EDITION”
    Happy Thanksgiving to the Moore Family.
    Anne in NoHo

  4. Avatarvonlew

    Love your insane job Terry and reading your blog about the costumes on Outlander……. but life would be pretty boring if you weren’t living on the edge…….looking forward to S2 🙂

  5. Appalachia GalAppalachia Gal

    Your name on my notifications was such a treat today! The snow showers covering us were a surprise this morning. I am delaying putting on my heavy winter overalls and muck boots while I read your story of this wonderful dress. I can conjure up the time it would take to dress all the layers, the swell of heavy warm wool. Yet, in all that cold dampness,what kind of footwear?
    Thank you for your great stories,details of your art. Now out into the snow, to feed my horses I must go.

  6. Katiscotch22Katiscotch22

    This dress, like everything else is just beautiful. The tartan and the embroidered material really goes together well. The icing on the cake was the simple ribbon Cait wore around her neck. I never imagined how difficult it is for you to get these costumes done AND work around the filming schedule. Well done, as always I’m in awe. 😀

  7. Purl99Purl99

    Just looking at how much time it took to match the plaids to each other makes my brain hurt! However, the end result despite your difficulties was superb and a real treat to see on Cait.

  8. Avatarnolakate

    beautiful, thanks for sharing. I might mention spoonflower fabrics. they take a design or picture you send and make a fabric from it. they have several fabrics to choose from, silk, cotton, etc. if you find yourself needing lots of fabric for a background person, you could send to them and have them make it. then you wouldn’t have to go to India for a few yards. I know Claire and Jamie would get real, but all the extras might be an easier method for exactly the fabric you want.

    1. AvatarTerry Dresbach Post author

      They do digital fabrics, and are in the US, which makes it difficult with time and cost. We have companies in the UK as well. Too expensive for extras, unfortunately.

  9. Avatareleny

    What a back story!

    The dress turned out so lovely. I can’t help but see the combination of plaid and embroidered floral in a number of contemporary applications from clothes to home decor. These colors always speak to me.

    Congratulations to you and your team.

  10. Avatarnolakate

    thanks for replying. next question: Claire is in different plaids. did people just wear whatever, I thought you only wore your own family plaid (I’m Irish so don’t have a family plaid that I can find). or is Claire borrowing other people’s clothes so doesn’t have the Fraser plaid for her dresses? thanks

  11. Nanci712Nanci712

    I fell in love with this dress at first sight on the show. I’ve always loved plaid even as a child. I thank my grandmother because she would make my school clothes and there were always a few plaid dresses. As a teen I would embroider flowers and hearts on my clothes. As much as I love Claire’s wedding dress, “The Gathering” dress is my favorite. This dress takes my breath away.

  12. Avatarlynnescottritchie

    This dress is my favourite so far. I’ve still not seen the show so hadn’t seen this dress until now. I can see it was ‘thrown’ on to the mannequin, I can see the pins, lol! I love the way all the tartan matches up, even across the sleeves. Not everyone does that. Are the costumes made in the US and then transported to location, or did you get makers here in Scotland? Any luck with hiring costumes for the extras in season 2? I’ve got a couple of outfits I could lend / hire to you 🙂

  13. Avatarmaureenanne

    I so appreciate the opportunity to see this dress up close. When I watched the gathering I thought the dress must be a silk taffeta because it did not look bulky at all. I love the side bodice panels cut on the bias to perfection! Question for you, is the bodice middle panel a separate piece? It has a very pronounced edge. Does the skirt middle panel (embroidered silk) extend all the way around? Love the gathered sleeves. It really does have a slimming effect on the arm and supports the scallop and lace sleeves. You have the best profession EVER!!! Sincerely, Maureen

  14. AvatarCrystalChandlyre

    I see what you might mean, at least around the bodice area, but Cait physically wearing the dress fixed all that (She fills the dress perfectly.) 🙂 The end result is/was still gorgeous. Very nice to see it in detail, thank you!

  15. Avatarkkilgrow

    Thank you for being so generous with your valuable time because without this forum your talented artistry would be lost. I enjoy the ability to study the costumes in detail. This would not be possible with watching the episodes on television or CD. Your creativity is truly genius. When you explained the effort that everyone went through to purchase just the right fabric for this dress, I was amazed. Your explanations, descriptions and displays are truly appreciated.

    Also, please do continue the POD sessions with your husband. It is entertaining when the two of you discuss your creative differences. It gives it a more personal rather than business point of view. You are a great team.

  16. Avatarfindingjamiefraser

    Beautiful…love the storiers behind the clothes and can imagine how stressful it must get trying to get things done on time and fittig in fittings! Mare!

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