Terry Dresbach

Outlander Costume Designer

Costume Design



I have been getting a lot of questions about my costumes via twitter. Awfully difficult to answer in 45 characters. So if anyone has questions, I will happily answer them here.

29 thoughts on “Costume Design

    1. Julie Fancher

      I know what GRRanimals are! HA. I was wondering if you have a huge dry cleaning bill or have you made exact duplicates of each costume? One for being dirty and one being clean, many scenes in OUtlander Jamie and Claire are muddied up.

      1. terrydresbach

        The answer is both. we have to clean hundreds and hundreds of costumes. If we have 200 extras on Monday and a new group of extras on Friday, those costumes have to be cleaned and re fir on a new group. Most of our costumes for our leads we make in multiples of 5 or 6. you have to track the levels of dirt, distress, tears, wounds etc.

  1. terrydresbach

    I call it the grrrrrr animals approach. Americans will understand that. It was a line of kids clothing designed so that all of the pieces could be mixed and matched.
    There is no way Claire could have had a MASSIVE wardrobe, given the story. And I have a pet peeve about shows where the actors have a zillion outfits in stories where that doesn’t make sense, or they couldn’t afford.I ALWAYS have to find story support, it must make sense.
    BUT on the other hand, changes help the viewer track the passing of time.

    So I figured it was reasonable that Mrs. Fitz would be able to pull together 6 outfits. If I made them in compatible fabrics, I could mix and match, and create many more outfits, also using accessories to create variety.

    So it will seem like she has an unreasonable number of costumes, but with careful viewing you will see she really doesn’t.

    Even on set, everyone would joke about how many costumes Claire has, and even the people on set everyday don’t understand what we are doing.

    We ended up making a couple of “special occasion” costumes, in addition, but sometimes you just gotta go by the script.

    1. MandyT

      I had a feeling that might be what you were doing. I can’t wait to see the whole thing and how the pieces rearrange and reappear. Everything I have seen so far just looks stunning and just _right_.

  2. Maria Rea (@LadyAyrmid)

    I have to admit that I am as excited for the costuming and scenery as I am to see the actors. As Ron or someone else has said in the past the landscape is a huge part of the story. I think the costumes are as well. So far what we have seen of your artistry Terry has been stunningly beautiful. Thank you for letting us peek into your world!

  3. Sue Kindred

    Every time I re-watch one of the trailers or look at the pictures I am stunned at how perfect the costuming is. I hesitate to even use the word costume as it implies something that’s not real, and if the period clothing we see isn’t real, I don’t know what is. I love your grrr animals approach (the brand was popular when my son was little 🙂 … Thank you for all your hard work and attention to detail. AND … if your hubby has a cameo … do you?

  4. EllenSpins

    I’m loving the clothes. My pet peeve is seeing costuming not true to the period. I’m not saying I’m an expert on the 1700’s; I’m not. I’m saying that the fastenings on the costumes are wonderful. The buttons aren’t plastic. There are no zippers. The corsetry looks great. The kilts are what they are supposed to be, long pieces of woven cloth that are worn a little differently by every man. I can’t wait to watch, then watch again and again to see more of how much attention to detail you’ve paid. Terry, from what I’ve seen in the bits that are available, I’m in love with the clothes you’ve designed! If you came out with a line of clothing (and it fit me – I’m voluptuous), I’d be first in line to buy it! Thank you for helping to make our favorite book really come to life.

    1. terrydresbach

      Very kind word, thank you! You have laid out our goals very nicely. We try to make it real. Not only does it help the look, but it helps the actors to believe who they are. And that in turn helps the performance.
      Or so you hope, as a designer.

  5. karenlkimmel

    The costumes are stunning. How many seamstresses/tailors do you have on staff? How long have you and the costume department been assembling the clothing? Please take us through the process from research and design to creation and construction of the clothing. Thanks!

    1. terrydresbach

      Well, that is a very tall order, I can’t take you through the entire process, but will answer the first two questions. We have about 25 makers in our workroom, another 10-12 in our aging and dyeing department, another 5 on set, two assistant designers, a wardrobe supervisor and a department coordinator. On heavy extra days we can have an additional 15 people doing fittings for extras, and up to 35 costumers on set.

      It is a big, big show. We make almost every costume you see on screen. We make all the redcoat uniforms and most of the extras costumes. We did hire the extras WWII uniforms.
      But it is an enormous undertaking.

  6. Laura Carmichael (@LallybrochLaura)

    The realism is such a breath of fresh air! People forget that up until post WWII, the norm for just about everyone except the extremely wealthy was to have between 3 and 6 ‘outfits.’ While underthings would be laundered when they could go no further, outerwear would generally be only brushed, spot-cleaned, and hung on pegs or hooks (which aired odors out). Indeed, many – probably most – people worldwide still live that way (easy to forget in the US & Europe). When I see the Outlander clothing, combined with sets and scenery, it’s almost as if I can smell wood fire smoke or fir-balsam-air in the wool, too: it is that real. I hope you don’t tire of hearing our kudos – it’s just so incredibly impressive!

    And a question: Are there any aspects of the costumes that the actors truly struggle with, comfort-wise or even in terms of figuring out how to “live” in it? Jeans and t-shirts to 18thC garb is a bit of a leap!

    1. terrydresbach

      Okay. Whenever you do a period piece it is tricky for actors, unless they are stage actors who generally wear more period clothes than film or television.
      I once did a film with Jessica Lange set in the 80s, a period many of us can remember, as did Jessica.
      So when we started working together we had the advantage of both having worn the clothes of the period, in real life.
      Anyway, I designed this Crystal Carrington number out of peach jacquard silk. It was a one piece jumpsuit, big shoulder pads, low cut neck that ended with a triangle at the waist front. Clasic 80s. We both LOVED it.

      But on the day of shooting she called me into her trailer and said she just could not wear it. It was just too scary. We laughed at how it had seemed so reasonable, but once it came time to put it on, it was just too weird. I told her it would probably be easier to wear a bustle.

      I think that is kind of like the biggest challenge we have on Outlander. Yes, the clothes are heavy and warm (fabulous outside, not so fab on a sound stage), and sometimes it just feels like a LOT of clothes (because it is).
      But the hardest part is wrapping your (their) head around how differently things were worn. You always wore all your stuff. You didn’t just grab your jacket on the way out the door, sliding into it as you head for the car.
      Getting dressed was a time consuming act, getting undressed was an equally time consuming act, and because of that, it was not something one did casually.
      If you sat down to dinner in another mans house, you remained fully dressed. There isn’t really a t. shirt and jeans counterpart in most of history. People just weren’t that casual, for a myriad of reasons.
      And that is hard to adapt to.

  7. Donna Paul

    I love the clothing,I want to make some to wear when I view the show,I will also try to make the food on that night of the week.Do you have any pattern Ideas to share. I found a pattern for the stays it was so detailed and I believe it had to be done by hand, Did you use boning for your stays

    1. terrydresbach

      How exciting!!! I am not sure about any clothing patterns as we make our own. Though I remember that every Halloween there is a Pirates Of The Carribean pattern, I think at Butterick, that could make a close version.
      Yes, we use all sorts of boning materials, including bone.

  8. Connie Sandlin (@Yr_Obt_Svt)

    Since yesterday’s Instagram picture release by Starz, there has been a flood of positive comment on the internet about Outlander costuming, in general, and Claire’s dress in particular. That dress is absolutely stunning! Several commenters have said how much they “need” that dress. I need it, too, but I’ll just keep looking at it and admiring it.

    I don’t have the right words to communicate how impressed we fans ALREADY are by the craftsmanship, ingenuity, and creativity of what we have seen – and the show hasn’t even started airing yet! Everything I’ve seen hits the perfect note of authenticity and style.

    We appreciate you and love what you are doing to bring our favorite story to life!!!!!

    My question: How many yards or meters of material are in that skirt and how many hours does it take to hand pleat something like that?

    Your Central American amiga,

    P.S. My daughter, who crochets, saw that capelet (or whatever would be the correct term) and is eager to try to make it herself.

  9. Joni Kane

    Terry I just wanted to say I think your designs are absolutely stunning. How hard is the process of first coming up with a drawing then having that drawing actually turned into what you’ve envisioned?

  10. Julie Fancher

    Thank you for your reply ! That would be some job keeping track of all the dirty spots , tears, etc. for continuity. I appreciate your attention to detail and looking forward to the premiere, I am waiting till the 9th . Can’t wait to see all the costumes!

  11. Deborah Harvey


    Could you please explain who styles the cast on set? I’ve seen assistants in some of the photos, but are they yours or are they hair and make-up assistants? From whom do they take on-set direction? Could you give an example of a costume choice that worked in the fitting room but then had to be altered on set?

    So many questions! (What is the relationship between hair and costume in character creation….?) I’ll stop for now. Thanks again!

    1. terrydresbach

      First note, we never use the world “style”, that is the world of stylists, who are part of the fashion industry and have no relationship with costume design. Nit picky, and in no way do I think anyone should know that, even studio and network executives now call us stylists, rather than costume designers. But we are not stylists.
      Now to answer you, rather than scold ;). We have an on set team. Their job is to dress our actors every day, maintain them and oversee continuity.
      They are the unsung heroes. They work in insane conditions, cold, rain, mud, blood, stunts, long hours incredibly heavy clothes, and they have to make sure everything is always the way it is supposed to be, no matter what.

      If we are doing our job right, we send finished costumes to set that do not require alterations. They work out of a small truch that does not have the facilities for major alterations. that said, there are sometimes circumstances on set that require something or another to be done.

      We work carefully with the Hair and Makeup department in developing the overall look of a character.

      Never worry about asking too many questions Deborah! I am happy to discuss!!!!

  12. Brooke Hynch

    Hey Terry – thanks heaps for directing me to this blog – yoy! OK so my question was in regards to having just finished watching the first episode and wondering if

    a) we could have a pattern or be pointed in the right direction for the hat/cap that they boys are wearing in the first ep. and
    b) we looooovvveeeeddd the lanterns that Mrs Grahams girls are wearing when they dance around the standing stones and you mentioned on twitter giving Jon the idea for the lanterns and said you’d see if you could track down the photo that inspired them (which is awesomely neat by the way!)…and of course there was
    c) a pattern or close up photo of the gowns/robes/nighties??? the dancing lassies are wearing would be fracking (note cross reference to BSG to earn brownie points!) awesome…and that is all (for now – har har har)…just remember you directed me here, I will not be held responsible for the repercussions 😉

    1. terrydresbach

      Har, har, Brooke! you will have to tack down merchandise on your own. I have tremendous faith is your perseverance!! If I kept track of patterns and merchandise, not only would I get in trouble, but you would not have any more costumes on the upcoming episodes!!!! Then where would we all be??

  13. Kristie Higgins

    Terry, I asked you this same question on Facebook, so if this looks familiar, that’s me also. (This is my pen name.) Anyway, I started a group called Outlander Pattern Central on FB. We’re trying to figure out how to make some of the accessories they wear – hand/wrist warmers, cowls, hats, etc. Many of us are in love with the cowl Claire is wearing at the end of Episode 2. I guess I can’t post a picture like I did on FB. I’ll try to describe it. It’s brown, soft, fuzzy/furry, looks like mink, maybe? Or furry angora? We’d like to know what kind of yarn that was so we can make similar cowls. Can you help us out? 🙂 Personally, I can’t wait until winter so I can wear one. 😉
    Thank you!

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