I’ve been thinking about this episode and what to write. There are no new costumes, unless you count Ned Gowan’s lace stock, and maybe Jamie’s trews, though we did see those once before.
But our job is so much more than designing really great looking costumes for the stars of the show. It is about creating a world that YOU the audience can believe. It is about what we do TO those costumes to make you feel that world, to make it feel real. It is about the costumes for all the rest of the people you see on camera, some of whom never say a word. Some have a few lines, but they are as essential as the lead actors.
There are hundreds and hundreds of them, way more of them than our leading cast. They all have to be costumed. We make all those costumes, we age and breakdown all of them, and then we fit hundreds of them over the course of many days, continually through the show. It is a staggering amount of work. My team on this show is truly brilliant, and there is no one whose costume is not as important as Claire’s or Jamie’s. In a way the costumes on the day players and extras (supporting artists), can sometimes be MORE important, because they don’t have to look good, they just have to look real. They are the ones who sell the authenticity, the ones who make you believe what you see on your screens.
Many of you now look at the details on our lead actors, but when you watch an episode for the 5th time, look at all those other people. Look at the crowd surrounding Claire and Geillis through the streets of Cranesmuir, or in the courtroom. Some of those clothes are made out of old bedspreads and vintage sweaters that have been completely repurposed into 18th century villagers costumes. It is extraordinary work, full of absolutely beautiful details and textures. My team seriously rocks.
Then there is what we actually DO to the costumes. If Claire and Geillis are thrown into a filthy, vermin infested pit, you have got to believe it when you see them.
We have a zillion meetings about what is in that pit.
“How wet is it, REALLY?”
“What do you mean, there will be water pouring down the walls?”
“How much water?”
“What are they sitting on?”
“Dry leaves and filth, or wet leaves and filth?”
“As long as everyone knows we only have two of their costumes, and one has to stay clean”
“Are you shooting in sequence, or out?”
“As long as you understand that we are going to have to predict how filthy and torn they are, if you shoot the end before the beginning”
“It might not match in continuity if we do it that way”
“Just want everyone to be absolutely clear!”
Once all of that is done, we set our aging and dyeing on the task of destroying the costumes, slowly, stage by stage, to match what we are shooting. Except Claire’s skirt, because we are going to need that for a few more eps, so you can get it sort of dirty, but you may not tear it!
They paint them, dye them, scrape them, burn them in their magical alchemy lab.
And you go from this-
It all goes back to Storytelling. The visuals are as much a part of things as the actors, the words, the music. It is all a part of the same piece. Again, that symphony. If the music is wrong, or the costumes too clean or modern, the sets jarring, the hair and makeup too contemporary, then the whole piece is not working in tandem.
Everyone watches television episodes many times now. One of those times, just look at all the sets, then look at how they work with the costumes. Gary Steele, our production designer and I are lucky, we inhabit each others creative brains, after 25 years of being best friends. I suppose we became friends because we saw through the same eyes. You should be able to see that when you watch the show. In truth, you can see Ron and I when you watch. We are always in synch creatively, it is how we came together.
It is that old buzzword, synchronicity.