Terry Dresbach

Outlander Costume Designer

Dior

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I spent a lot of time looking at a LOT of 18th century French Costumes.

The vast majority did not feel like Claire. They felt like Louise. They felt like any member of the French aristocracy, but not Claire. Cait and I had worked pretty hard to maintain a sense of who Claire was, when she was flung into another century. In S1 Claire was given was given hand-me-downs by Mrs Fitz. She didn’t really have a choice and was probably too shell shocked to care anyway. All she was focusing on was surviving and figuring out how to fit into a foreign land. Once she married Jamie, we started to give her a little bit more stability in her costumes. They change, they became a bit more solid. It didnt feel like a giant leap that she would have had some things actually made for her, but even then she was still focusing on navigating this strange world and on getting back to her century.

In season two Claire has made the choice not to go back to the 1940s  and to stay with Jamie. They are crafting a life together and they have accepted this mission to go to Paris. There is a commitment to a time a place and a marriage. She is committing to remaining in a time that is not hers. But the heart of the story is still Claire, and how she maintains that heart in another century. This is not the story of the woman who gives up her identity easily. So it seemed essential that once again we look back to the 1940s for our inspiration.

The question I asked myself – What would Claire have been wearing if she hadn’t  travel through time? I started looking at fashion from postwar Europe. This is the world Claire would have lived in.  The direction we needed to go came pretty fast. I found it in the house of Christian Dior.

It is probably the most singularly exciting moment I’ve ever had as a costume designer.

I was looking at all of  this incredible fashion and because I had been doing a show about the 18th century, I was able to see for the first time how directly the fashions I had been working with, connected to the fashions of the late 1940s. Fashion is cyclical, but I had never before connected those particular dots. The first thing that jumped out at me was a picture of the Bar Suit.

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Designed by Christian Dior, it is one of the most iconic pieces of fashion history. I knew the suit, everybody connected to clothing in any way knows the suit. But for the first time I saw that it was an 18th-century riding suit.

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If you look at the pictures it is absolutely clear. Christian Dior had clearly looked back to the 18th and 19th century to find his inspiration for the New Look and further research confirmed that.

Once I had that the rest was easy.

 

Claire and Christian Dior came from the same time the same place, the same generation. They had both fought in the same war. They had both known women’s clothing of the 1940s as very masculine. Women were wearing suits that were cut very similar to men’s suits. Wide shoulders, narrow hips, women were wearing trousers for the first time as they entered the work force en mass for the first time in history.

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The new look was quite controversial. Women actually demonstrated in the streets against it. It reintroduced women into corsets, wasp waists and very very full skirts. Women had been liberated from that kind of constrictive clothing and didn’t want to go back into it. But ultimately back into it they did indeed go. And a fashion revolution was born. Many argued that it was a backlash against emancipation, and was forcing women back into the VERY traditional and repressive roles of the 1950s. The population was depleted, men were coming back home, to women dressed in ways not considered very feminine. The traditional world needed to get things back on track, society needed to be rebuilt, babies needed to be made,and women needed to go back to their place.  How fashion reflects history and politics is a fascinating study… for another day.

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Politics aside,  It seemed logical to me that Claire would do in the 18th century the same thing that Christian Dior had done in the 20th century. He stripped the traditional 18th century riding habit of all of the embellishments and details and decorations all the bows the bells and whistles. He took it back to its basic Silhouette and that became the Bar Suit. I decided to have Claire look at the riding suit and do the same. She never saw the actual Bar suit obviously.but her reaction to the original riding suit of the 18th century, could plausibly be very similar to Dior’s, a man of her time. It was a suit after all, something she would have seen as the most familiar garment in the 18th century. It was a garment designed for a practical function, and Claire is a practical woman.

So we just put Claire in a recreation of the Bar Suit.  I have never had a costume so perfectly define a character and fit into a story so seamlessly before. I still marvel at how absolutely perfect it is. When I told Cait what my plan was she just broke into this huge grin . She knew the suit, knows fashion, and she could easily see where we were headed, and was delighted.

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I didn’t want to make something that echoed the Bar Suit, I wanted to recreate it. I wanted to fire a shot across the bow, and announce what we were going to be doing in S2. Make no mistake, it was a statement. I knew that when it hit the airwaves it was going to cause a commotion.

Outlander Season 2 2016

Outlander Season 2 2016

She is perfect.

It is not an original design. It is a copy of someone else’s. I have never done that before, but it worked. It worked, because as I say ad nauseum, it serves the story.

We stayed as close as possible to the original, with the exception of the hat. I decided to go with black. I thought it looked better. I question that choice, sort of.  Maybe it was my subconscious need to put something of my own view in there.

anyway, enjoy!

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49 thoughts on “Dior

    1. Avatarjuliaswan

      Beautiful perfection! This Dior inspired suite is indeed perfect for Claire, well, it’s just perfect period! The minute I saw it I thought, this is my new favorite. I see that others feel the same. The quintessential Claire of the 1740’s in Paris. Thank you Terry for bringing Outlander to life for us through your beautiful work!

  1. peggyvanslppeggyvanslp

    Terry, Thanks connecting the dots on this. That photo of Cait and her mischievous grin captures Claire’s independent attitude. Is the stag on her reticule a Fraser symbol? Beautiful!

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  3. Avatarmeraynor

    Not only do we learn world history on Outlander but now also fashion history! Thanks, Terry, another amazing job by you and your team this season. Could you be persuaded to add in a few lines about what’s UNDER the dresses? What kind of structure creates this silhouette? What about shift and petticoats?

  4. AvatarIrene1

    Thank you, Terry, for everything you and the rest of the cast and crew do. I loved the red dress, the nipple dress, all of the costumes of the French court, but my favorite is the Bar Suit! I meant to comment earlier, but this is totally stunning. I think the black hat was absolutely perfect. I love that hat!

  5. AvatarDonna

    I thought the brown floral dress was my favorite and then I saw the red dress and then I saw the Bar Suit . I can’t decide. I love your selection of the black hat and cream leather gloves.

    I can’t sing enough praise for all the scrumptious costumes.

  6. AvatarLisaW

    This costume is perfect for Claire! You hit it right on that Claire is a practical person and would not really care for those frilly dresses. I loved the looks of the people, in the courtyard, when Claire is approaching Master Raymond’s Apothecary.

  7. Avatarmartasullivan2014

    Oh my gosh. I remember Dior’s “New Look” that appeared in fashion at the end of WWII. Hemlines dropped and skirts became fuller. Interesting that you found a connection. Claire looked great in it, but she looks great in everything you make for her.

  8. Avatarchristine

    I admire your work so much and what you share on your blog is wonderful. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts and for what you bring to the overall masterpiece that is Outlander.

  9. Avatarbetsyg

    Exquisite! Perfect INDEED! And I like your touch of the black hat….the BAR suite tells her story in costume! You are genius, Terry! AND so like Diana you share your research and thoughts with us for that I am learning and grateful! Thank you for staying on the rope line at Saks in NYC for those of us at the end! Even a few minutes with you made my trip! Much appreciated!

  10. JuliaTowersJuliaTowers

    It really is perfect! I think one of my favorite moments was when I saw her walking to the shop and the women on the street just LOOKED at her. She didn’t care, because she was about her business, but it said something. To me, Claire has always been that woman who does what she needs to do, or what needs to be done, and doesn’t really bother about what people think about her for it. I identify so much with this spirit, because when I began reading the books, I wanted to be that way. Now, I feel like I’m more that way than not as I’ve evolved into a grown up. The feeling and tone of this season is so different. Claire is no longer just the carefree young romantic that she was in S1. She is also no longer lost in wonderland trying to figure it all out. This season she seems more certain of her purpose, and more secure in her position as an 18th century woman of influence in her own right. This is one of the reasons that the bar suit is so perfect. These days I wear suits to show that I mean business, or to indicate respect for the people I’m working with, or the work that I am about. However, I still like to put my own spin on things, like a yellow belt, or a funky abstract patterned blouse under the suit jacket…a different style for the pants. I might be wrong, but I think Claire’s suit sends this same message–I mean business, and I’m still me. This costume brings Claire’s past and her present together perfectly. Seeing it made me feel closer to her even though, on the surface, we couldn’t be more different…

  11. AvatarCackie

    I finally got to watch the episode last night (before reading this) and when she appeared in that costiume, it took my breath away. Absolute perfection.

  12. Avatarljedwards

    Thanks Terry for sharing all the info on the Dior inspired suit, and how it is ties in to the 18th Century Riding habit. I have always loved the cut of the riding habit. I too love your choice of the black hat. Looking forward to more “tidbits”

  13. Avatarmelaniedresbachwarman

    The look is glorious and a bit as I pictured Claire when I read the novels. She would not have been thrilled with the fussy details of court fashion and excesses and so would have directed her dressmaker to “tone it down”. When I saw episode 202 the other night, I saw that this is exactly what you had done. Just brilliant! And as you point out, eventually everything old is new again in fashion. Your work makes the production so much more authentic. Thank you.

  14. Avatarangelasassoinlondon

    I love everything about this. I love the back pleats, I love the tailoring, I love the fabric, I want to touch and feel the fabric. I can imagine how it must sound as she moves around it. I love the way it looks so MADE for her! And lucky, lucky Cait, she gets to wear it.

  15. Avatardancerdf

    Love this whole history lesson. I was a big fan of Dior from pictures of my Mother’s clothes in the 40’s. What you have done is an elegant re-creation that works perfectly for the time and story. Thank you for giving us the background and thought process that went into this design. I don’t know where you find the time, but I so appreciate that you do!

  16. AvatarMoz

    I adored this dress. I immediately saw the fusion between the 18thC riding suit and the 40’s. You really dress your actors wonderfully. You know how they will carry the work…and Caitriona carried this dress beautifully.

  17. AvatarHeymom

    Everything old is new again! Exactly why I became an historian. The skill and creativity shown by you and your very talented crew have thrilled my heart. Thanks for reflecting on how Claire would dress out of her time with a modern woman’s eye. Sometimes it isn’t enough to know what, but how and why too. Cheers

  18. Avatarmlbdesign

    Love the suit, SO much! I have to say that every time I look at period fashions, I find the absolutely MOST romantic is the riding habit…whatever the time frame it just looks so elegant and competent somehow. The best heroines are ALWAYS excellent riders and/or whips…..
    to draw the through line from 18th century riding habit to the Bar suit is genius!! I heard or read somewhere that the shoes for this particular costume were also amazing…is there a picture? As much work as all the clothing is, it must be exponential with the accessories….shoes, jewelry, gloves, hats, and fans….oh my! would love to see them all!

    As an interior designer, I find that the more I know about the set decoration and the costumes, the more I admire the show…thank you so much for doing this deep dive into a vital element of Outlander…..and for bringing alive the books in the very best way!
    Cheers!
    Meredith

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  20. Avataredie3

    The oyster silk catches the light to really set Claire apart on the TV screen and I love how you did that. Katharine Hepburn-esq in beauty and practicality. I wish you had time to do a line of blazers for us. Thank you.

  21. Avatarjoanne1202

    can’t read some of the comments and blog because i’m at the happiest place on earth and have not had time to see episode #2. however,it must make things easier to work with a model’s form like cait! also , don’t you love it when a designer thinks out of the box?? love christian dior!

  22. Avatarclstamp@mchsi.com

    OYSTER.SILK.IS PERFECTION.

    Terry, Claire was absolutely glowing in your Dior suit! And I did love the hat with it. There is a point in the episode where she starts to walk down the stairs, speaking over her shoulder to the housemaid, and it felt almost like she was having a conversation of the 1940″s. It gave me pause….just love it all!

  23. AvatarDraper

    Would it be possible to have some photos of Master Raymond’s waistcoat? I tried to make out the embroidered symbols on the front but then I noticed something on the back too. Was it a skull?

  24. AvatarCatullus_1000

    A fascinating background — thank you for taking the time to post such a wonderful explanation. This blog enhances the Outlander experience and elevates comprehension of the overall show. I know nothing of fashion but I easily followed you as you helped us “connect the dots.” This blog absolutely adds to the richness and enjoyment of the show in so many ways. Thank you!

  25. Katiscotch22Katiscotch22

    I absolutely adore the Bar Suit and the black straw hat is a perfect addition. Cait would look wonderful wearing a brown paper bag – but in this outfit she shines. I love this outfit more than the red dress.

  26. RMSRMS

    What a dress…. Maybe even better than red dress. Loved the scene where Claire was walking to Apotek and older lady turned to look after her in this dress….

  27. Avatarmonte0385

    Thank you for sharing your creative process! I marvel at the art you and your team create! The details are incredibly intricate and so much thought and love clearly go into every piece. I zoomed in on a picture of the complete outfit to see what was on her purse. The STAG! What a wonderful nod to the fact that she is a Fraser from Scotland : )

  28. Avatar0utland1sh1

    Complete and absolute moment of brilliance. Thanks SO for sharing. By the way, LOVE the hat being black. You were spot-on. (fellow perfectionist but graphic-design print wise).

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    1. AvatarTerry Dresbach Post author

      Thank you…again, Claire’s inspiration does not come from SEEING the Dior collection, but from sharing the experience they grew out of.

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  36. AvatarSophie

    Hi Terry!
    I for one am not a fan of that costume for that show. While it is incredibly well made and absolutely gorgeous, when I saw it onscreen my thoughts were ” it’s SO cliche to have a Dior look for the Outlander season set in Paris”.
    I’ll admit it, I’m french and I’m picky. I also am a designer so I know a bit about period costumes, and I know that Dior silhouette. When I first saw it it screamed 1947 DIOR at me. It just felt wrong, and what a foreigner’s take on French fashion would be, like the line “Let them eat cake” is what is best known of Marie Antoinette abroad.
    After reading about your thought process on this post, I understand the reasoning and appreciate your reasons for using that look. It still bugs me a little though.

  37. Avatarjleaberry

    Hi Terry,
    I love this costume, which is why I’m making it to wear for a costume contest/Halloween next month. I was just wondering if you had any close up pictures of the bag that Claire wears with this outfit? I can sort of make out antlers on the embroidery? Thank you for this wonderful blog and I loved seeing your panel at San Diego Comic Con!

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