Terry Dresbach

Outlander Costume Designer

The Coats – Episode 110







The coats. There has been quite a response to these two coats. What I find fascinating is the focus and interest Claire’s coat is receiving. We have seen it before, in a couple of episodes now. But the renewed interest is a great example of how costume design is so much more then ‘picking out cute clothes’. Costume designers create visual ensemble pieces, the same way you have an ensemble of actors, or musicians. The costumes must work together, harmonize, and bring out the best in each other.

We knew this was a very dramatic and key scene between these two characters. It keeps setting up their relationship. How they work together visually, how their costumes reflect and provide contrast to each other, and yet harmonize, is like creating music. Each instrument has it’s own part to play, but together, you have a symphony.

And it is not just the costumes, it is the environment. What are the surroundings, the colors, whether it is outside or on a set, it all has to come together as one.The real beauty is when it comes together without a lot of effort. I think what a lot of people are reacting to in this episode is our orchestra all finally finding harmony. We are playing now from the same sheet of music, we all know each other and have found kind of perfect symmetry. Gary Steele and I have worked together forever, and share a kind of visual intimacy that is the closest thing I have ever experienced to a marriage, other than my actual marriage. I don’t have to see anything he does ahead of time, and neither does he need to see what I am doing. Whatever we do separately, will work perfectly together. Ron is the conductor, the maestro. He brings together all of us and guides us to the harmony. It is hard to sing his praises enough as an artist, I always fear that what I say will be discounted because I am his wife. But, he really is a gifted and singular artist.

It can be a beautiful thing when it works.

Claire’s coat. Well, we have seen it before. I will put it on a mannequin this week so I can show the details. But for now, here it is.

This coat is dramatic. It served a couple of purposes, the first being that it kept our actress warm. We were sending her out into freezing temps everyday, on horseback. This is the hardest working actress in Hollywood, and we treasure her.

I wanted her to be cozy and comfortable. And beautiful.

I wanted drama. This is the part in the story where we begin to really understand just how courageous this women really is. She is about to head out into the Scottish Highlands with a bunch of pretty intimidating and fierce men. One woman alone. She had better be pretty fierce herself, and yet very much a woman. A strong woman able to hold her own. This coat supports that. And in this instance, does it really matter if we have a sign that loudly points to it’s history, and where it came from? We don’t have time for that in an hour long show, we have a story tell. Suffice it to sat that Mrs. Fitz has a prodigious number of trunks stored away, just for times like this.

Enter Geillis.

Who the hell is this strange woman. there is something about her that is clearly different, but what is it? I don’t want you to know the answer to that, I want you to not be able to place your finger on who or what she is. I want it to bother you a bit.

This little jacket is based on a real garment, as are all our costumes. Here it is.


I am so obsessed with this coat. I need to just recreate it at some point. But you are seeing the basic design for the first time in this ep.

The best part of the story, is that we were planning an entirely different coat. We had chosen this amazing fabric, and were literally waiting for it to arrive. It was nail biting time, and it was clear the day before shooting that the fabric was not going to arrive in time. One of those moments. You’d better figure it out, and fast. So we found this gold fabric on a shelf, but it was kind of dull. So we added the decorative stitching. But it still said nothing much. This was Geillis” In the woods with a Faery babe and Claire!! It had to be special, and by this time it is the night before shooting. I look over on Liz’s (our embroiderer) wall, and she has something pinned up their that looks like some sort of disease on the bark of a tree.

“What the hell is that ?” I ask our mad scientist. “Oh, just a wee experiment I did with scraps off the floor”, she says.

Cut to the chase, we are all digging scraps out of the garbage and off the floor. No, I am not exaggerating. Before you know it, Liz is doing some weird felting technique on the machine. We are patch working the bark growth onto this coat, and it finally starts to look like something. But it still hadn’t completely harmonized. It needed some pop. I pulled out this yellowish/chartreuse thread, and had Liz work that into the mossy growth. Finally we dyed cording to match for a closure, and there it was. When we put it on Lotte, it was absolute magic. That little point! It was gleeful, audacious, once again, Geillis challenges you! A perfect costume moment, created out of thin air, and some stuff from the trash.

I am frequently asked what my favorite garments are. These two coats are at the top of the list.

Here are some closeups. (pardon my bad photoshop. I had to block out S2 on the walls behind, and this post took FOREVER)




For all of the historians who will freak about Geillis, again. TRUST US, Trust that we know what we are doing, and that sometimes, you have to just let the story go about it’s business, and see what happens. I am just not one of those people who reads the last chapter of a book, first.

27 thoughts on “The Coats – Episode 110

  1. irshiiz2

    And once again you’ve hit it out of the park. Lol. You and your staff have an incredible gift and we are sooo happy to have you designing for Outlander. Thank you

  2. delft727

    You are such a treasure! I am going to print this post (as I do all the ones I want to save in my Outlander file) to keep, re-read, learn from and enjoy! Love Claire’s coat and the actress that you so admire, want to protect, and enhance her beauty…check, check, check. Mission accomplished there. Learning what went into the creation of Geillis’s coat was mind-blowing. I think it began with me with your 24,000 buttons post…I never question, second guess…I DO TRUST. Why wouldn’t I? You’re the expert. I’m the uneducated novice. You are also a beautiful writer. Love how you described your relationship with Gary Steele. Your openness to share the love, admiration, and respect for your husband are words to cherish. Thank you for sharing what’s in your heart and soul. Brenda Shaw

  3. woolfarmgal

    Ooohhh….I am mesmerized by Geillis’s coat. The treatment of the edgings looks like raw wool fleece working in with random embroidery and felting. So mossy and earthy….and yes, a feel of mystery, elfish magic. Just want to touch it. Your work speaks to me….as I love working with wool and other natural fibers. Seeing your work is so inspiring. Thanks so much for sharing this. Helps the viewer feel a part of this project.

  4. Lizabat13

    I love reading how these costumes came to be and am enamoured of all your talents. I love the Geillis coat. I had never read the books until I had seen the show. I watched the show because I was smitten with everyone’s costumes. While my line of work is very different than this, I love the magic of colour and fabric and light. You are doing a brilliant job! Thanks!

  5. @punkiBrenda

    Yes Terry it has sure come together……You have the right to praise Ron not just as your husband but as a true Mastermind. Last night watching the episode you mentioning the blending…..well that is exactly what I felt! The artistry of the actors talent in so many scenes was brilliant! I gave a shout out to Gary as the designs on set just popped out so well last night might be light being different but wow what a job…..AND THOSE CLOTHING designs WOW…..yes we have seen Claire wear that before but it shined again and just blended so well with Geillis and enough can not be said of the work that went in on that one. Geillis wore hers in such a commanding way it fit her and who she is it is so beautiful as is the original you pulled from…..Every single new episode has been such an amazing delight that there are not enough Thank Yous to go around for all involved in the making of this. Can only speak for myself but am beyond pleased and am so very happy to see it being given such thought and respect as I have been a fan of DG from day one all those moons ago…Thank You again to ALL involved in bringing Outlander to life an absolute incredible way!

  6. angelasassoinlondon

    Oh I remembered Claire’s coat very well. How could we not – she was reciting John Dunne with Ned Gowan.
    And Geilli’s coat this time? The phrase that came to me when I watched it was “Wood Sprite” which I suppose is a form of a fairie.

    Lovely, lovely work as always.

  7. ksnasat

    Just saw Geillis’ coat close up….It is so perfect for Lotte/Geillis, ethereal yet earthy…reminiscent of Tibetan clothing…not sure why. The color of the cloth is rich but subtle.. She is aligned with the forces of nature and the elements….fire, air, earth, water and ether. ( sigh) I love it. I would wear it…

  8. J

    Hi Terry, I can’t say I am completely au fait with everything about the tv production of the fabulous books, but I am completely enamoured with the costumes – you are a genius and you and your team are doing an amazing job. Thank you for sharing part of the creative journey here with us. Absolutely fascinating.

  9. KiKi

    I love Geillis’ mossy lichen coat. It’s so beautiful and perfectly depicts Geillis’ connection with nature through the moss and lichen like felting as well as her sorcery and link to folklore through the pointy hood. It even hints at her fiery nature through the yellow and uniqueness in style. I suppose Geillis shares some qualities with moss/lichen and folklore creatures as she appeared out of nowhere, is hardy and untamed ;).
    I’m glad the fabric didn’t show up in time despite the stress I’m sure it caused.

  10. Katiscotch22

    I love Claire’s fur trimmed cloak, it looks warm an comfortable. Geillis pointy hood is so suited to her……Geillis is different, in more ways than Claire.

  11. lsaari

    Again Terry, I am in awe of the pieces that your department is creating! They are absolutely fabulous and really are a SUPER important part of the entire series! The pieces really _WORK_ – with the characters and the time period and are truly AM-azing! Count me as one who would give their eye teeth to be able to participate in your workshop! Kudos to you and your entire staff!
    Sincerely, Leslie Saari

  12. Solitaire

    I love the peak on the hood – quite elfin and suitable to Geillie’s nature. Love the organic quality of the surface decoration and the adaptation of the original. When I look at what appears to be nearly bell shapes in the lower sleeves, it puts me in mind of a dress I had about 1968. I can see this coat on some babe watching the Moody Blues at the Isle of Wight concert when Nights in White Satin was first showing up on the charts. Sort of transcends one time or place.

  13. MonicaP

    I like Claire’s fur lined coat because #1 it is a beautiful garment and #2 I love how the fur flutters in the wind. The wind adds another dimension to the story for me .. I can “see” the weather. I also like that fur was a necessity during this time so in my mind I can justify loving this coats. In the 21st century, I’ll still touch a fur coat with longing in a store, but I’ll never buy one.


    1. reneem

      Love both coats. Claire’s looks like it belongs to her, regal and heavy. Geillis’ is such a unique masterpiece. Perfect for her character. I would love to own a replica of that garment. I live in Houston, TX so Claire’s would be out of the question. In 1972, I purchased a beautiful ankle length coat that looked like rich bold tapestry. The edging was trimmed in ‘faux’ fur. Brass hooks were used as closures. Absolutely gorgeous! I gave it to my daughter and she still wears it….very vintage. She is an artist and painted a 6 ft canvas of me wearing the coat. Used a photograph from 1973.
      Love your creativeness and design!

  14. Cris

    OMG I totally fell in love with Claire Coat, I sow a lot of comments in many Outlander groups, we have been all amazed! I could not agree more with You, there is so much behind every single custom, it is like they reflect the Charachter attitude, their status. Thank You they are really masterpieces!! looking forward to see all the creations 😉 ps it so cool to see the pictures from the set.

    Greetings from Italy

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