Terry Dresbach

Outlander Costume Designer

Black Jack's costumes and appearance reflect his character

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    I’m going to take a SWAG starting a thread about BJR’s costumes and appearance.

    First, I think I made a comment on another thread about the officer’s uniforms. In the 18th century, right up into the 20th century, officers were not issued stock uniforms. ” An officer and a gentleman” had his own uniforms tailor made. What do BJR’s uniforms tell us?

    Well, they’re expensive and well made. In the book Dougal remarks on the expense of BJR’s wardrobe. But BJR doesn’t wear his clothes as easily or comfortably as, say, Dougal or Frank. BJR’s clothes always seem a bit dirty and a bit disheveled. I think this reflects that he’s in the field a good deal of the time, but I also think it reflects his inner disorder.

    The decision not to have BJR wear a wig is well-reasoned. (I assume Tobias is actually wearing a wig. But the character is wearing his own hair rather than the powdered wigs the other officers wear in The Garrison Commander.) This is a change from the book and, I think, a smart one. I think BJR is showing a certain contempt for his superiors and other people in general by being less than fastidious about his appearance, and by refusing to wear a wig. The modern parallel would be someone wearing jeans,and flip-flops to church.

    [In DG’s Lord John novels, Lord John, much to his valet’s annoyance, refuses to wear a wig. And, of course, Jamie never wears a wig. For me, Lord John and Jamie make this decision because they both have beautiful hair, and because they’re consciously less pretentious than their peers. Hmm, why don’t I extend that motivation to BJR?]

    Another of BJR’s idiosyncrasies is that he isn’t private about his grooming. In The Garrison Commander, he has himself shaved in front of Claire. In Both Sides Now he takes off his neck cloth in front of her (when he spills wine on it). These are both intimate acts that reflect his contempt of Claire — in the 18th century taking off a neck cloth was much more casual than a contemporary man taking off his time.

    My bottom line is that, for BJR as with the other characters, the costuming and make-up decisions the team has made support the character — how we react to him and how he strikes us (no pun intended).

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