Terry Dresbach

Outlander Costume Designer



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Confession. These costumes, I barely remember. I wish I could give everyone a deep, meaningful account of the thought process that went into these costumes. But I can’t.

We were deeply deeply into Season Two costume making when it came time to get Claire and Jamie on the ship from Scotland to France at the end of Season One. We were up to our eyeballs.  We knew we would need to make a new costume for Jamie, and that was manageable for us. Our men’s cutting team are amazing wizards. But we lost our women’s cutting team in the middle of Season Two prep, and were struggling to get all of our women’s costumes Done, and were using a rotation of temporary cutters. Cutters are the members of a costume team who translate the designers sketches into pattern, then cuts the fabric and supervises the costumes construction. Essential members of the department. Losing them was a terrible blow to us, and we were really scrambling to make all of our deadlines. So having to make another costume for Claire was going to be tough.

I remembered that we still had, one of the very first costumes we had ever made for Claire somewhere in the racks. I think it was the second costume we’d made for her, and for some reason we decided not to use it, and never finished it. We dug it up and found our solution. We could finish it without having to design and cut an entirely new gown.And it was actually quite perfect for a traveling costume, procured for Claire by the monks. A pretty gown, but nothing spectacular. It was completely believable that it would have belonged to someone else.

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One of the things I loved best about this gown was the lovely embroidered stomacher we had made. It came from a piece of embroidered fabric we picked up shopping at the Portobello Market in London. It was also one of the first examples I had seen of metal plate embroidery, which a had completely fallen in love with, and we ultimately used on Claire’s wedding dress.

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We didn’t even have an embroidery team at that point in the very beginning of Season One. But Liz Boulton had let me in on her skill as a historical embroidery. I asked if she could embroider a petticoat to match the piece of antique fabric, and we ended up with a very sweet gown. It was perfect for embarking on a new life in France.

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Jamie was an entirely different matter. He had to be smuggled out of France after suffering through soul shattering torture at the hands of Black Jack Randall. He had been stripped bare of everything, literally, figuratively, and emotionally, and brought back from the brink by Claire and his own strong core and will to live, that we had seen many times.

He too was given clothes by the monks. We dressed him as a middle class merchant, trying to do everything possible to make him look unremarkable, a task as difficult to accomplish wth the very real Sam Heughan as it was with the fictional Jamie. We made a costume out of linen, and topped it with a tricorn hat. Very un- Jamie.

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But they both passed.

There are two other costumes of note as we travel with our heroes into France.

*** Note: I have searched high and low for a pic of Jared. I am putting in the description anyway, because he is important. I will try to find one ***

First we meet Jamie’s cousin Jared, a Scotsman living in France. A wealthy and successful wine merchant, Jared is solidly bourgeois, wearing silk as was common in France, but fairly plain and simple. We kept him in earth tones, as a nod to Scotland.

Jared was so important to us. He is the justification we desperately needed when it came to the costumes. Jamie and Claire needed to move in the very wealthy circles of  the French Court. It would have been impossible without the appropriate wardrobe. Jared offers to bankroll them, making it possible for them to move into the inner circle, dressed in the most fashionable attire.

Our next character is very important on the journey. The Comte St. Germaine. He is the first representative of the French Aristocracy that we see. He is elegant and dangerous. I also wanted to dress him in colors we would have never used in Scotland. I put him in brown and pink after seeing a beautiful 18th century painting of a man wearing those colors. Rich, decadent and very sensual.

He was our first look at what was to come when Jamie and Claire finally arrived in Paris.

This was one of our first embroidered men’s costumes.

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Buttons!! We were coming to terms with how quickly we were going to run out of buttons, and decided to start making our own.

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Claire 40’s. I should really do a whole blog about now her at this point. But I am going to fall seriously behind. I think her clothes speak for themselves. They are all repeats of her clothing in S1. Just didn’t seem like she would have any interest in clothing at this point in the story. One interesting thing, when Frank comes to her bedroom for the big talk, she is wearing her negligee from the honeymoon, under Mrs. Graham’s robe.

The only piece we made for her was the rather sad suit she wears on the plane, something she buys for the sake of propriety, nothing more.

I would love to post picture of it, but this damned site will not allow me to upload pictures, AGAIN!!!!!!!! ARRRRGGGH. I wanted to do another post.

Fingers crossed I can do one on Sunday!!!


22 thoughts on “France.

  1. Pingback: France. By Terry Dresbach… – The Bonnie Kilt

  2. Connie Sandlin

    Liz to the rescue, again! The Outlander costume department is very resourceful! And that costume of Comte St. Germain – I want to eat it slowly, with a spoon. Thank you, Terry, and good luck with your tech issues

    1. annalapping

      Oh My!!! The costumes…..I know just about everyone watches every episode multiple times, but sometimes I do to study the costumes….last night I noticed Claire’s cloak clasp…, and of course, LeCompte…his costume is so complex it will take many viewings and replays of scenes to become familiar with all the detail. Well done, Terry, and I didn’t know you lost your cutters half-way through S1….maybe I did, but forgot. That was a blow I’m sure, but you did it!

  3. woolfarmgal

    Wow.. The embroidery of the Comte St Germain costume was so tasty… The pink and brown… Just scrumptious. And I really loved Claire’s travel clothes too. Brought out her coloring. So much eye candy and just the 1st episode!

  4. BevKayShea11

    A nagging question my daughter & I have is were Claire’s clothes that Frank was burning an actual costume or the remnants left over from the costume Caitiona was wearing? I hope you didn’t have to make a costume just to have it burned.

  5. Martina

    The handwork on those costumes! At the ballet we volunteers do a lot of that so that the paid employees can focus on the big stuff (like tutus 🙂 ). I can’t believe you did all that with basically a skeleton staff. Liz’ embroidery is gorgeous!

  6. M&M

    Was the piece of embroidered fabric antique, or did you age yourself? So incredible. Lovin’the buttons, they are wee bits of art. Learn so much from your posts.

  7. Just love to read about the whole process! Amazing! Also your enthusiasm for your work! That I could have such passion for my work! Inspiring!

  8. TTorbett

    So much fun to enjoy a behind the scenes peak into what all goes into making this incredibly epic production. Your designs are exquisite, and staff (bare bones even!) are amazingly skilled and talented. Looking forward to more gorgeous representations of these beautiful historical wardrobes.

  9. Drruth1951

    Fascinating! I loved Jared’s look. In Season 1, Jamie looked uncomfortable in the tricorn. Very useful disguise. Thank you for the explanations. They make it even more interesting!

    The windows at Saks were so incredible. I saw them 3 times. Thank you for giving your time in NY at Saks at the end and signing all three of my cards. My friends were ecstatic as was I.

  10. MCatherine

    So fascinating to read about the ‘behind the scenes drama in the costume department. Yikes!!!
    If one could get an ‘eye-candy’ over-load, I would happily suffer. The embroidery detail on these pieces is just wonderful. Have you ever had an opportunity to design and produce more delicious costumes in your entire career? I hope you are enjoying this experience, despite the more that wee challenges. Thank you for giving us the opportunity to enjoy the experience with you. Oh, and yes, those buttons are fabulous!

  11. outlanderaddict

    Thank you for the time you devote to this blog and all the outreach that you do to let us become “insiders”. The education you provide should be required reading for all those at institutions like FIT aspiring to be the next generation of costume designers. I can say that it further feeds my “addiction” to Outlander.

    Just saw Ep 2 Season 2 in France glorified by your costumes. Absolutely breathtaking. Truly amazing and again thank you for the time you give to providing us with the incredible tasks and team that make it all possible.

  12. claireokc

    Thanks Terry – as usual your work is beautiful and meeting the time constraints is beyond imagination. I sure hope you can do a DVD add-on with you talking about the costumes and showing them to us. Not all of us can make it to New York or LA (work gets in the way of so much fun!!!!). Caught your reply on Tom & Lorenzo. They are amazingly intuitive (maybe they’re time travelers). and for me they get it in fashion.

  13. LisaW

    The costumes were perfect for Jamie and Claire. And Claire’s cape is beautiful!!
    The Comte was magnificent in his introduction! Definitely knew he was someone of worth!
    Can’t wait for tonight!!

  14. kmwgable

    I’m in awe of the incredible amount of research, details and work that goes into each and every costume. My dream would be to spend a day or two watching you and your team go through the painstaking process of creating the costumes. And, it’s every girls dream to play dress up with Claire’s costumes (princess for a day)

    Thanks for sharing yourself with the fans.

    1. nolakate

      WAY too much to check out in one sitting. even too much for a dozen replays. this work is fantastic. maybe if you have time you can post pictures of most of the costumes not even with commentary so we can stare at them without you having to write about each. and could save the pic and make our own look book!

  15. Draper

    Visually dazzling episode. Will have to see it again just to take it all in.

    Excellent Bonnie Prince Charlie – feckless as can be – and the contrast between his beautiful clothes and the ones his supporters in the highlands were wearing as they handed over money to support him.

    So many details so see in those dresses. And swans. Claire’s dress seemed the same shade of red as 1940s lipstick. Was it shorter than other people’s deliberately to show her ankles daringly? Definitely will be watched again.

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