Terry Dresbach

Outlander Costume Designer

Frills, Furbelows and Bows


I have planned for a long time, how I would present the methods we all use to deal with the scale of the show. We started prepping everything a year before shooting. You have to have almost a mass manufacturing approach. One of the big things we needed to deal with was trims. French 18th century gowns were awash in trim.



These are actual museum pieces. Look carefully at all the applied decoration.




Untitled-1So, while costumes were being made, en mass, my team made trims, trims, and more trims. They made trims for months. Trims, furbelows, bows, stomachers.We needed thousands of yards of very complicated trim, but we also needed everyone to know how to make the enormous variety. I am sure everyone wanted to kill me.

Here are pictures of our trim and stomacher samples.














Okay, I am tired of copy and pasting…

28 thoughts on “Frills, Furbelows and Bows

  1. woolfarmgal

    After examining all the details of trims….I can see why you needed months to prepare. I loved seeing the museum pieces. All the textile research you do seems a labor of love. I am fascinated. It is such fun being able to see your journey. History of textiles has always been a passion of mine…and a vocation too. Spent the weekend vending at a fiber festival where there were among many demos, wool wauking to Scottish songs, spinning, weaving, knitting on antique sock machines and the like. Your blog and the fun of watching Outlander where the costumes come to life is icing to my cake. Thank you.

  2. hkbookworm

    I wish I had had these references when I was sewing antebellum gowns. You should maybe think about putting a book together using all these marvelous photos and comments. It would be valuable to all who love costuming… I wish I could be a fly on the wall when all these wonderful costumes are being created. Pure Textile Art!! Thanks for sharing!!

  3. ellenchristine

    And voila! you’ve just shown the entire world the joys of ruching. Add a disclaimer? this should not be attempted at home unless you are extremely accurate, patient, and talented, with an eye to precision and speed.
    May the silk manufacturers of the world rejoice in increased sales. May ladies’ dressmakers become a newfound metier. May the milliners of the world gain more respect. And may you and your team get that Emmy.

  4. Pingback: Frills, Furbelows and Bows – The Bonnie Kilt

  5. annalapping

    I am just amazed at the variety and complexity of all the trims. And I particularly enjoyed seeing the markings/instructions on the examples, along with the time required to make it on a few of them…it really puts into perspective the amount of work that went into each and every costume. Brava!

  6. larrouxgirl

    You and your team are so amazingly talented, gifted, motivated, all of the above. While I never would claim to be as talented as the least of the lot of you, I know something about motivation that makes you willing to crawl through fire for someone you trust and respect. Know that those of us dedicated to the Ron Moore interpretation of Diana’s books and to the vision of his canny wife and costume guru (I am impressed and delighted by the nod to the ’50s and Dior in Clare’s costuming), everything is coming up roses — or should I say rosettes. A million thanks for all that you do.

    1. Jan Angelini

      Never laundered. Ladies Maids were responsible for garments spot cleaned and maintained. Primitive but effective solutions proven over time.

    2. MedusaZ

      In addition to that being mentioned about spot cleaning, large houses used to have Airing cupboards. This was a closet that often opened up to the basement or fresh air. The Ladies maid would hang the dress in this cupboard to “Air it out” If I remember correctly this is where the term That was used to show how often the dress was worn….as in “The dress already had one airing”

  7. Draper

    This is couture type detail. It’s quite extraordinary to see it on screen rather than in a museum display case.

    Thank you for letting us see these photos. Congratulations to everyone involved including the person who did the unpicking when things went pear-shaped.

  8. Moz

    Wow, I’ve made many ruffle samples with ratios like this…but never at the scale you all had to do for this season. Thanks for the insight, Terry. Much appreciated seeing the inside workings.

  9. mwdesigns2014

    Magnificent detailing and manipulation of the fabric; Isn’t it astounding all the time that’s spent in prepping/creating the details! Congratulations to you and your team for having the moxie to build the high caliber costume department for Outlander!

    Yours truly,
    Michelle Warin

  10. melaniedresbachwarman

    Oh my God this is cool! I MUST have been a seamstress during this period in a past life! I loved seeing the instructions next to the example. Have you ever thought of saving these for a book? Costumers, heirloom sewists and quilters would dig these embellishments. I know that I would. So interesting to see this, and so generous of you to share it. Frankly, the costumes are my favorite part of this season to date. The story line is building, but it is necessarily a bit ponderous to get to where we need to be in this “arc”. Thankfully, every scene is such eye candy that I watch each episode twice to be certain that I don’t miss essential dialogue. Drat! What a chore! ha, ha.

  11. jennmc725

    The first time I watch every episode, I just let it “wash” over me. Then I go back and re-watch for all the details. I LOVE all of your posts (and Bear McCreary’s too) about what goes into each. It makes viewing such a treat, and I feel so insider-y. Let me know when you get sick of hearing that! 🙂

  12. dancerdf

    Wow, the work is simply mind boggling. But it is so exquisite, and such fun to see the behind the scenes process. Looking back at what you’ve created must be so fulfilling a feeling Terry. These belong in a costume museum for all to admire!

  13. Lee Glendening Koss

    Terry, thank you for taking the time to share the details about these amazing costumes. It helps me appreciate the series even more!

  14. moniquerose

    Exquisite! Thank you for posting this level of detail. Does the white on white make things easier or harder? Second the motion that this is certainly book(s) material!

  15. AlennaM

    Amazing – the detail! Stomachers, caracos and casaquins (if I remember the names correctly). It’s no wonder they had to have a maid dress them! I’ve noticed in many pictures of French noblewomen of 1800’s that many show very “Extreme Décolletage” with the dresses they wore, often exposing the nipples. On the other hand it was scandalous to reveal a shoulder or an ankle. People saw nipples quite often then. How strange are our societal ideas of modesty and dress over time.

  16. MedusaZ

    WOW!, just wow. The attention to detail is amazing. I felt like I was looking at blueprints for a house.
    Costume design and construction seems very similar to Architectural design and construction.

    It must be very gratifying to you and your team to see the finished product so beautifully displayed on the Outlander Actors.
    Animation makes these costumes vibrate with energy.

  17. Oh, crap! You have to use math????

  18. jess.crapes

    These muslin samples of the detail work are so great to see the processes involved to create the final gowns and details. Makes me wish I had an occasion to sew an embellished gown myself!

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