Terry Dresbach

Outlander Costume Designer

God is in the Details.





God is in the details. So they say. Words I tend to live by.

My next two posts will be a reflection on exactly that. I have talked before about my biggest struggle in doing a show like this, where the Costume team has an opportunity to create such elaborate, detailed pieces, is hearing viewers say, “when do we see that costume?”. WE SAW IT!!!! Three episodes ago! But you actually didn’t. The actor never got up from the table, we never saw them from the back, there was never a head to toe shot (almost never), it is too dark to see it if they did, etc.

I often threaten to abandon the details. “What is the point? ” I ask. “Why should my team bleed over these costumes for months, if we are never going to see them?!?! Don’t we want the audience to SEE this alien world??”

But I do get it. The show cannot add hours to loving close ups on buttons or pocket details. There is an awful lot of story to get into a 13 hours of television and every minute is precious. I also believe that even if we don’t see the details, we feel them. They are their subliminally (is that a word?), they help the audience to believe that the world is real, and they absolutely help the actor to feel the character. God IS in the details.

But I am a mere human, and I struggle. So I created my own art gallery, to celebrate the details. My work, the work of my team. I am an atheist, after all.

Let’s start with one of my favourite costumes this season. Annalise at Versailles. I love this costume. It is as close a reproduction as I could make of this costume. I try to pepper the show with reproductions. Not only does it add authenticity, but it validates various choices. this particular costume is about detail, but very importantly about color. This supports our choice to use a different palette in S2 than everyone expects. These are not the pastel, bon bon colours that come later in the 18th century. The colors of the mid 18th are much deeper and richer. Our story is just one King before the ears of Marie Antoinette that everyone associates with the 18th century.

This is a Casaquain from the Palais Galliera, musée de la Mode de la Ville de Paris. 

Casaquin. Anonyme, vers 1730-1740. Galliera, musée de la Mode de la Ville de Paris.



The differences are clear. Our colors are deeper. There comes a point when you have looked at every possible shade of whatever colour you are trying to match, the dye room is already behind schedule, and you have to LET IT GO, TERRY! It is close enough! We also just did not have the time to create that marvellous tulip hem and to piece the silver lace the way they did. I had to use a Dupioni silk in order to get the closest color. Very often these things are an exercise in compromise. But you accept it and move one. Cameras need to roll.

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8 thoughts on “God is in the Details.

  1. Moz

    The details are just such a treasure. So often in film we don’t see these unless we’re giving a magnified view by someone willing to take the time to document and share. TY Terry, for taking the time and sharing. Much appreciated.

  2. robinlynn34

    I finally ventured out of lurker status and decided to join the party. Hopefully it’ll be less eventful than J&C’s dinner party.

    I find that I watch an episode of Outlandet much like I read one of Diana’s rich novels. The first time, I’m racing through delighted to meet up with beloved characters and taking in the larger story and emotional beats as quickly as my eyes can take them in. The second – ?!? (insert embarrassingly high number) time through I take luxuriate in all the little details that make the story come to life.

    Your blog, Ron’s podcasts, Gary’s blog, the annotated scripts and website tidbits, Diana’s various fan platforms, Twitter interaction – all highlight the many elements that may be missed the first time around, but most definitely work to make our favorite book series magically (with the help of 1,000s of behind-the-scenes wizards) appear on our screens each week.

    So thank you for all that you do from ball-gowns and button covers and every stich in between.


  3. ellenchristine

    We drool, we slobber, we pant…….and we feel them, oh, yes, we do. Far be it for me to say you’re filling in so many blanks that the viewers don’t even know they’re blank because of you, but there, I said it. Delightful, delectable, demonic details. Bits and bobs, trinkets and accents, cunning shape and glorious color…fit, fit, fit. Living, breathing history, and better still….these characters come to life even more for us. You and your sublimely talented team have given us the gift of visual glory, topped with a huge dollop of whipped cream and a cherry on the top. Insane, that you come in on budget. Insane, that “they” let you have your way with historic reproductions, gilt, silver and froth. Thank the stars. And thank you.

  4. joanapolis

    Terry, it would be great if you created a little 5 min video like Ron does after each episode to be posted as Inside the World of Outlander under the Inside Look on the Outlander starz.com website. (like this: https://www.starz.com/video/ffa5c50f97014252a084697e2565c64e) . Just to point out highlights for us to go back and watch immediately. We all watch those Inside Look’s asap and we all watch the show 2-3 times so it would be great to have your coaching as to where to keep an eye out right there too. Even if it wasn’t seen you can’t point them here. We all wanna know about these details! You can then show in the video, a sleeve or a pocket, etc. Just a thought!

  5. moniquerose

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for revealing those details to us. We do subliminally know that they are there, but bringing them to the light so that we might delight in them and sometimes just plain wallow, makes our appreciation of what you so that much richer. You ARE The Goddess!

  6. Well, Terry, thanks for the details, because that’s why I re-watch episodes….not to revisit the storyline, but to look at your beautiful work!!! And BTW, subliminally would be a great Scrabble word!

  7. Devon Ellington

    Totally agree. I think we DO feel the details — there’s an overall psychological effect. And, I know from the actors I’ve dressed, how many of them delight in a detail that gives them a fresh insight. One moves differently in a corset than in a merry widow, for instance. A wide sleeve with frills creates a different feel –and a different way of movement (especially around flame) than a mutton leg.

    I find that my time working in wardrobe has definitely affected how I write scenes, in that I think in terms of how they move and what they’re wearing (especially in fight scenes). One can change the dynamic of scene depending on the details of the clothes.

    Thank you so much for sharing these photos with us. I am in awe of the beauty, and of the skill of your crew.

  8. Miss Bea Heyvin

    Terry…Not that you don’t have anything else to do, but because of the gorgeous details, have you thought about curating a traveling exhibit of these costumes? I would LOVE to see these works of art in person.

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