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…

Louise – Versailles


Outlander Season 2 2016

Louise was absolutely essential to our entire structure. She was actually a cornerstone.

I set a very public goal before we ever started filming Outlander. To be as authentic as possible. Of course you can never be truly authentic. There is no way to make thousands of garments by hand, in the time we have. We can’t use actual 18th century materials, in short we are making costumes, not reproductions. But I did not want to present a contemporary view of history. As I say over and over, “History is pretty good, just as it is! It needs no help from us.”

But we knew that we were going to play this time travel note with Claire. The ONLY way that works is if the world around her is very, very true to the period. Otherwise it is just a mess. We lose all accuracy, and Claire’s message gets completely lost in the jumble. Louise (and Mary) are the female supporting characters, they are Parisians. They MUST be absolutely SPOT ON.

Louise’s character really lends itself well to the task. A somewhat vapid coquette, a member of the Parisian Aristocracy, she is an 18th Century fashionista of the first order. She can carry the water. Louise can define Parisian fashion for us, and create a backdrop for Claire. She is our contrast.

We looked to some really spectacular gowns worn by Madame Pompadour and other ladies of the French Court.



One of the costumes we do that with is her Versailles gown. I chose the most flagrant fabric I could find. A wildly sensual embroidered silk. the colours on it are outrageous.


Trying to remember the name…something Peony. Very Chinoiserie, which was an influence of the period through the silk trade.

The most fun thing about the gown was that no matter HOW MUCH we threw at the gown, it just absorbed it. Bows, furbelows, lace, flowers, jewels, nothing was too much for this dress. I think we could have added even more but had to stop at some point.

It is rare to have so many great pictures of one costume, but the publicity dept. shot this from every possible angle. Fantastic. I have added a few more, so keep scrolling, there are a zillion pictures. I think the best thing is just to post them all. I guess this dress really can never be too much.


Outlander Season 2 Gallery Pictured: Claire Sermonne as Louise de Rohan Photo: Jason Bell/Starz/Courtesy of Sony Pictures Television






Furbelow construction –







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Voila! Louise.

Jamie Pt.2…Posh Jamie


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We needed to create costumes for Jamie that would move him into very formal wear. Personally, I find the embroidery on mens suits incredibly sexy. There is something about a man so confident in his sexuality that he is not threatened by decoration. That men’s clothing has to be stripped bare, or it MEANS SOMETHING (gasp), is such a conceit of a later time, and an attitude that I think is very narrow and less progressive than earlier times. Again, we think we are so advanced compared to earlier periods of history. We had a recent discussion on Twitter about how restrictive corsets were to women, but once I posted pictures of Victoria Secret pushup bras, the discussion expanded.

ANYWAY, case in point.

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I LOVE THIS SHOT. I took it on set. It was the moment I knew we had got it right. Here is a very relaxed and confident man, a very masculine man. A very confident man. A man secure enough not to be threatened by some embroidered silk.

This shot is taken between takes, so this man is not Jamie Fraser, it is Sam Heughan. I knew at this moment that Sam felt comfortable with the direction we had taken him in Paris, and could get on with the business of playing Jamie. Languid, is the word that comes to mind.

IMG_4017 (1)Another great shot. I love how Sam/Jamie is cradling his wounded hand.

The Waistcoat. It is not called a vest, people ;).

At some point, Liz bought an 18th century waistcoat on eBay, for a ridiculously low price. She brought it in for us all to study. It was later in the century, but really fit into the direction I wanted to do, cream with gold and silver embroidery.Very masculine. I THINK we copied it, don’t remember exactly, we probably modified it a bit, but pretty damned close to the original. I am in love with this waistcoat.

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IMG_4020 (1)Beautiful glass buttons from Britex Fabrics in San Francisco.

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We made the buttons, I love them. Decorative, yet once again, masculine. Notice his cuffs. No lace. That would have pushed it too far. When designing, you really do have to imagine that you are the character fitting clothes with a tailor. I could just feel Jamie saying to the slightly scandalised tailor, “No lace”.


Jamie Pt.1…



Soooooo, Jamie.

Our challenge with Jamie’s costumes was actually not unlike our challenges with Claire. We needed him to move into the inner circle of the French Court, and yet retain his essential character. He is a Scotsman and a warrior, Unfortunately he is not a time traveler, so we had no way to reach back to another period of time and find a clever way to meet that challenge.. But what I did decide to do, was something similar to what I’d done with Claire. I had to reach into his character, find the defining characteristics and make sure that we remained true to them.

  1. Commanding
  2. Heroic
  3. Masculine
  4. Simple and Clean Lines
  5. Lethal
  6. Solid

I also could feel Sam reaching out psychically, “Terry, please do not make me wear lime green, drenched in lace”

Sam’s relief was palpable when he arrived for his first fittings, and saw the manifestation of the list above. It was a pretty great moment. What I had decided to do was to go with as classic a look as I could manage. A 6’3″ ginger slamming around in some bright color and high heeled shoes, would be distracting to say the least. Another one of those moments where the mind of a reader is very different from the eye of a viewer.

But, every man looks great in a black suit, with a white shirt.

Blk Suit

I read early on that most men in the 18th century (wealthy men), had three staple suits. Black, great and brown (just like now), but that very few examples survive, as men wore them out.

This is one of the early examples I was able to find. LOVE it.


Not only does Sam look great in a black suit, but considering all that Jamie had been through it seemed very appropriate. He is not in literal mourning, but he has been absolutely shattered. Wrong time in the story for azure blue.



So that is where we went. I think he just looks insanely elegant. His costumes are made of the highest quality of silk I could find, the embroidery and decorative details are absolutely exquisite. I feel like he looks wealthy enough to be accepted, yet not part of the French Court, like Claire, and even Murtagh in his new clothes. I used black and shades of grey, with the exception of a couple of pieces.

CeWWiZDUUAIGTKL.jpg-largeWe will get to those boots in a separate post, and I will cover this costume and some of his other pieces.

I really love where we ended up. I think we stayed true to who Jamie is. Sam was very happy and most important, he was comfortable and felt right. He could still inhabit Jamie, and didn’t have to try and access him through layers of embellishment.

Here are some BTS shots…


We made this fantastic sort of relief pattern with the fabric (silk/wool blend). The technique creates light and dark, which makes for a more interesting texture on camera. The small buttons are some of my absolute favourites. They are a burnished metal surrounded by small rhinestones. We embroidered cloth buttons to compliment.

A very simple suit becomes simple, yet not.

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You can see our first pass at Jamie’s bandage in this pic. Costume still covered in tailoring threads.





Inspiration Walls…


…my office. There are just sooooooo many photos I took this year to post. So every once in a while I am going to post a few random bits.








Not sure there is very much more to say about the red dress, that hasn’t been covered extensively.

Mood boards and various notes, below…

© Mark Shaw / mptvimages.com











Interesting re invention of a classic Dior from the late 40s. The New Look has been reinterpreted so many, many times.


I was so worried that because Cait is so very fair, that she would be overpowered by brilliant red. It is neither an easy color to use onscreen, but it can eat up a mere mortal. The color made Cait glow like some sort of natural candle flame.

Extraordinary. The dress will NEVER look as good on a mannequin as it does on this particular living, breathing, being.


A quote from Cait-

“It’s a beautiful dress and such a fan moment in the books. Jamie has to say, ‘You can see all the way down to your third rib,’ and it had to fulfill all these different things, so Terry did such an incredible job with it. But walking anywhere, I had to do this kind of sideways crab walk. It was like, ‘Wide load, coming through!’ I thought all that I was missing was the, ‘Beep! Beep! Beep!’ that these massive trucks had.”

One of Balfe’s favorite additions that the writers made is the fact that Claire helps design the dress herself.

“It was nice to be able to see Claire explore her femininity, because she’s usually such a practical and pragmatic person, and not at all interested in her appearance. Being able to see her dressing up for the first time ever, that was a nice element.”

( Fifteen yards of Duchesse Satin)



red bodice





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When trying to figure how to address the notes from the book, I came across this painting.


It gave me the idea that if Claire took a traditional bodice, such as this-

Red Sketch 1  took the embellishment off, and then she opened up the front seam, she would end up with this  –Red Bodice 2

I think it worked for the story and paid homage to the book and the fans of the book/


One last thing- I insisted that we make this. So my amazing team did. They are, once again, the best.


There you go