Terry Dresbach

Outlander Costume Designer

Red Silk Slippers


So, here is the story on the red shoes.

No, I did not go out and get 18th century shoes that would draw a link to the Wizard Of Oz. I wish I had, it’s a great idea!

The actual story is pretty good though. Getting period shoes is tricky. We need hundreds and hundreds of pairs. In any given episode we will have hundreds of extras, and for every extra you have to have two or three of anything to try on until you find what fits and works. Make sense?

We have period shoes made for our principal actors. But we could not possibly afford to make hundreds of shoes for extras at over $100 per pair. So, we “cobble” together shoes. We search out, remake, re work, dress up, dress down shoes we get from all over the place. (don’t want to even discussย Season Two)

ANYWAY, there was this one pair of shoes. I am not even sure where we got them. They were actual period authentic shoes, but they were in a tiny size and RED. We couldn’t really use them on the show.

We kept putting them away on the shelf, but oddly, they just kept ending up in the middle of one of the aisles in our shop. Eventually, we just kind of left them there, and walked around them, saying, “someone has to put those shoes away”.

We were doing a fitting with Lotte one day, and were walking through the shop. There they were, like something from an episode of Twilight Zone, the shoes, sitting in the middle of the aisle staring up at us, beseechingly.

“What are THOSE??”cried Cinderella/Dorothy/Wicked Witch/Lotte.

“Oh those shoes, we have no idea where they came from, and they are too small for everyone, anyway.”

Needless to say, they fit. Perfectly. In, oh so many ways.


40 thoughts on “Red Silk Slippers

  1. Jennifer Jackson

    I can’t believe I missed these red slippers. When I watched episode 103 the second time – I laughed out loud. I LOVE them. There is so much humor in these red slippers – scarlet letter; Dorothy’s ruby red slippers; the Pope’s red shoes; the red light district; and so on and so forth. What a delightful treat. You’re a genius Terry!

  2. M_MQue (@Que3M)

    What a stroke of genius, Terry! Love Geillis’ red shoes. She’s making a statement about her husband’s wealth & her position as well as her desire to flaunt the traditional way of dressing in her immediate society. When I see Geillis, I think of “Come in to my parlour, said the spider to the fly”. Hypnotic & strangely beautiful yet she could be deadly! Thank you and your team for making Outlander grounded and magical. It’s a joy to watch.

  3. Theresa Brandt

    I just finished watching Episode 3 and was blown away by Geillis’s red slippers. Those slippers were like a drop of very bright blood in an otherwise muted scene. How very Geillis to wear something so provocative and how genius of you to provide it.

    I just wanted to say how much I appreciate your efforts. I have been a big fan of costume and set design for a long, long time. Both contribute so much to the enjoyment of any production. I look forward to seeing more of your work.

  4. Melody Henkel

    Her red slippers/shoes killed two birds with one shoe. I know women of upper class women and men often wore red heels. So it showed Gellie’s upperclass status. And a wink and a nod to the Wicked Witch.
    Well played Terry. Well played.

  5. Belvane

    I think in older cultures, the temple women (priestesses who would engage believers in sexual worship for the glory of the Gods) used to paint their feet red; it was one of the marks of their position. Terry, why did you choose to give Geillis those shoes? I’m reading many theories here, all good, but I’d like to know what made you choose that.

  6. Stacy McGuire Colonna

    I feel like Geillis is in on the joke. She would have known the ruby slippers from the Wizard of Oz, and I think her personality is of such that she would have laughed at also being a witch with red slippers. And maybe to test Claire and see if she got the joke as well?

  7. Kristin Milner (@WarriorInSoul)

    They’re delicious, and I love the contrast between the shoes and the more muted tones of her skirt and parlor. I know you didn’t plan for it, but it makes sense for Geillis to wear something like this, which sets her apart from other women of that century. She’ll conform, but on her terms. In some ways, it reminds me of your comment about her corset, and how she rarely wears one. In both cases, there’s an underlying message, one that speaks to her individuality.

    1. terrydresbach

      We did not plan for RED, but we did plan to always set Geillis apart. You are absolutely right, she conforms, but on her own terms.
      You have got it, the underlying message about her individuality. Thank you for seeing what we are trying to convey!

  8. Deep Dish Dreams (@stickifingers)

    Terry, thank you for sharing with us your thoughts, this blog is now very much part of my experience of Outlander. Being in Australia I am seeing your posts slightly ahead of each episode, but that’s just fine, I find it enhances my observations.

    I watch each episode of Outlander twice: first for the acting, direction, cinematography and story; second so I can wholly immerse myself in the richness of detail contributed by your wardrobe and the art department. Thank you, it is spellbinding.

    In this episode I was also fascinated by the textured cape you made for Lotte in the scene in the herb garden. An ethereal piece that symbolically managed to ground her, it wouldn’t stay squarely on her shoulders. Wrangling it as she moved seem to remove the element of her being magical, and perhaps posed a metaphor for a woman set on shaping her world and bending those about her to her will?

    And the red shoes – they seem to have a life of their own? Your story of them appearing made me think about Hans Christian Andersen’s creepy tale of the terrifying red shoes that possessed their owner. Possibly appropriately gruesome for the character of Geillis.

    1. terrydresbach

      We were able to have lots of fun with Geillis, and push all sorts of boundaries.
      In my opinion, magic is less about being able to control and more about being able to manipulate, not necessarily a perfect science. It is not the Disney version of a witch, who pounds a staff or waves a wand and poof you’re a toad. It is about early science and the idea that if you mixed a bit of this, with a bit of that you might help someone’s gout feel better, or you might kill them. If you mix a bit of this with a bit of that, he might love you, or he might die.
      In modern pop psychology, we are told endlessly, that we cannot control others and can only control ourselves. Bad things happen when you try to control others. In the modern ethics of magic (usually wiccan), there are many who believe that if you do harm to others, it will come back to you, in other words, Karma. The first line of the hypocratic oath, speaks of “do no harm”. I suppose it is all mingled together as is just another stitch in human tapestry.
      Makes sense to me, if we look at what we know about psychology and human interaction, controlling, manipulating or harming others is a messy business, and often harms the perpetrator as much as the victim.
      Geillis a mere mortal, dabbling in areas that may make things as difficult for Geillis as for those she is involved with.
      Eerily as I am writing this, I am listening to Dragonfly. It just came to the discussion of Do no harm, between Claire and Monsieur Raymond.
      Cue the Twilight Zone music…

  9. A Little Claireification

    So glad to have found this post after I tweeted about the “red slippers”. A great wardrobe story and I think it’s even funnier now that the Wizard of Oz reference is in Episode 4 when Claire give the “love potion” to Laoghaire.

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