Terry Dresbach

Outlander Costume Designer

Obsessed : The Juggler’s Costume


Juggler Front_edited-1

I admit it, I am obsessed with this costume. It does everything I think a costume should do. It is fantastic looking, but not distractingly so, because it is based on the story, not imposed upon it. I love that it has a history. My team did a phenomenal job of aging this piece. We shredded it, and then darned it!

I remember in the beginning one of my team members, Graham, who has quite an impressive collection of 18th century clothing, brought in this amazing coat. It had clearly belonged to a wealthy man, who had worn it a lot over many, many years. You could tell, because when you looked at the inside of the coat, it was covered in darned bits, and with carefully sewn in patches. We don’t do that anymore. We discard our clothing when we get bored with it, either individually, or as a culture. We do not nurse a garment across the decades. Even the poorest of our societies, discard the cheap garments purchased at Wal Mart, or Target only a few months or a few years before. But clothes like that coat, tell a story. They tell us about the wearer, they tell us about his life, and the world he lived in. Even a wealthy man, who could afford an ornately embroidered coat, took care of it, cherished it, and above all valued it. It had meaning.

It is important to me to show that on Outlander. To show how differently people then related to things that we take so casually. I can remember my mother repairing clothing, my father pulling out the wooden family shoe box and carefully polishing his shoes. I am not sure how accurate my memory is, but I only remember my father having maybe 4 pairs of shoes when I was growing up. And we were not poor, just a middle class family. How many of us have shoe polish boxes in our homes now?? He just took care of them, so they would last.

But then again, my parents didn’t have credit cards because they thought that if you couldn’t pay for something outright (other than a house, maybe), you had no business buying it.

I digress, I suppose. This costume was the first time, we were able to show that way of thinking, that kind of consciousness.

This is an old garment. One that has probably seen many owners. A garment passed around many lives. Until it becomes a costume, for a street performer, who sees glamour and theater in it’s fraying threads. it still has a purpose, a reason for being cherished.

This was also the first costume the amazingly talented  textile artist, Hellen Gallogly, painted for us, after joining our team. She does beautiful work, and is creating truly startling textiles for us in Season Two.

And the equally talented Emily Watson created that felted embroidery on the coat. How fantastic is that. Emily also made the woven collar I recently wrote about.

Finally, there is nothing greater, than a woman wearing men’s clothing. Cait so embraced and reveled in the freedom given to Claire, and to herself, after both of them being trapped for months in heavy woolen women’s clothing.

The return of 1940s Claire and of 2014 Caitriona to trousers, was a joyful thing to behold. They both needed a break.





juggler felt


(Before we aged it)

Screen Shot 2015-05-15 at 2.22.16 PM


34 thoughts on “Obsessed : The Juggler’s Costume

  1. Terstriep

    Terry, we often and frequently praise Diana and her storytelling abilities. However, I believe you are just as talented a storyteller as Diana. Rather than use words to tell your story, you use fabrics, needle thread, paints, dyes and actor’s bodies. Your work is an honor to those who are no longer here to tell their own stories about their treasured garments and the intense pride they had in them. Thank you for your storytelling with your work. I believe we can never tell you how much we appreciate the vibrantly rich textures, colors and fabrics you have used to mimic what we see in the Scottish Highlands and on these very talented actors. Kudos to you.

    Thanks for sharing this backstory. It is also much appreciated.

    1. annalapping

      I loved those costumes so much! and they really contributed to the “feel” of the episode. Love the felted embroidery and all the other details, even the ones we didn’t see (since you described them so well). It seems like every week there is another surprise.

  2. My goodness Terry, what a wonderful costume. I agree with you about the sad fact of our throw-away society. I was brought up darning socks and repairing clothes with a variety of techniques. I remember, in 1983, a summer “vacation” from NYU Film school, I was hired in Rochester NY to restore 19th Century gowns! I was in an antiques store and was feeling sorry about the state of some of the beautiful original garments they had and mentioned it to the lady behind the counter. She was sorry that nothing could be done so I corrected her misapprehension. I used my great great grandmother’s antique silk thread and darned all the holes and reinforced the seams in the deep green jewel tone silk gown that afternoon so one had to really look closely to see where it had been done. I was hired on the spot. Such memories! If I hadn’t become a film editor I would have loved to be a costumer! xo

    1. motherhen

      Lydia! How fun! In my 20’s I did repair work for a vintage clothing store and she would ONLY let me repair the garments in the fashion they would have been at their historical time. I never made any money because I ended up buying many of her beautiful items….fond memories and NOTHING to do with my current career. 🙂

  3. marthatrulock

    Clever you and design team. Not just one juggler’s outfit but two, one for Cait and her double. I actually think I like the “aged” look the best. The costume worked so well in “The Search” episode. And I loved Cait singing. x

  4. peggyvanslp

    Thanks so much for this post, Terry. Loved the before/after pictures of the vest. Had no idea that it was handpainted, and the little lapels give it a great contrast of colour. The missing/replaced button also adds authenticity. I noted that a feather in Claire’s hat looked pretty shabby near the end of the episode. The attention to detail your team displays really does support the audience buy-in to the reality of what they are viewing.

    I agree that we live in a more disposable society, and now clothes themselves are very closely related more to the wearer’s sensibility about the styles of the times than the wearer themselves. Wearers want to make a statement, as clothing has always done, I suppose, but with wealth and abundance comes fickleness and attachment to being current and out in front (not new for fashion), at least for those who can afford it. To hold on to an article of clothing, for me, means more than I look good/fashionable in it. It means I identify with something about it or have a memory attached to it that I don’t want to forget. I will admit to owning clothes I probably should have thrown away years ago. I have “nursed” a few along the way, but find that my lack of sewing ability makes the clothing look more hobo than heyday. Nonetheless, I will wear them to comfort myself or trot them out for special occasions, like looking at me in the mirror in my cherished frock.

    Cheers to a job well done!!

  5. claireokc

    I loved this costume, and love looking at the detailing…..and yes, I remember my dad polishing his shoes and I keep shoe polish at my home cause he taught me how to care for the leather in my shoes (I’m not sure some of mine even have leather anymore!) I also have my grandmother’s darner and amazingly some of her needles, including some really fine beading needles that are great to use for – – yes, you guessed it – – beading! (It’s original, I know!!) And LOVE that you used an actual historical piece for inspiration, as much the condition as the style. Most of all love the creativity on the costumes and the detail you show.

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  7. Katiscotch22

    I can see why you love this costume. Seeing it up close really shows all the marvelous work involved in it’s creation. Cait’s double looks pretty darn good too 😀

  8. Millie Wesson

    I, too, love this costume. It was such a joy to watch Cait move. My favorite touch is the mismatched buttons. Terry, can you comment on the sequins, or perhaps they only appeared to be sequins.

  9. Connie Sandlin

    Let me see if I’ve got this straight: Your team member Graham brought in an 18th century coat and the coat(s) that you constructed that Caitriona (and her double) wore were _based_ on that coat, right? How many actual coats did you have to make for the 2 of them?

    And the vest? Was that with what Graham (not McTavish) brought in, or did you get the inspiration for that elsewhere?

    Now, about the tricorns – do you have a milliner on staff to make those or were those outsourced/borrowed/rented?

    No matter how you got it done, I love this costume!

  10. kymm

    Thank you so much for posting the details of this costume…it’s fantastic!! All of the costumes are stunning, but this one has so much personality!
    Oh, if only you could market that Jacket…I’d buy it in a heartbeat! :-))

  11. Dede Taylor

    My favorite thing of Claire’s is still her wedding undies, but I did love this so very much. I especially loved the vest and hat and now I covet them along with the undies. I have a serious girl crush on you and your incredible imagination .. I can’t wait to see what you do with the dresses at court in France. 🙂

  12. woolfarmgal

    I agree very much with the first comment in that your costumes tell a story..and that your narratives add so much to the whole package. But the lesson here is about this jacket, in the lesson it provides…how folks had reverence for their clothes, repaired them, kept them going. I make hand knitted socks made with quality wool..and when I give them as gift, I always provide extra yarn for darning purposes. The luxury of hand knit socks should not be diminished by a hole….so I darn…and my socks last for years. Now a days, most will wear store bought socks a few months at most, then toss them when they wear a hole in them. How many folks darn? Or know how to?

    1. maureenanne

      The vest is magical! What is the fruit painted on the vest? Is that a quince sliced open? This is going to drive me crazy so if anyone knows, please share!

      1. peggyvanslp

        Hi, Maureen Anne,

        I posted a request on Helen Gallogly’s website for the info in case Terry’s too busy to get back. Whatever they are, real or imaginary, they look fantastic. Will post here if I hear back!


          1. peggyvanslp

            Hi Maureen,

            I tweeted Helen (@HelenGallogly) about this and she identified the fruit as pomegranates. I was fooled by green rind/exterior, but I guess the seeds should have given them away.

            So nice of her to reply!!

            All the best,

          2. maureenanne

            Really appreciate this. I was fooled by the color of the shell as well. Take good care. Maureen

    2. lawrencji

      I do, I do. I love knitting socks (and faeires) and it has reached the point where only wear hand knit socks.
      You do value them much differently when you use fine materials and spend hours making them.
      I’m happy to report that DH and all 3 of my sons value their hand knit socks as well, although they have yet to learn to darn them.

  13. Christiernlr

    I was a little dismayed when first I saw this costume. My first thought was. “….isn’t that… a little… too fine… for a..a …. singer” from that time period? I mean, look at the embrodery and embellishments. It looks like it would have been an expensive jacket.
    So as I read your blog and reviewed the closeup photos, I found myself saying “ohhhhhhhhh, now it makes sense” Also, I missed the mismatched buttons and (purposeful) repairs. Glad I read the blog (not that I doubted you and your crew), but it did help me undertand things better. So glad you shared.

    Just to share…. I still have a wool dress coat that belonged to my grandmother who passed 20 years ago.. It is perfectly good and I just_can’t_let it go.

  14. Purl99

    I am so excited and quite fascinated with these blog posts about the costumes. Each costume has a life beyond its purpose and why I think they are so terrific. Interesting about Graham (I can only assume its Mr. McTavish) and his collection of clothing. I was a bit disappointed that the menswear was so well fitted to Claire…I would have liked to have seen it a bit less form fitting…but hey…OK…I am being a bit…..picky.
    I agree with you that we do throw things out…but I am also inspired by kids like my daughter who re-invent dated and worn clothing….up-cycle as they call it. I taught both my kids how to sew although my son does best with needle and thread for button repair my daughter took what skills I taught her and built a business from them. I am constantly amazed at what she re-designs from thrift finds.

    1. Terry Dresbach Post author

      Clothing of the 18th century was very form fitting. Trews, which Claire is wearing, were like skinny jeans, and waistcoats were cut VERY close.
      The coat was waaaay too big for Claire, because it would have been.

  15. manotherm

    THIS is my favorite! Everything about it…… perfect! I love the detail on the back of the vest, the little scattered leaves. It’s just amazing. I hope there is a costume road show for the series! Love to see this one in person! 🙂

    1. I want to touch this one! Love the pop of color in the lining of the vest. And wow….the painting on the vest. Hellen Gallogly is one talented textile artist! And thanks for the sneak peek on the dress form behind the vest….hmmm. P.S. I have (and use) a shoe polish box and the wool sock that my dad wore in the navy to polish with.

  16. dancerdf

    I too, LOVE this outfit. It especially resonates with me since I grew up with 5 brothers and loved getting their outgrown clothes. Since I had to wear dresses to school everyday, I loved coming home and putting on their old jeans and shirts to go out and play. Your beautifully dressed up version on Claire reminded me of that, and must have been such a pleasure for Cait to wear.

  17. LisaW

    Is the stitching in the vest what darning looks like? I can see why this costume is one of your favorites, it is Claire’s personality and determination wrapped up on one great costume! And who is the lovely Lass with Caitriona? 🙂

  18. Katie (@bunnums)

    Love all the darning, even if it’s not really visible on screen. Just to know it’s there! Also LOVE that one button on the coat and vest is different – a lost button replaced with whatever was available.

    Awe. I am in awe.

  19. Lori

    I can see why this costume is your favorite! Wow there is so much to it. I really appreciate the opportunity to see it close up in the photos – thank you!

    As has been mentioned above – I love the “replacement” button and the darning. I also remember my dad’s wooden box, shoe polish, etc. My mom did and still does lots of sewing (including her wedding dress) – I did not get that part of her creativity in my genes – however, she taught me to hem, darn, repair, etc. by hand – which I still do.

    I agree with what you mentioned about our disposable society. You and your team do such a brilliant job designing and creating – it’s so interesting to hear from you about all of the thoughts/ideas you have while designing – it’s amazing that you think of and include things like this in your process.

  20. call_me_sassenach

    What a lovely story about this costume! I was IMMEDIATELY captivated with it, the second it showed up on screen. Its a standout- not only because, clearly, its pants – and different from everything else Claire has worn…but also because the amount of CHARACTER this entire piece has. So much detail and character and charm built right into it. And then you put it on Caitriona who is just simply so stunning and charming and what Claire is using the costume to achieve- match made in heaven! I completely agree that its my favorite costume and I love the close up picture you’ve shared here for all the details. Truly a wonderful piece in the costume collection. It really seals the story.

  21. saraelizabeth

    Slowly resigned myself to the fact that if I’m ever to catch up to you in present day….I need to plough on with the last few episodes and stop dilly-dallying! I cannot even IMAGINE the freedom Claire/Caitriona felt in finally wearing trousers after endless days and nights in heavy gowns. It is easy to imagine wearing nothing but trousers of varying designs on her days off as she cannot whilst filming!

    I loved her singing the bawdy song and the underhanded behaviour of Dougal MacKenzie….something told me we hadn’t seen the last of him yet!

    I teared up at the story about the tusk cuffs. At first I thought they were ugly and I didn’t understand and then when she (Claire) learned their backstory………….I couldn’t help but well up.

    I am an incurable romantic (every person I’ve met laughs at me when I explain my ideal love being one that only grows bigger and better with time instead of some type of diminishing return) and I have done some stupid, some brave…some definining things for the name of love. Now I face possibly my biggest journey yet – how to get back to the place I love and make my life work again (UK/Eire). After 10 years there and less than 1 here in SoCal…I’m going crazy. I miss my home desperately!

    Thank you for sharing this beautiful journey with us readers. I did not know anything about costumes (although as a packrat I might buy something and hold onto it…forever. I wear my grandmother’s jewellery and my mum’s teenage cardigans). I once had a bespoke dress made (it was supposed to be my wedding dress) and I still have the mock up that I was supposed to get pinned…..I am holding onto it until the day I can bring it out of the packaging and not have it break my heart. The woman who did the design is wonderful and after hearing what I went through has offered to make me a new dress to erase the memory of the dress that was to be.

    Okay. I got off topic. I mostly just wanted to thank you for all your hard work. It has brought this series to life and I am ever more appreciative of the creative brains of people (I write, not draw) and crafting/creating just seems so much more complex than writing a poem or a song or a book. I know that is taking away the difficulties I’ve endured staring at blank pages and begging words to appear…it just seems so different when it is tactile!

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