Terry Dresbach

Outlander Costume Designer

There Once was…



I was attempting to bring a bit of humor with this piece, into the discussion about the knit pieces we have used on the show. Sadly it has just incited more discord. I should have just ignored it all. My apologies to everyone who got sucked into the wormhole.
So, I am going to move things along.


125 thoughts on “There Once was…

  1. EllenSpins

    Great story and a good way to get people to understand that all that knitting very well could have been at Castle Leoch. I love the knitted pieces and think they add so much to the clothing you’ve designed. I’m really enjoying the show and your work to make it look as good as it does. I think your designs and finishing touches are wonderful. Thanks for all your hard work.

  2. Tracy Paradis

    Just saw the costuming video on Glamour’ s site. http://www.glamour.com/entertainment/blogs/obsessed/2014/09/outlander-costumes-video?mbid=twitter_glamourdotcom. Beyond thrilled to see and hear you talking about your work and the further peek into process. THANK YOU for doing it and for those who put it together. Is there any chance we might see images of your dye charts or other references? Probably not, since it’s proprietary, but even the chart looks gorgeous, with texture and color!

  3. Kerry Smith

    And NOTHING says it didn’t actually happen.

    Too many people look at history as what HAS to be, all the things that couldn’t or wouldn’t happen. How the heck do they know?

    History is what COULD be.

    Well done, Mrs. Fitz!!!

  4. charlottefloodandfire

    “And seeking to light the darkness of all her friends limited understand of how also make her beautiful new patterns, she determined to write a book of her knitting patterns with her amazing new large knitting needles as well as some of the beautiful things she had previous created with her regular size needles, and also some of the beautiful garments that she had made over the years. Her friend Sony, who had been reluctant to let her write such a book, quickly saw the advantage to the castle and all the MacKenzie lands of such a pattern books existence. All the tinkers in the area agreed to take Mrs. Fitz is pattern books on their travels and sold so many books they could not keep them in stock. Thus she became the first best-selling author of such patterns in all of her clan’s history.”

  5. outlandishluna

    I loved reading it Terry. Is it one of you tales? So lovely described. Now I’m wondering how big were these new needles as I’m about to knit the oh so famous cowl scarf that Claire wore. I used to knit a lot as well as crochet. My ex husband was/is an officer of the Canadian Army and he would be gone for months. I did as one of my heroines did Penelope while waiting for her husband to be back. When I found out my beloved husband had been cheating on me while on a mission on Bosnia my whole life crumbled and knitting as well as crocheting were set aside. Now thanks to the show and your designs I’m taking pleasure of doing it again. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for giving me back that happiness that knitting/crotcheting used to give me.
    This Mrs Fitz story hit home to me Ina good way.

    1. DiLovesBooks

      Hi Yadira,

      I don’t know what size Mrs. Fitz used but I used size 50 with two strands of bulky size 6 held together. Cast on 12. There are quite a few Outlander knitting sites, lots of inspiration and sharing of ideas: Facebook – Outlander Knitters and Outlander Pattern Central come to mind as well as Ravelry.com ‘s Outlander members.

      Versions of Claire’s cowl and Mrs. Fitz’s hand warmers are IT! 😉

  6. Jocelyn Shuman

    I’m a knitter and am active in the online knitting community (yes, all you non-knitters out there, there is such a thing and it is huge and diverse!). I am also a fan of the Outlander books and the television show and so have been following the conversations regarding the knitted costume pieces that you’ve incorporated into the characters costumes.

    I have to say that this is the absolute best blog entry I’ve read in weeks!!

    Keep up the amazing work Terry and I can’t wait to see what kind of knitted items appear in the 2nd season.

  7. Barbara Hanson (@barbahanson1)

    Thank you Tracy for the Glamour mag article – I hadn’t seen that one; Di for all the info on Outlander knitting info (I will add knitting to my crafts repertoire) p, Charlotte for the great end to Terry’s story and of course to Terry for all of the sharing of the process and the art and care and thought that go into this wonderful story.

  8. MyOutlanderAdventure (@Outlander_Adv)

    I am posting this directly from Diana Gabaldon’s site.. it is her policy regarding fan fiction: “You know, I’m very flattered that some of you enjoy the books so much that you feel inspired to engage with the writing in a more personal way than most readers do. Both for legal and personal reasons, though, I’m not comfortable with fan-fiction based on any of my work, and request that you do not write it, do not send it to me, and do not publish it, whether in print or on the web. Thank you very much for your consideration.”

    Since Diana Gabaldon created the character Mrs. Fitz, I think this piece falls into the category of “fan fiction.”

    1. andeesings

      I’m fairly certain this post was tongue-in-cheek: and an answer to people moaning about the knits being “wrong”, or “not period” or WHATEVER they’re moaning about.

      I think Diana would be ok with this, is the short version of the reply about this I could have written.

    2. terrydresbach

      Eeeeeeeeeek I had better get on the phone to Diana and make sure she doesn’t take legal action against me for writing “fan fiction” !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
      I’ll tell Ron to look out for the sheriff. They might be coming for him, I mean HE is most definitely writing fan fiction!

      1. KPfeiffer

        LOL That was my first thought on read that comment. And “adaptation” that changes even a word of the book might well qualify as “fan fiction” so you are all in trouble.

        There is a certain amount of rancor over Diana Gabaldon’s comments on fan fiction that I think leads to snark. Personally I understand her position perfectly and have concerns about wanton fan fiction and yet I write it myself (only in one “fandom” , one where the creator, Joss Whedon, gave permission and encouragement for said fan fiction). Ms. Gabaldon wrote books where the characters and story are firmly in place and solely hers (or with those she shares such as the writing staff for this program). That is a far cry from a TV series where the creator has given permission. It is sad that anger over her exercising proprietary rights makes people miss a nice sense of humor. Ah well….

        Sorry I got wordy but I really don’t like when people poke at one another that way.

  9. Michele (@dixiecup34)

    Perfect. A knitter never knits the same pattern. Everyone drops a stitch or does something backwards and has to frog it out. I wouldn’t know-never made a knitting error and had to rip out 180 stitches using fingering weight yarn. Love your work, love this piece, and love the costumes-especially the knits!

  10. thumbelinasmum

    Great fiction! I love seeing a depiction of a Scotswoman being extravagant with her resources!

    It takes so much more wool to make a bulky garment, by weight, than several fine dense ones, which are warmer when layered, that only a truly well off and comfortable person like Mrs Fitz could do it.

    In non-money based barter based economies, like. 18th C Scotland, there was a thing called “dressing to your station”. Know how current teenagers and peer pressure dictate clothing? They have *nothing* compared to 18th C social rules!

    You had to borrow against your crops or business with the other store keepers, because there wasn’t much actual cash around, it was all kept track of by each shop/tradesman. They kept books and ledgers, many of which still exist. Sometimes people used the end blank pages for other things, one woman pinned *labeled* swatches from her dress fabrics in! And included yardage and price! What a treasure that one is. (Barbara Johnson, it has been reprinted, Amazon has it take a look!) The death records show all these “owed to” and “was owed”, to and from all sorts of neighbors and tradesmen.

    It turns out that if the shop keeper didn’t trust you, he wouldn’t extend credit. These things were written in diaries and accounts. If a family dressed really nice, nicer than the shop keepers though they normally would, for what they did, they wouldn’t get credit, for fear that they were over spending. If they dressed more poorly than expected, they wouldn’t get credit, for fear that they were having financial issues and that was why they weren’t maintaining their clothes. This made the acceptable behavior, personal demeanor, dress, and much of so Jett very rigid! Reading the old papers is amazing, how rigid they were. And they wrote it all down!

    1. terrydresbach

      Yes, we have come across the same research!
      Fortunately, Mrs Fitz bore Colum McKenzie’s father, an illegitimate child, who lives in a small room off the kitchen (he suffered some genetic malformities of his own), so Colum bestows a fair amount of money on Mrs. Fitz. Really it is nothing more than guilt money, as his father was a rather callous man when he begat the bastard offspring.
      That is also one of the reason he permits so much backtalk from Mrs. Fitz.
      We all know servants did not speak with such familiarity to their masters back then!!!

  11. Betty Breier

    I’m a crocheter but I still appreciate the lovely knits on the show and look forward to seeing them every week. I only wish crocheting had been in wide use in the late 18th century so we could see some crocheted pieces. I don’t think it became popular (though it may have been around) until a little later.

    1. thumbelinasmum

      There was undoubtedly knitting at the castle.

      Typical knitting would include stockings (at 9+ stitches per inch!), fine, closely fitted gloves and mitts. Mittens (similar to stockings) and caps, both fine and heavy, felted ones. Pretty much everyone would have had multiple sets of all of these things.

      There really is a lot of research and information available. The knitting on the set, as Terry’s fan fict shows, is all fantasy. *All* of it.

      1. terrydresbach

        Yup, absolutely NO attention to historical accuracy whatsoever. NONE, nada. We just go down to the mall and buy whatever is cute, cause history is kind of boring. We don’t do any research, never open any books, never study anything at all. We are just another crappy Hollywood production who cares less about any kind of integrity. We SPIT ON HISTORY!
        Damn it, why have I been avoiding leather tartans!!!!!!!!!??????!!!!! It’s a fantasy, no different at all from Star Wars.

        Happy? Go tell everyone you have won, and shamed me thoroughly. I have been outed as the charlatan I am.

        Oh, btw, in Season Two? There won’t be any knit things because it is a lot warmer in France. But I can let you in on a dirty little secret. We won’t have enough money to put everyone in historically accurate shoes. So make sure you watch carefully, because extras are going to be in historically inaccurate footwear. They will be cleverly disguised in order to pull one over on the uneducated viewer, but you can be the first historian to tell everyone about another crime against history. You can tell everyone that once again, we are throwing history into the rubbish bin, and not even BOTHERING to do any research.

        Can we be done now? Will that cover us for the next two seasons? I am sure the Costume Designers over on Reign, DaVinci’s Demons or Black Sails are wondering where you are…

        1. Carrie

          The costume designers on Reign, DaVinci’s Demons and Black Sails don’t have blogs called “An 18th Century Life” in which they talk a lot about how authentic they’re being.

          Just, you know, protip.

          There’s nothing wrong with fantasy costuming. Doing fantasy costuming for a show based on a book whose author went out of her way to do research is a little iffier, but hey, TV. Claiming that your fantasy costuming is accurate to the period, though, that’s getting out beyond the pale.

          And getting sarcastic and nasty at people? Not actually helping your image much.

          1. terrydresbach

            So, an 18th Century Life, refers to the fact that I am living in a wonderful house built in 1632, while working on a show set in the 18th century.

            I am very sorry that you feel that I have no integrity in my work. I am sorry that you don’t think we do any research. Myself and my crew did do a lot of research, because that is our job and we take it quite seriously. I am sorry that you see all of our work as fantasy costuming, because we put in some knit things. Sorry that wipes out everything else we have tried to do.
            I am sorry that you feel we have gone beyond the pale. I am sorry that you feel my blog is inappropriately titled.

            Ever wonder how it feels for myself and and my crew to have all our hard work dismissed with such contempt?

          2. Carrie

            My house was built in 1922. That does not make me a flapper, and neither would writing a Christie-style between-the-Wars detective mystery.

            Look. The reason anyone cares is because you’re misleading people. It’s really that simple. You’re saying “Here’s all this accurate stuff I did” when the stuff is not, in fact, accurate. Whether that’s from ignorance or malice is, at this point, kind of immaterial. You have fans who are being misinformed! Don’t you care? Think about the girl who makes a replica of that bulky cowl Claire wears and goes to an event and has someone tell her that it’s all kinds of wrong–because it is. No matter how gently it’s put (and believe it or not, the VAST majority of people are gentle with newbies), I guarantee you that girl is going to be crushed and embarrassed. Because of something YOU assured her was period-correct.

            The fact that you and your people have done a lot of hard work does not absolve you of, as the Internet would say, doin it rong. You could be doin it RITE, without expending any more effort.

            Or if you don’t want to do that, fine. No skin off my nose. But don’t pretend to be telling people the truth when you aren’t.

          3. terrydresbach

            1. I am not claiming to be an 18th century woman

            2. Show me where i said that the knit cowl Claire wears is an authentic replica of something we know they wore in the 18th century.

            3. Other than the 6 knit pieces in the show, what is pissing you off so much about my work, that you feel the need to come and tell me exactly what you think I am doing wrong?

            4. Where do YOU get off telling me how I should be doing ANYTHING?

            5. Most people are perfectly happy, why are you defending people who have not asked you to? Like the fictional girl at the party who is going to end up in tears because she knit a cowl like Claire’s?

          4. Carrie

            1) No, you’re saying you have “an 18th century life”. I didn’t think it was that great a leap, but I’ve been wrong before.

            2) “We have fought and argued to keep bum rolls, fichus, stocks and pretty much every conceivable period correct garment on the show” “We try to be as authentic as we can” “This was the very first costume we made for Claire, and it defined the show”

            3) Nothing about your WORK is pissing me off.

            4) Someone who can read your publically-accessible blog?

        2. KPfeiffer

          *hugs* I think you are doing a remarkable job of historical accuracy. Ignore the trolls and carry on and the rest of us will ignore the upcoming Crocs on the feet of the cast in the Paris scenes LOL.

          Actually the attention to detail regarding costumes, sets and props have made this show a favorite of mine. I think back to films that I loved (still do) set in the dirtier past and rebel against the Hollywoodification everywhere. Becket was superb but everyone and everything so bloody clean! The details all of you have addressed have truly made this series a step above and I, for one, am grateful. As for comparisons with other programs more current you are head and shoulders above the recent White Queen series in that regard.

      1. thumbelinasmum

        Example: Look up-thread. People have said variations on “great backstory”. You do know that now many people will believe that this is *actually* the backstory? Many readers of your blog don’t post, but they are reading this and believing you. Was that your goal?

        The same thing applies to all your “imperial evidence’ comments. Every time you say that it could have been, you teach people to believe that history doesn’t require research. You are suggesting if you think something might have been, *could* have been, despite there being no evidence whatsoever that it was, then it’s ok to say it was. In re-enacting circles this is described as “if they could have had it, they would have used it”, shortened to “coulda-woulda”. Used as “She believes in coulda-woulda”.

        Why don’t you show some examples of things you have researched and then *used*? Show a painting of a two piece velvet gown with a different colored bodice and skirt, and draw parallels. Show a printed gown with really full, full-bodied sleeve ruffles.

        Actually….like you did for the eye miniature! You explained they were later, but that they were just too much fun to not use. They are really fun, they were worn hidden, and they were a bunch smaller than the one in the show. You **explained this**. That is what I’m suggesting! Just like the eye! I love those, I can see why you used it. (I gave one to my husband years ago!) Everyone could see why you used it. And no one was misled, at all. It was a good explanation.

        1. terrydresbach

          You weren’t around for the costume classes I did on twitter. Where I would talk about a garment and then everyone went out and found images of pockets and stays, petticoats, bodices, frock coats, waistcoats chemises,shoes. Every possible garment. I have a history with Outlander fans built up over the last year. I am sorry you didn’t know about those “classes”. But why assume the worst? The fans know exactly how much research I do. I also have as many re-enactors who say “great job, love what you are doing, it is nice to see someone do it right” as those of you who cannot see anything good, and are hell bent on lecturing us about all the crimes against history we are committing. Sorry, it is NOT polite. It is insulting.

      2. EllenSpins

        My normal thought when reading the crap the trolls post is, “Don’t feed the trolls!” Your back-handed compliments and bitchy attempt at witty banter are getting to me. Terry has done a fabulous job of costuming for this show. Just because YOU don’t like the addition of knitted garments that may or may not have actually existed – go ahead and prove they didn’t – is no reason to rip the costumes or the Artist, yes Artist with a capital A, who designed them. I won’t be responding to anything else that you and the rest of the trolls post but had to respond to this “ar”.

        1. ellenchristine

          Since my name is Ellen, I feel the need to dive in right here. How did I miss all of this drama? For trolls, show us your creds, please. for Terry and co. keep doing what you’re doing. those of us in costume/fashion love you, love the show, love the details, and we’ll love the crocs if we get them. For the rest of the world:
          Costuming takes an inordinate amount of research. One doesn’t simply Google and Wiki everything. We do actually go out and buy real books, hundreds of them, because we love to have them spread around as inspiration. We read an inordinate amount of authentic voices. We delve into methodology, herbology, colorway, dyeing, construction. Having worked with re-enactors and living history interpreters, I must clarify that it is NOT the same thing as costuming an entire show from the skin out. Reality is unknown to us, as much research as we can do because we weren’t there. We as designers and costumers merely adapt to our medium. The actuality of a bumroll, the tonality of a wool, the weave of a tartan are suggestions of real items, but no one is pretending that they are made on 18th C. looms in 18th C. working conditions. I have had to sew by candlelight, and although it makes for a pretty picture, it ain’t so in real life. So, trolls, remember that there is a cross between merely copying something and designing something. Terry and her marvelous band of costumers are creating a world that will live for every starry-eyed teenager who wants a Claire Cowl, or fichu. If that teenager goes no further into detail and research, so be it. At least she’s had a whif of the magic, with no pretense on anyones part that it was archeological archival moldy originals found under a construction site in Inverness. TV, (thank you Sony, Starz and Ron et al) has provided an outlet for millions of fans who are loving the living, breathing Jamie and Claire. We will overcome. Trolls, live your lives as happily as you can, and remember, there is blue sky out there for some of us if you wish to join in this moment.

          1. KPfeiffer

            Perfectly said!

            I admire the attention to detail and history and recognize the serious work that has gone into bringing the 1700’s to life so wonderfully. Trolls are just that. I have yet to see any “argument” given that shows even a shred of expertise from any of them (no, I don’t count RenFair role play as expertise).

      3. thumbelinasmum

        The ar was a typo and post that couldn’t get edited.

        Have you done any historical research? There is a ton of research that makes historians say, with assurance, that these knits didn’t exist. There are many ads from shops describing what they sold. There are paintings after drawings after sketches of working people, showing what they wore, as well as rich people. There are extant artifacts. Diary entries. Even paintings of knitters working with knitting pins, like the photo shopped one at the top of this blog entry.

        It is true, one can rarely actively prove a negative, as in a geometry proof. But, yes, when you have as much evidence as to what was worn as we have here, with nary a sign of an item, no historian will take someone seriously who tries to argue it might have been there, for no reason other than they liked it.

        I’m not saying that Terry isn’t an artist. The knits are fine in the show. All I’m saying is she shouldn’t tell her fans that stuff she knows(*) isn’t accurate, might be.

        Remember….she bought them from ETSY! They weren’t billed as historical to begin with! Had Terry said, right off the bat, that they were an artistic choice, no one would have said a thing more about them. Don’t you want people to be upfront and honest about their work?

        *or ought to know, since she did the research

  12. Carrie

    So, I don’t mean to be picky here, but do you knit? Because Mrs. Fitz doesn’t have time to be knitting for everyone, nor even almost everyone, she knows. Being housekeeper to a large establishment like that is a full-time job and more; she’s going to have all she can do keeping herself in stockings, if that.

    Knitting by hand is slow*–there’s a reason I don’t try to sell hand-knit (modern, ankle-high) socks, and that’s because no one’s going to give me $350 for a pair, which is a totally fair price for the time it takes. Even given modern yarn and needle sizes, which are sadly less than accurate for 18th C. stuff, Mrs. Fitz wouldn’t be whipping out accessories for the whole village.

    *: There’s a Stephen King book in which the narrator comments of her employer that “She was the fastest knitter I ever knew–she could do a pair of socks in a day, even if she started as late as ten.” That’s roughly three times the speed I can do it, and I’m pretty fast.

    1. thumbelinasmum

      I was just reading in The Handknitters of Dale that in the 18thC, according to the tally records of the guys who went to the villages to pick up finished long stockings (over the knee) and drop off more yarn, that it averaged out to 2 pair per knitter per week. Since they didn’t knit on Sundays, they made a stocking in about a day and a half. They knitted a lot of the time, while walking from garden to barn, in the evening. A significant part of their lives and income was knitting stockings.

      Part of why they knitted so fast was their method and tools. I am learning their technique, and it does work better for knitting on the go, and I think it’ll be quite fast, once I practice more. It works well with metal needles, but not with my non-metal ones. They broke ;-(.

        1. KPfeiffer

          Than again maybe some mad knitter is shoveling the product through the stones and Mrs. Fitz has her crew pick them up after each high feast opens the portal. (clearly sarcasm intended). Gads the story is about TIME TRAVEL and some folks are upset because they have no evidence that someone somewhere MIGHT have figured out how to knit to help keep warm in a drafty castle? Maybe Claire is a secret knitter and did it herself while awaiting patients and taught others! They certainly knitted in the 1940’s.

          Enough! The costumes are lovely and not impossible and I doubt anyone would love an episode where knitting history is explained for the benefit of one or two disgruntled “historians”.

      1. Carrie

        You can totally do two pairs of stockings a week if knitting stockings is your full-time job*. It isn’t Mrs. Fitz’s, is my point. 🙂 She’s the housekeeper, and a large, upper-class establishment like a laird’s castle requires rather more upkeep than a farming croft. Lady has got stuff to do, and an hour or two knitting in stolen time, even every night, isn’t going to produce two pairs of stockings a week.

        *: Well, I probably couldn’t, at my current speed, but I’d get faster with practice.

    2. terrydresbach

      Like I said, she was a savant, more like Rumplestiltskin. And she took all those changeling babies and put them in cells in the castle, creating a sweatshop of captive knitters, who just carried out her eeeeevil plot to knit inaccurate garments all over the world.
      I am one of her descendants, and I am going to try and do every period movie and television show I can get my hands on, and put historically incorrect garments on all of them.
      I will finish what my great, great, great, great, great, great (is that the right number of greats?) grandmother could not accomplish, to subvert history by changing how the modern world sees historical knitting.
      Terry Geillis Dresbach

      1. thumbelinasmum

        I have no problem with the truth, either! 😉

        I love fantasy work. You should see my get up when I got to Ren Fairs. Half is painstakingly as accurate as my search can manage reproduction clothing items, and half modern knit lace!

  13. thumbelinasmum

    Why are you doing this? Way back, there were a couple of polite queries about why you chose to use some non-period garments. You could have said it was artistic licence, which most designers must use when doing a period piece. Then you could have explained, perhaps, why a few aspects of a couple of scenes were done the way they were. That would have been interesting to your fans, both the ones knowledgeable about history and those who weren’t.

    Turn is a great example. That baby boy wears a shirt and breeches. TOTALLY inaccurate. But, well, everyone knows that it simply wouldn’t work in the show to have him correctly gowned. The audience wouldn’t get it and it would take way too much time out of the story line to explain it…if that even worked! Much as those who care about accuracy might wish it, all recognise the basic impossibility of correctly gowning that baby!

    Have you noticed how many fans are excitedly saying they love learning about the 18th C from you? Don’t you want to have them know which things are your choices for the modern viewer and which are from research?

    No one *cares* if the clothing isn’t accurate if you don’t claim is. Historians only care if you mislead people.

    1. terrydresbach

      why are YOU doing this?

      I have gone out of my way to explain over, and over and over the hows, whats and whys of what I do. I have answered and answered and answered.
      But nothing satisfies you. What exactly do you want from me???????????? You are coming here. I am not going over to your blog. What do you want?

      What are these terrible claims I have made????

      1. thumbelinasmum

        What do I want? Honesty.

        Respond to the people saying, “oh, love the knitting! It shows just what they wore!” with “Thank you! I tried to give a period impression of the look, but the knitting isn’t actually period”. You know, say something *true*.

        You keep saying there is no ‘imperial evidence’ that this stuff didn’t exist. You clearly have enough research at hand to know that there is PLENTY of empirical evidence of what sorts of knitting existed.

          1. Carrie

            You asked her what she wanted; she told you. Replying to that with something that boils down to “I won’t do that because you’re a meaniehead” is, well, not behavior one expects from a grown woman.

          2. terrydresbach

            I didn’t say I ws going to do whatever she said she wanted me to do. And I did not say anything close to “I won’t do it because you’re a meaniehead” I said very clearly, that I do not have to answer to her or to you. I don’t know you, I have no idea of anything about you. What are your credentials?? Who are you to tell me anything?
            Sorry, not playing the internet bully game.

            You don’t like my costume design, too bad. We get it, I get, you have been heard, what else?

          3. Carrie

            And yet you keep answering. It’s amusing, in its way. I wish my horse had the speed of your tongue, and such a continuer.

            But to be honest, I think you’re right; you’re clearly not going to be persuaded by anyone, and it’s not my job to bash my head against the wall. If your lovely fantasy costumes make you happy, go to! Just don’t be surprised when people point out the flaws.

          4. terrydresbach

            Yes, I get to answer in a discussion. That’s the way it usually works.
            No it is not your job at all. You have made me very aware of how much distress my costumes cause you. If it gives you pleasure in life to point out the flaws you find in the work of other, go for it. No one is stopping you. Not how I like to spend my precious time. I like to try and find the positive. But I am not you, nor am I going to tell you how I think YOU should do things. I have been here before, I know just how many there are like you in the lovely world of the internet, who seen to find joy in seeking out people and letting them know just how much they bother you. Fortunately for every one of you, there are 10 more who like to find the positive in life. Those are the vast majority in Outlander Fandom, and it is a wonderful and remarkable thing.
            As a matter of fact I would like to take this little escapade you have brought to my doorstep as a lovely reminder of why I have enjoyed my interaction with Outlander fans so very much. Why all of us on the show enjoy them so much and are happy to interact with them as much as we do. Because they are kind and respectful and they want to celebrate and and enjoy this, even if it is not perfect. Even if Claire’s eyes are the wrong color or she wears a knit cowl.
            So thank you for reminding me of how pleasant they all continue to be, and why I am glad I spend as much time with them as I do.

      2. thumbelinasmum

        “I have gone out of my way to explain over, and over and over the hows, whats and whys of what I do. I have answered and answered and answered.”
        You have said “there is no ‘imperial evidence’ it wasn’t done” and you have said that it was artistic license, about the same garments. I didn’t consider that explaining, which, I guess, is part of why we don’t seem to understand each other.

  14. Ronda Machalek Ŧrent

    Wow, I just love it when people take their TV shows, books and selves too seriously.

    Terry, you are a delight. Thank you for the work you are doing to help these characters come to life and the knitting world explode with Outlander knits.

    Now, if you will all excuse me, I have some knitting to do because I’m avoiding folding laundry.

  15. debbiedake

    I love NOT being an expert on anything and am pretty happy to admit it. And unless you’re on the receiving end of their corrections (like Terry is) it’s kind of funny, at least for a while, to see these people try to prove that they’re right. When you’re on the receiving end of it, though, there’s no good way to respond EXCEPT the way you do, Terry! Holy mother of God, can you imagine what you’d want to do if they were in the same room with you?

    I really am learning a lot from Diana’s books, from the series, and from your costumes. I know not everything is completely accurate, though, because we’re not actually in the 18th century. Everything we know about it is from written accounts that come from each author’s own bias and recollection, or from paintings, or from whatever. Nothing we know about the past can be completely accurate in my opinion. Hardly anything from the present is either, for that matter. Isn’t it all about perspective?

    I wish those nay-sayers the best but I might prefer it if they would stick to Renaissance Faires…

    1. byrnesaj (@byrnesaj)

      I’m with you! It seems like being an “expert” is causing these overly critical individuals quite a bit of misery. What motivates this negativity? It’s so unproductive! There’s something about the on-line platform that permits this unsavory behavior – like they’re once-removed and since no one will *really know* who they are, they can spew what they like. It’s one of the things that makes “social media” so vicious, in my opinion. Also, I’m pretty positive that none of them would say something like this in person… hiding behind a computer is so much easier.

      LOVE the costumes and wouldn’t quibble a bit to have any one of them, menswear included! Wish I had a thimble’s worth of the talent that goes into making something like this so I could try it on my own.

  16. kmcherrett

    OMG Terry how do you have patients with these 2. I doubt either one could get a job cleaning toilets on the Outlander set let alone in the design Department. I love your designs and the knitted garments are so popular I’ve made 6 “Claire Cowls” already for non knitters who wanted one!!

  17. Belvane

    Dear Terry,

    I read some of what’s going on, and held back on the urge to hop into the argument; I believe you explain yourself well enough, I’m not needed there (and defending people who didn’t ask for it is sometimes impolite). But I want to express support – I agree with what you say, I think the points the other two make are invalid, and I think the argument on their end has left the point long ago and is now just ego-driven nitpicking.

    My goal in this comment is to make you feel a little happiness, and since painting Claire and Jamie in imperial Star Wars costumes is a lot of effort, I’ll say again: your posts make many people very happy. You’re giving us a window to some of the work process on costume design in the entertainment industry; you’re sharing joys and passions, worries and thoughts, personal scraps alongside official photos; you’re giving us a window not only into the show, but into a very nice and interesting woman’s mind.

    There will always be critics and people who argue. I’d like to weigh the scales back with reminding you all of the above, and that there’s so many people around the globe who gain a lot of happiness simply from you providing us this window. I think the happiness widely outweighs the theoretical grief of a hypothetical girl duplicating a knit cowl and finding out it might not be historically accurate, or that of history freaks who can’t seem to kick back and relax a little. You give us joy; I hope that people’s negativity won’t deter you from going on doing that, and for what’s it worth, I’m very grateful that you share these things with us. I’m grateful for your work, I’m grateful for the obvious love and care you put into all its aspects (research and artistic license included), and for your ability to share little, delightful personal things. Thank you so much for all the happiness you brought me – I hope I’ve managed to give a tiny bit in return.

    1. Sarah Knudsen (@sayrahk)

      Belvane’s post says it all!
      This wonderful story has lived in my head for over 20 years and now I get to see it on the screen. I don’t care if every tiny detail is absolutely period perfect, Terry’s costumes and the fantastic settings still puts us viewers right there with Claire and Jamie as part of the story. I hate to think of Outlander in any one else’s hands.
      Terry, I (and so, so, many more) am delighted with this window into the production and I hope it doesn’t discourage you from sharing more!

    2. Terry Dresbach Post author

      I had to dig back through a thousand posts to get here. Our internet is out and it is impossible to do on my cell phone.
      But i just wanted to say thank you, Belvane for this amazing post. It meant a lot to me.

      And yes, you have definitely given in return!!!


  18. Rhonnie Brinsdon (@BRhonnie)

    Not wishing to perpetuate the ridiculous venom that 2 certain contibutors keep trying to engage you on, Terry, (cos you know I love your work), I find it interesting that they hide behind Avatar’s. I wanna say ‘back off, get a life & stop trying to make fans mad’ This is an adaptation & a damn good one & your costumes & work are truly beautiful & way better than a lot of so called ‘Period shows’ So those particular contributors, Please stop using someone else’s backyard to fight your petty wars.

  19. Laura Bullins Lough

    The bulky knits are lovely and make a lot of sense given the time constraints of getting the costumes ready for the first season, but I hope that in the second season we might see some fine Shetland lace work. After all, the Shetland isles aren’t too far away and its more than plausible that some of their fine lace work, or even their more practical haps, would have made their way south through trade or by Shetland women relocating to mainland Scotland.

  20. Mandy

    I hope my question and comment doesnt get lost in the shuffle of whatever else is being posted to this entry but I find it an absolutely adorable little nugget of a story! So many of us love Mrs. Fitz and get a kick out of your post.
    Also, I want to applaud you and your team on these gorgeous costumes and the knitted pieces you’ve paired with them. We are all hoping for an award nod in the very near future for you all.
    That being said I would love to know what you think of the explosion of interest in knitting since Outlander’s Starz debut. As a member of the Outlander Pattern Central group on Facebook, Im curious how you see the enthusiasm people have with trying to recreate these beautifully knitted pieces, particularly the ones seen on Claire and Mrs. Fitz. There are several posts there on a daily basis from people that have no knitting or crocheting experience and some that have limited experience, who are dying to learn to knit in order to have a piece of the show for themselves. Thoughts?

    1. terrydresbach

      I don’t block people, because then it will be said that all I want is people who agree with me. However I will not approve the comments of those who appear to have a investment in badgering and harassing. I will not tolerate internet bullies.
      You don’t like my costumes more power to you, but I will not have you following me around the internet screeching at me.

  21. Andee (@AndeeKF)

    I want everyone who has ever visited a castle to be greeted in the way Mrs. Fitz would greet you. Otherwise what is the point in visiting a castle?! Her way of welcoming you to a castle must not be under appreciated! And most certainly she needed BIG custom needles since she had to WIP up so many projects for so many people in the given daylight. Certainly her merry maids couldn’t do all her knitting for her…that just wouldn’t be right.

  22. thumbelinasmum

    Terry, it still isn’t clear. I know I’m being a broken record. But I just have one question, still unanswered.

    Do you say that the knits are accurate? Or do you say that they are not accurate but chosen for artistic reasons?

    Accurate, yes, or no?

    1. debbiedake

      Holy mother of pearl, you are annoying the crap out of the rest of us on this blog! Why do you persist? Terry’s fans don’t care if everything is 100% accurate based on non-fictional history. If I wanted 100% accuracy I would be following a historian or watching a documentary.

  23. Fran Oglesby

    I think your costumes are gorgeous, inspired and add so much to my enjoyment of the show. I am one of those people who is inspired to knit more often from seeing the creative use of knitted items on the show. I don’t’ care how historically “accurate” they are, they make a lot of sense to me. If I was a woman in a cold climate who’s dress covered everything but my chest/bosom you can bet I’d wear something warm to cover up that area when outside. I don’t know why the sleeves on the women’s dresses are all 3/4 but since they work in the kitchen, garden and cleaning up everything it’s pretty smart, they’d have their sleeves pushed up all the time anyway. The gauntlets cover the exposed arms when they are outside. It all makes sense to me and adds a lovely texture and homespun warmth to the look of the costumes on the show.

    1. MyOutlanderAdventure (@Outlander_Adv)

      While I, and obviously some other historians, care, deeply and sincerely, about historic accuracy we should certainly extend you the courtesy of respecting your right not to care. But we do want you to have clarity on what you’re not caring about.. and I think that is what much of the furor and flying feathers is about.

      Terry certainly has full creative control over the film version of Outlander, and that includes adding elements to the costumes which are not period appropriate. Flounces to the sleeves, bulky knitwear, fabric choices, while not period may contribute to the overall storytelling, which is, of course, what she’s paid to achieve.

      But some of Terry’s remarks seem to suggest she believes the inaccuracies promulgated by her costuming choices have a basis in the historic record, and where they don’t have a basis she uses the logical fallacy argumentum e silentio to justify her choices. Specifically, there is nothing in the historic record to support the use of bulky knitwear in the 18th century, but, Terry argues, just because it isn’t there doesn’t mean it wasn’t there. That is considered an “argument from silence,” which sounds logical.. but isn’t.

      Nobody, as far as I know, is saying Terry shouldn’t be supported in costuming the characters as she sees fit, nor is anyone suggesting her work on the costuming is inadequate. What they are questioning is the claim of scholarship and period authenticity in those costumes.

      I also think that Terry has been very quick to demand that her work be respected and appreciated.. while at the same time exhibiting a surprising amount of disrespect and scorn towards the academic community which, when you think about it, provided the foundation on which her creative license is based. Without the academic research and its attention to the minute details of textiles, design, construction, and fashion, neither Terry, nor anyone else, would have any clarity on what the 18th century truly looked like.

      The use of the word “authentic” has a specific meaning among academics, especially historians. And while you certainly have all the right in the world not to care about authenticity, I think the people who make it possible for you to know the difference between that which is authentic, and that which is not, are entitled to a certain amount of respectful admiration.

      At least as much respectful admiration as is being accorded the costume designer who has drawn upon their immense body of work to design her own.

      1. terrydresbach

        What are your academic credentials?

        I work with a broad breadth of academic resources, and have for many years. Because that is my job, what I am paid for. We have libraries of research that you know nothing of, and years and years of experience doing period costumes. But you have no idea about what I do, but are willing to state that I treat the academic community with scorn. Who is that? The curators at the MET, or LACMA? what academics am I treating with scorn??
        Yet you are incredibly scornful of what we do, or what we know, as you continue to assert that we know nothing, and dont either care, or have the acumen or access to proper research.

        I have never once demanded that my work be respected and appreciated. Not once. That would be absurd as appreciation of any creative endeavor is a subjective proposition.
        I can demand to be approached with respect. I can also demand that on my site, if you have not received the answer that you want, that you not deluge and berate others with your issues, demanding that they give you what you want.

        I am asking you Tamara to try and understand that you are not going to receive the satisfaction you need, and to stop harassing everyone with your demands.

      2. Jean (@whiskyeyedgirl)

        Tamara Burke, what you and the trolls on Terry’s blog are doing is pathetic. The life you lead must be dreary, dreadful, and mundane. Please do not spread the negative, nasty sentiment on Facebook or on the blog. It is dreadfully boring, unwarranted and unwelcome. “Carrie the fox lady” and “thumbalinasmum” are the worst type of trolls…….. faceless! Where is your curriculum vitae? What gives any of you the right to post such negative, mean spirited comments? Is it jealousy because you are not producing costumes for Outlander? Is is lack of insight, personal self awareness, common decency or just the need to belittle others so that you feel superior? This whole thing is cowardly and is cyber bullying. Adults are suppose to know better ………….. pathetic! Please have some common curtesy or the social grace and just stop commenting! I can assure you, these type of comments will NOT be missed.

        Terry, please forgive my outburst and for speaking out here on your blog, but enough is enough.
        I have the utmost respect for you and your craft.
        Sincerely, Jean

      3. debbiedake

        Why do you want to know this? Why do you want to impose your standards for historical accuracy here? I didn’t think this blog was for historians unless they are fans of Terry’s and the work she does. Seriously, I’m a big fan of Terry’s, a big fan of Outlander, and I don’t care what’s perfectly accurate or not. The story is fictional with some elements that are historical. I am not being damaged in any way by seeing these beautiful costumes in this beautiful show and admiring them. But you and a couple other people here are a real distraction from what this blog was intended for. (It would be like someone coming on to this blog and correcting every grammatical error that is being made.) Isn’t there another blog where it’s a lot more appropriate for you to impose your particular standards for historical accuracy?

        And I believe that unless you were actually there in the 18th century, no one can ever achieve complete accuracy, even someone like you.

      4. thumbelinasmum

        Why does everyone persist in saying anyone is demanding historical accuracy? Who ever heard of a TV show being accurate? Terry goes back and forth, and said, upthread “when did I say the knitting was accurate” and also “it could be, no ’empirical research’ says it isn’t”. Those statements contradict each other.

      5. Rebecca Sylvester (@Rebeccly)

        I don’t understand why you or anyone else, “historians” or not, would come into someone else’s space and piss all over their hard work. Would you walk into someone’s living room and urinate on their floor? I mean really, it is just incredibly rude. If you don’t like the work, why don’t you write about it on your own blog?

        The rest of us appreciate the beautiful work, enjoy what Terry writes, and would like her to keep on doing it without harassment.

      6. Leeann Hansen (@leeannqu)

        Ha Ha, hope you are a descendant of Dougal too!
        Love your work Terry and love your sharing in this blog. Have seen some photos of Claires wedding dress and it looks so tight, but then remembered it was borrowed & supposed to be as was to small. I love your attention to the BOOK details.

  24. Karen Combs (@Karen_Combs)

    thumbelinasmum, maybe if you had an actual web presence rather than a non-existence blog created several weeks ago with NO information, we would give more weight to your comments.

    It would appear you are simply a troll, looking to create drama, quickly making yet another fake blog presence to press a point no one but you cares about.

      1. MDiskin

        Exactly. What I find most tedious about Terry’s various detractors here is how insistent they are on a level of accuracy that is impossible to verify! This wizened form of pattern-book accuracy as seen through the lens of historical artifact is incredibly spotty. First, it’s economically biased, since it’s only the rich who have detailed portraits, and who get to keep their clothes intact and pass them on to people who don’t need to inherit clothing and who would have the space to store generations of clothing anyway. It also presupposes a level of photographic truth in every sketch or portrait of the time, as if every visual depiction were not not rife with symbolism, skewed perspective, or the “truthiness” of its own times. (In other words, there is no Holy Scripture of 18th-century clothing that would eliminate any of Terry’s lovely designs as heresy.)

        It also presents a thread-level view of clothing that negates that fact that historically these were *individuals* who made and wore each piece. Who may have taken a family pattern or widely-circulated portrait and made something similar that was entirely their own, using materials and embellishments at hand. Or who may have traveled, or seen travelers, with differences of dress filtered through their wearer’s experiences, and taken those interesting details and further changed them for their own creative or utilitarian purposes. Add in the time travel element (especially since later we realize that there are more travelers, from other times, as hinted at in the ballad sung in Colum’s hall scene), and we can see how this ridiculous derision regarding pinpoint historical accuracy founders and sinks.

        And we haven’t even talked about the ways in which a film needs to *signal* themes and details from the book that cannot be read, stated, voiced-over, or explained!

        Loved the books, love the series, LOVE your designs, Terry.

  25. Patricia Tyler

    I’m an SF Bay Area costume designer and have run into some of the same questions of historical accuracy – obviously on a MUCH smaller scale than you have! My answer usually involves telling the questioner that it’s called Costume Design for entertainment not costume re-creation for Historic Anachronists.

    So – I have a question about kilts. I costumed a production of Brigadoon in the Highland great kilt style. We figured it was logical given that Brigadoon was in the Highlands in the 1750s and they were most likely Jacobites that were cursed by the English.

    The men loved the great kilts and we used 6 to 8 yards of plaid for each depending on the girth of the actor. And these were singers so there was some girth! But I developed a way of pleating them and then sewing down the pleats on the inside with an interior webbing belt so the poor lads didn’t have to pleat their plaids on the dressing room floor every night. Historical heresy, I know, but what can you do? 😉

    So my question is are the great kilts in Outlander constructed or do the poor lads have to pleat them every day?

    Thank you so much for you beautiful design work.

  26. scottishbunny

    Terry, I am so sorry there are so many petty people in this world by the review of comments to your post. I am so sorry you took down the story, by the time I got to it, I only saw the picture. I have also found some knitters to be unkind and nasty on online forums through Yahoo Groups etc. Brilliant idea, creating a forum with moderators so you can prevent future trolls from getting their jibberish in print. You have every right to be angry and I’m proud of you for expressing exactly how you feel. I am ashamed for the women who showed so much lack of respect on this post. I am so shocked by the nastiest comments on this post, I mean seriously, some people just don’t have a life! I absolutely love the knitted pieces on the show, I love the bulky cowl, the garter stitch shawl, the fingerless mittens…..I love the Tartan plaids you chose (never boring Terry), the kilts are to die for. I hope you get the chance to read this even if you don’t publish it, I just wanted to tell you that some knitters (not all) are so pissy no matter what you say. I got so tired of seeing it, I dropped out of every knitting group I ever joined on the net. Bottom line, you are the designer, its obvious you have a wealth of historical knowledge and you have many “clients” to please so your choices are dictated by many factors you need to take into account. I think you are entitled to creative license and do whatever you think best to create this amazing production.

  27. KPfeiffer

    Okay, I know Wikipedia is not the authority on anything but I don’t understand the problem with the idea that it is not out of bounds with reality for knitting to be happening at this time period. “Knitting was such an important occupation among those living on the Scottish Isles during the 17th and 18th centuries that whole families were involved in making sweaters, accessories, socks, stockings, etc.” ( Feitelson, Ann. The Art of Fair Isle Knitting. History, Technique, Color & Patterns. Interweave Press LLC, 1996, pp. 19 & 28, ISBN 978-1-59668-138-5.). How far a stretch is it that some clever, cold, castle dweller might have concocted a lovely knitted cover for the shoulders? Clearly they were manipulating wool if only for stockings. This story is in the 18th century and there are examples of knit wear much, much earlier than that. If it was not “historically” commonplace is not the issues…is it possible? The answer is clearly yes.

    Terry has generously put in a place for conversation and invited the general public in. To have self appointed experts take her to task over and over and over is impolite at best and bullying at worst. Ms. Dresbach owes you no answer much less a defense of the answer she has already given.

  28. rteest42

    Well, Darn! I had glanced at Mrs. Fitz Bits when it first went up, but didn’t get to read it …and it’s gone now, sniff. Sadly all the BS back and forth, hasn’t followed it out the door.

    Debaters, whose sole intent is to debate, are BORING. And often very, very rude. This is not a thesis prep blog on Historical Garments. It’s a PERSONAL blog by someone who is generous with her love of fiber, with her time and her vision. It’s her house. Be nice!
    And thank you, Terry, for standing your ground!

  29. patterned_history

    Dear Terry,

    Apologies in advance for my spiciness, but after reading the “hug and a slap” comments from the, a-hem, “ladies” of the dress-up community, I just wanna say:

    1.) You are a wonderful costume designer.

    2.) Haters are gonna hate.

    3.) As a fellow costumer/costume designer, (tho not a famous one) THIS comment posted by “Carrie” on Sept 18 struck a tender cord with me:

    “Think about the girl who makes a replica of that bulky cowl Claire wears and goes to an event and has someone tell her that it’s all kinds of wrong–because it is. No matter how gently it’s put (and believe it or not, the VAST majority of people are gentle with newbies), I guarantee you that girl is going to be crushed and embarrassed. Because of something YOU assured her was period-correct.”
    No, she is gonna be crushed an embarrassed because Stitch Nazis like Carrie make it their mission to be the historically accurate clothing police and crush the hopes & dreams of said “Newbie”. Trust me, I know this from personal experience. It sucks, it hurts, it’s mean and pathetic. I spent wasted years not costuming because of humiliating moments like that. NO MORE.
    Gentle with newbies?? WTF?? Bullshit.
    Writings of a bully, I assure you.

    I’ve loved your feedback here and in the American Duchess blog (Lauren is A-mazing too).
    I’m with you, all the way.

    Thank you for all of your hard work, and so much more.

    ps: I love history, don’t you?
    Like, just when everyone thinks they KNOW how life used to be, some little treasure is un-earthed somewhere to throw the history community on its arse! Weee!!

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