Terry Dresbach

Outlander Costume Designer

What we do.



What We Do_edited-1

Let’s see, what are we currently doing?

Well, we have found the 24,000 buttons, give or take a few thousand. It seems I underestimated how many we needed.

We have dyed and decorated about three – four thousand shoes. We’ve made about a thousand costumes in the last six months. That means frock coats, waistcoats, breeches, shirts, cuffs, stocks, coats, gowns, skirts, stomachers, caraco jackets, capes, petticoats, chemises, corsets, fichus, cuffs, shawls, reticules. We have accumulated gloves and jewelry, made and decorated hats, dyed and printed thousands of meters/yards of fabric.

Last weekend Ron and I did our first appearance together at a fan convention organized by UK Outlander fans. It was an amazing experience. I had the opportunity to give a talk about what I do, what we do in the costume department, and it inspired me to reach out to the broader audience and share a bit more of the process of costume design.

It is the same basic process that all Costume Designers and Costume Departments work to, with variations on the theme depending on if you are working on a Space Odyssey or a Western. But there are always particulars to any creative project.

As I have referenced before, no two snowflakes are alike.

I wasn’t so sure I wanted to do Outlander three years ago. Yes, it was a book series I loved and read many, many times since they were first released, but I knew how huge it was, and one of the reasons I got out of the business over a decade ago, was the dwindling amount of time given to prep these massive shows. Prep, as we call it, is the period of time before a show begins where each department pulls everything together needed to do a show. The Art Department builds the sets, Costume Department makes the costumes, Props make all the props, Writers write, and so on. You live and die over the course of a season depending on how much prep time you get. That amount of time decreases every year in our business, so you rarely get the time needed. I knew there wasn’t going to be enough time to do a massive show like Outlander, without it being completely crazy. But Ron wore me down, and I finally agreed.

So this process begins with reading the scripts. That’s when you get a feeling for the tone and direction of a piece, where you begin to get to know the characters and the story. But at this point there were no scripts yet, but there was a book and I figured that would be a tremendous help as I knew the story and characters so well. Sometimes scripts are really bad, but sometimes you get an opportunity to work with a gifted writer like Ron Moore, and that makes everything better, on every level.

So, that was a plus.

The second plus, was that I was married to the Executive Producer of Outlander, and figured that would put me ahead in the information department. Information in the film and television business is like some sort of secret buried treasure.Those of us who make the costumes and build the sets, spend weeks trying to glean any information we can. What are we doing? When are we doing it? Where will it be, and WHO is doing it?? All of those answers are locked in some secret vault, and we are safecrackers doing everything we can to get in. Usually we end up just hurling our crowbars at the damned thing after all else has failed. Living with the vault keeper seemed like it might help.

So based on those two “pluses”, I threw my brain and every bit of sense I possessed, out of the window, and signed on. In retrospect, I cannot help but laugh, that cynical me, who knows exactly what this is like, was so still idealistic and optimistic, still believing that this one would be different than all the others. This is a woman who once went temporarily blind in one eye on a show, due to stress. believe me, I am no lightweight, I am a tough broad, but the closest thing I can think of to being in the film business would probably be the military, albeit with no REAL weaponry.

We needed about 20 weeks minimum to prep a show of this size. When all was said and done, we had eight.

Eight weeks out, we had a raw space, no tables, no sewing machines, no phones, no racks, no crew, no cast, no costumes. We had also discovered that we were not going to be able to rent any costumes except the barest minimum. Every TV show and movie in Hollywood was shooting in the UK, and the vast majority of costumes were not available.

To top it all off, I had personal challenges. My family was unprepared for me to get back in the business, we had two teenagers still in school, and had just moved into a new house. I had been out of the business for ten years and all of my crew had scattered, not that I could take any of them any ay. I knew NO ONE in the UK in the costume game. No contacts, no one who knew anyone, no one at any of the rental houses, no dyers, no equipment hires, no suppliers, not even fabric stores. Like any business, you spend years building contacts you can call on when you need them, and I had nothing. But yeah, let’s walk away from life as we know it, kids pets, unpacked boxes, and do this!!

So, back to prep. The first thing you need to do is to find is a really good Costume Supervisor.

A Costume Supervisor is your right hand on all things of a practical matter. They are the Project Manager. While you deal with everything creative, and even though you are responsible for the budget and oversee the running of the department, you need someone who will deal with all the nuts and bolts. So the supervisor, hires the crew, and has ALL the contacts and connections for everything else. In this case, as I had none, this position was the key to happiness and fulfillment. Will any crew member be good or bad? In our business, we try to get a crew together that we can keep for years and years, so starting from scratch is scary As I had none, I hired a costume supervisor recommended by our UK producer. It is a leap of faith. The wrong choice can be disastrous.

Once the supervisor was in place, we could get started. But it wasn’t quite so easy. Just as there were no costumes available, there was almost no crew available either. Every studio is currently filming in the UK right noes, taking advantage of tax breaks, like Canada in the 90’s. Almost everyone is employed. Crew is at an absolute premium, so finding anyone to work in such circumstances was problematic at best. The few people who were available, were highly sought after in a highly competitive market.

Another challenge.

So we searched for crew, and while we were climbing that little mountain, we turned our attention to building a costume house.When you do a show you need access to resources, supplies, and vendors. Very few of those exist in Scotland. If you want to rent a costume, it has to come from a costume house inLondon. If you’re in the States, it comes from a costume house in Los Angeles. But that means that someone has to fly to London to find that costume, that fabric, the buttons, everything, every time we need something. We didn’t have time for that. So we had to build our own Costume House, filled with everything we need.

Our Costume Supervisor had found an Assistant Designer, and the beginnings of a crew of 12. We needed sewing machines and the tables to put them on, lighting, phones, desks, shelving, office supplies, hangers, irons, steamers,racks, dyeing vats and dyes, aging supplies, sewing supplies, hooks, tapes, linings interfacing an endless list of items. And understand that it is not a home sewing kit, it is an industrial sewing kit. Hundreds and hundreds of spools of thread, a couple of thousand hangers, thousands of yards of fabric. It is big, really big.

Where do you hang all the clothes, and store all the shoes, and accessories? Racks and shelves, enough to hold hundreds and hundreds of costumes. You have to install a racking system that goes from floor to ceiling in the warehouse. Floor to ceiling shelving systems also have to be built, and hundreds of boxes purchased to store everything in. The aging and dyeing department has to be set up. They are seriously an industrial endeavor. They need to dye and age hundreds and hundreds of items. Chemicals, machinery, these women actually blow torch costumes to age them.

Setting all that up takes months that we didn’t have. But you have no choice but to go forward and hope for divine intervention.

The Assistant Designer is absolutely essential. They have to live in your head. The Assistant Designer is the one that you download everything to. They are the one who see it through, taking your sketch to the cutters, who make the patterns and cut the fabric. They makes sure the fabric is dyed exactly that right shade you want, and make sure it all happens on schedule. They gather all the bits and pieces, help with research and sourcing materials, schedule the fittings, and interface with our set crew.

While the Assistant Designer is buying bolts and bolts of woolens and linens in London, the equipment begins to arrive, and the fabric is shipped in from London, The cutters and makers are starting to show up. But we still have no actors, so we start them making extras clothing, while we wait.

When I am not figuring out how much rack space we need, I am designing, thankfully for characters I know so well. In the beginning of a show, everyone wants to see sketches, the studio, the network, directors and producers. The first part of my job is to put what is in my head onto paper. So, you do a million sketches. It is harder than one would anticipate. Not only do you have to a lot of them, because you need to convey a real overview of the entire season and all the characters, but those drawing need to be good. So you draw, and redraw, then redraw again. A lot of designers hire illustrators, but I can’t do that. Drawing is what I do, and it is where the design is formed. I wouldn’t be able to do it any other way.

On Outlander it became very clear not long after arrival, that everything I thought the costumes would be, was completely irrelevant, due to the climate. I had to throw out everything I had designed before coming to Scotland. If the characters of Outlander had pranced around in the fine silks associated with the 18th century, they would have all died. Scotland is so very cold and damp, and it was clear that people would have had to wear fabrics much heavier and warmer.  I had to figure out how to redo the 18th century silhouette in heavy woolens. Something a lot easier to do with paper and pencil than actual fabric. But eventually it began to take a shape of some sort, though it felt very vague and theoretical.Nothing to really grasp a firm hold onto. No solid research, paintings that can be anything the painter or subject wants them to be. Surrounded by chaos and stress, you just have to hold on and have faith in your own experience and talent. It was a shaky hold after being out of the business for ten years.

Sam Heughan was cast first as Jamie Fraser. He was the easiest actually, because I never saw him as having more than a couple of costumes, and because I had such a clear image of him in my mind. Plus he is a delightful and lovely human being. we have been very blessed with our cast. All lovely and accommodating people. We took care of Jamie Fraser and waited for the rest of the cast.

I am not sure how to describe how absolutely mad things are at this point in production. Building the studio, writing scripts, a million meetings, building sets, finding crew, all at once, everything down to the wire. Waiting for cast, waiting for Claire. All in one breathless, gasping rush. It’s a pretty stressful place.

Finally Caitriona Balfe was cast as Claire, two weeks before we began shooting. Then the rush really began! I wish I could tell you how we pulled it off, but I can’t really remember.  It was pretty tough going, there were a lot of tears, people falling apart, and sleepless nights. Maybe it is a good thing that we really can’t remember how we did it,  otherwise we might have all run screaming, as we approached Season Two. I think it was just cobbled together out oa f mad combination of faith, panic and experience. Things come back to you from years and years ago, like riding that proverbial bicycle, just as everything is about to burst into flames.

But It seems to have all worked out. The response from the fans and the press to the costumes has been wonderful and extremely gratifying for the entire Costume Department.

We are now a department of fifty, instead of fourteen. My Costume Supervisor stuck with me, I have two wonderful Assistant Designers. We’ve added an embroidery department with four embroiderers and five super embroidery machines. My Alchemy lab (aging and dyeing) are still in their room grinding up frogs and bats blood, or whatever the hell they do in there. An amazing textile artist has joined our staff, as we continue to discover that we may as well just make everything, since it is what we do. The walls are all in place, the machines hum, the crew is solid, and there are fewer and fewer tears. Things still get really crazy sometimes, but a rhythm and flow is beginning to take place, and a system is taking hold, that keeps us afloat when the going gets rough.

And here we are just beginning Season Two, sewing on about 30,000 buttons.

I often rage against the machine. The pace, the stress, the lack of humanity. My “justice issues”, as Ron calls them, run rampant. I am the child of union organizers, after all, and this business needs all the “justice issues” one can possibly throw at it. But Ron gave me a lecture the other night about who I am and what I do. That I need to accept it and make peace with it. I am considering the possibility.

Maybe, just maybe, this is what I do. But don’t quote me on that!




58 thoughts on “What we do.

  1. MzLiz61

    Hello Terry,
    I always thought to myself that all this prodigious work you have give your #soul effort to should be educating future designers. I would love to see the exhibit at the NYU Tisch School of the Arts and a must at the Smithsonian Arts and Industries.. Your artistic mind is compelling xo

    1. annalapping

      What a wonderful blog post, Terry. I knew there were lots of costumes and lots of actors to be outfitted, but good grief, woman! The amount of work and the quality of work you and your team produced is nothing short of astounding. You really gave a good idea of the scope and problems you encountered and continue to overcome. Brava!

    2. OtterB1

      Terry I am in awe of your vision and talent. I am so glad that you decided to take on this challenge. You have the passion for this project that no one else would ever have had.
      As an embroiderer I find that the work and the detail are amazing. On the last episode I was totally fascinated with how the sleeves of Jenny and Clair are put together. I am almost positive that this is historically correct and how wonderful to have everything so coordinated. Thank you thank you thank you….I also like your cooking blogs and pictures of your everyday life like your dog, shopping for dumplings, etc. Thanks for sharing and much success.

    1. EmmaLee

      I’ve been running local phone banks for the past couple of elections, and I actually thought “well, that sounds a little bit like running a state-wide political campaign.” Terri for Senate, you guys! Of course, we’d have to lure her back to the US first, I guess.

  2. CyanMoonStars

    It’s your calling, Terry. Thrilled that you hear that from Ron! We never seem to actually believe in our hearts that we are wallowing in the best mud puddle in the world, the creative arts, do we? Probably because we are sleep deprived, exhausted, and overwhelmed at every turn…and living every second of it! Much love and respect to you and your amazing team!

  3. awlehmann

    Hallo Terry,

    I cannot express my gratitude and joy of reading your insights of your special “behind the scenes” experiences. Your speech at the UK Gath was so delightful and so were all explanations given by your team. What a pleasure to be able seeing and touching some of these wonderful fabrics. You take me with you in the whole process of costume making with your most expressive speech. So, thank you very much for everything.
    Summing up, thanks to you I live the Outlander tv series as a richer experience than I every any other tv series or film.

    1. Me, too! If I could only be a fly on the wall. I love buttons! I’ll come help sew them on. 🙂

  4. Catullus_1000

    Terry, we all greatly appreciate the artistic talent, innovation and hours upon hours of hard work that you and your team put into creating this incredible production. Hearing some of the backstory makes us appreciate you and your team all the more. I especially enjoy when you post detailed photos of a particular costume and explain the creative process behind it. Very grateful that Ron talked you into rejoining this crazines. Can’t wait to see that infamous red dress next season!

  5. annikin60

    Hi Terry,
    I truly don’t know how you do it, how do you sleep?!
    So glad Ron talked you into it though as your work is absolutely amazing, it really is!
    I’ve often wondered what it must be like behind the scenes but I was far from imagining that it was this hectic !
    Double bravo to you and your team for what you manage to achieve and thank you for finding time to let us come behind the scenes and enjoy even more detail on how the fabulous costumes come to life. Thank you x

  6. call_me_sassenach

    Wow- such an insightful post. Thank you for sharing. I totally understand all the specifics of the challenges you faced in season one now. I have such respect for you and your work and how you are able to accomplish so much in the face of those challenges. Everyone who works with you is lucky to have you at the helm.

  7. elizlk

    Thanks for doing some of your processing “out loud” with us. Maybe for S3 you’ll be able to combine more of your social justice work into the role. Regardless, you and your team do a fabulous job, and I am looking forward to more.
    I can’t imagine that anyone who doesn’t love the books as you do would have done as much to bring our beloved characters to the screen.

  8. tanyac

    Thanks again for another great insightful post.
    Can’t waitbto see the results of all your current efforts. We are lucky to have you behind the scenes -literally!


  9. rondaletts

    Terry, I’ve not commented before, but I just had to today. You are simply amazing, gifted, inspired, and brilliant! We knew that before, but the more you share the behind the scenes work you do, the more you astound us! I’m part of the Outlander Knitters group on Ravelry, and we all wait with baited breath (and needles at the ready) for every episode to ooh and aaah over your costume designs and the beautiful knits the cast wear. Please know that you and your stellar staff are appreciated!!! We are behind you 1,000%!!!

  10. peggyvanslp

    Thank you for another post packed full of insights, colourful descriptions, and details. How you managed to juggle family, work, and self is amazing. Thanks for being frank about the emotional side of the job and the challenges you faced. Whatever it was that kept you going, i.e. a vision to fulfill, a desire to accomplish, you have demonstrated a faithfulness to that, which is inspiring. You are fortunate to have found dedicated compatriots in your profession…not always the case for most. Your work is greatly appreciated!!

  11. mttk28

    I saw your S1 costume exhibit in Los Angeles yesterday. Love how it was displayed! Seeing the costumes, even through glass, was breathtaking. Having read your description of the creation of the wedding dress, I still wasn’t prepared for how the mica would glow through the skirt. Stunning. The color palette of the highlanders’ outfits was like they rose from the land itself. Your Alchemy department did its magic! I could have spent all day looking at the details of all the costumes, but then I most likely would have been taken away babbling in awe! Thank you.

  12. 2ndmrsdewinter

    Thanks for telling us more about your work- it’s fascinating! If Scotland is its own character on the show, then certainly the costumes are a character too.

    Can’t wait to see the Paris costumes!

  13. golfnlady

    Thank you Terry, for this insight into just a small part of what goes into making our beloved Outlander. I will never complain again about having to wait so long for the next season to begin. And a huge Thank You for all the hard, hard work you and your staff do. I find I watch each episode over and over for different things…first the story, then the costumes, then the sets. I wish I had a job that could put as much love into as you, and everyone else involved, have done on my favorite series.

  14. kgardner

    What I love the most about your work on this show is the use of color, or as some might say, the lack thereof. The camouflage effect in the Highland costumes isn’t bland at all…the muted colors add another layer of dimension to the scenery. The lavender in the tartan is perfect (heath and heather), and how you color Claire’s wardrobe is unbelievable. The crisp white, peacock/midnight blue, and deep browns stand out as details that someone could have easily glossed over. It almost makes me want to forgive my seamstress mother for some of the paisley-ruffle-corduroy choices she made for me as a kid. Almost.

  15. Moz

    Wow, just wow. It would seem that all the work involved is obvious, but not really…it really, really is a lot of work, and I appreciate it. Truly, I do. Thankee, Terry and crew.

  16. Chris

    Hi Terry!

    A candid and insightful post! A native of Burbank CA., I am find myself meeting people who come to “Hollywood” to make it or those who think that it just takes one “break” and they are in. I have friends who are “behind the scenes” and it’s a tough business. (I became an elementary teacher so I could share my love and appreciation of art history with my students and hopefully instill it in them.) This is what yo do for “us” readers. You are doing s fantastic job of sharing just what it takes to make this series.

    What I am trying to say is thank you for giving us incite into the challenges – personal, real, and raw; just how much blood sweat and tears do into the costuming; and the beautiful products. It makes me think of Mozart – your readers are Salieri! Your costume podcasts and the ones you’ve done with your husband are wonderful. You need to mention them again.

    Yesterday, I ventured down to The Grove to have a look at the costumes. It was during the day and the glare on the glass encasements made it hard to see unless one shaded and plastered their face to the glass, which was pretty funny to see so many people doing. I imagine when they are lit at night, it is spectacular display. BTW – I did locate the bone.

    You and your team are inspiring and amazing! Thank you!

  17. ellenchristine

    Magnamimous. What you do, and what the entire team has done and will do is simply that. By expressing some of the insanity behind , the how and why of every little button placement is perhaps the best way to show the world of Outlander fans some of the magic that they/we can see on the screen. For those of us who have experienced those sleepless nights, and the brain-wracking that happens as part of the deal, we appreciate your presence, and the process. For those who don’t deal with the world of costume or fashion, hear ye, hear ye. As magnanimous as it is, your obvious intelligent approach is aided and abetted in no small part by the entire cast and crew of this wondeous endeavor. Thank you for expressing, for your continued posts, for your tweets, and for including us all in the journey. And thank you, Mr. Ron, for being there for you, and for us.

  18. gigiarr10

    Absolutely amazing! Thank you so much for taking the time to share the “nuts and bolts” of creating the visual story. I so enjoy reading your posts! And watching your work help these actors turn into the characters I’ve loved for so many years. Thank you again, Terry!

  19. rtrgirl417

    I want you to be healthy and happy. However, I’m incredibly selfish, so I mostly want you to work on outlander to the very end! You are amazing. When you are absolutely exhausted, just know that you are a big part of why this story works! You brought those characters to life. It’s incredible!

  20. Purl99

    My intent is not to give this any less credit than it deserves…BUT…WHEW! I am exhausted just reading this…
    Terry keep up the fantastic work and I look forward to your posts! Thanks!

  21. larrouxgirl

    The reading of it, the mere thought of it is enough make my head reel. But I’ve heard/read that actors say getting into costume is the thing that pushes them over the edge and squarely into character. Certainly the words, the director’s vision, others in the cast and their interactions are key, but the part where you begin to LOOK like the character works magic. You, Terry, and your gifted crew, are magicians. No other way to look at it. Which isn’t to squash your creativity and skills. The costumes are magical. You’ve inspired me to take a second look at a linen jacket on the sewing room table and wonder what I can do to make it not look like every other linen jacket I see this summer.

  22. woolfarmgal

    I add my voice to the chorus of thanks for your prose, taking the time to invite us along for the ride of dressing all the wonderful cast members in this incredible series. You truly transport us through your frantic impressive process of costume design. I have always been a student of historical textiles, taking up spinning and weaving, knitting , dyeing and even raising my own sheep, angora and cashmere. My most recent acquisition is a 100 year old antique sock machine…having fun creating socks. And your blog posts..with all the wonderful details that you share…is candy to my brain. I thank you for this special gift.

  23. KnitzyBlonde

    I can only imagine the immense personal sacrifices you have had to make to be available to take on Outlander. But I hope you know that you have the undying respect and gratitude of the fans for the amazing job you are doing. You’ve made our favorite story so much more real and authentic. You, Ron & Maril (and your staff) have been such a blessing to this story and all the fans that love it so much! ~ Sandie

  24. Solitaire

    Oh my gosh, the memories this brings back! I can’t even imagine the weight of the responsibility involved when you are designing for the literal cast of thousands. I worked in my college’s theatrical costume shop, as well as a local CLO, but never had builds on this scale. At best, we had dozens of people on the stages. I swear working in a costume shop is the best fashion training ever because problem solving skills are learned – sometimes the hard way. You and your team are making beautiful works of individual art on an epic scale, and you should be so proud of all you’ve accomplished. What I find exciting is that Outlander has created the possibility of a lasting costume house business even after all the Outlander books have been adapted for television. I work in a museum now and am in the process of trying to coordinate a costume exhibit in our little corner of the world. Having just seen A Tartan Affair at The Grove, I’m really looking forward to seeing more of your costumes at the FIDM Museum come July, because I’m certain that you and your team will be nominated for an Emmy. This is such a great post for giving the uninitiated a glimpse into the lives of the costume designer. For me this was a visceral post because it brought back sounds, textures of textiles, the scent of textiles (along with machine oil), the chemical smell when dying or aging is going on, all co-mingled with the scent of sawdust, ’cause, hey, the scene shop was the massive space next to us, and we shared a hall. You do amazing work. Thanks for bringing the books to Ron’s attention, and thanks for ensuring that everyone looks as they were meant to look on the page. I’m soooooo excited to see what you’ve dreamed up for Versailles.

  25. Pingback: What we do. | Terry DresbachLearn what it takes to keep the Outlander Cast clothed for Season 2 | Outlandish Dram

  26. Catheryne

    Because I am a crafter (sewing, crocheting, jewelry making, etc) I loved reading about the processes you go thru to make all the clothing, accessories and jewelry for Outlander and wish I were able to work with you on these costumes. It is really cool to live vicariously through your words and explanations for how you put it all together and the research you do. The clothing is amazing beyond words and I love seeing what they wear from episode to episode. Thank you for taking on this endeavor because I don’t imagine there is anyone else who could work as closely with your husband as you could to make everything seem so accurate and so real. Nothing I have seen yet have I questioned or wondered about. It all looks so authentic. I am anxiously awaiting the next chapter in the series and can’t wait to see what France looks like!

  27. Debbie Dake

    Fascinating, Terry. Thanks for sharing your world with us.

    I’ve been an employee of a labor union for 32 years now, offering tuition benefits to the lowest paid New York State public sector employees. We help provide the means to a better education so our members are eligible for higher paying, professional positions in New York State government. It’s a difficult time for labor unions these days and I’m afraid that darker days are ahead (the U.S. Supreme Court will be making some critical decisions soon that will impact us for years to come). Many folks have forgotten just what unions have provided for this country, or just don’t understand their impact, or just fundamentally disagree with the union principle. I fear that the pendulum is swinging backwards but have faith that it will swing forward once again and employers will remember that they are nothing without the partnership of their employees, and vice versa.

    A little bit of my world. Looking forward to your next essay, as always.

    ~ Debbie

  28. Katiscotch22

    OMG Terry – how do you do it!! I lose my mind if I have to hem a pair of pants 😀 I got on the cowl making bandwagon last fall and made 30 of them for family and friends – I could not imagine doing anything on the scale you do. We are so lucky to have you on Outlander. Your designs are amazing and look so authentic. I’m waiting in anxious anticipation to see all the beautiful creations for Dragonfly. Thank you!!

  29. Shawn L. Bird

    Thank you for this delightful look into your world. You are amazing. Your team is amazing. Your skills and talents show in every piece we see zipping by on our screens. I appreciate the still photos where we can get a really close look at the craftsmanship involved in each piece. My TV screen much too small for such nuances. I don’t think I’m lying when I say, we fans appreciate every one of those 30,000 plus buttons!

    That said, I started sewing buttons when I was 4. I sewed some as recently as last week, and so I wonder, have you ever considered the possibility of Outlander Button Tourism? If I were in Scotland on vacation (which sadly I do not foresee until grad school is finished next year), I can think of very little more pleasant occupations for a rainy Scottish day than to sit in an innocuous corner of your work space sewing buttons for you, and absorbing the frenzied activity. I would do this as a volunteer, and I’m sure many more of us would. I can also do a mean buttonhole stitch and have many embroidery projects under my belt, should something more interesting require assistance. I’m sure I’m not alone. A little corner. A junior assistant to give instructions and ensure we were sewing buttons on the chalk X mark correctly. Free man power for the pleasure of your busy group’s company and a chance to be a tiny part of something magical. What do you say? (I’m only half in jest, here).

    As said on Twitter many times, I wish you and your team many, many well deserved awards! You were plainly the right woman for the job, and I’m glad Ron dragged out of retirement for the chance to live the Outlander adventure with him and with us.

  30. Trish

    I loved reading about the whole process to bring those wonderful costumes to life. Thanks so much Terry for sharing this with us, as well as for the enormous amount of work creating everything in the first place!

  31. Hadley_LP

    Thank you so much for sharing this detailed peek behind the curtain. As someone that describes costumes, sets, lights and action for live theatre & arts events I know that having just a little sense of all that designers, costumer, props and crew do behind the scenes informs the work that I do. Your blogs and insight make my appreciation of the series that much richer.

    There is such an amazing amount of work done and to be done for an ongoing series. The depth and breadth of the volume and quality that you and your staff provide is both fascinating and mind boggling. The buttons, the buttons, my gods the buttons! So many.

    Praying for continued good health (both in body & spirit) for you and the entire staff as you make your way through the work of Season 2.

    As always, I enjoy your blog posts & look forward to reading what is coming next. Thank you!

  32. bluedaisy

    Awe struck, inspired, and amazed.. my first thought was to say “thank you”! Thank you Terry (and your team) for all the blood, sweat, and tears! xo

  33. justme.pam

    Terry, what you do is awe-inspiring and the results are beyond amazing! If Outlander ever films in the mountains of NC, and you need another costumer/seamstress, I’m there!

  34. bronnymath

    Lord! I definitely missed my calling! How wonderful to have given my creative energy to work like this – with every hardship! Wow – thanks Terry for the tremendous insight into your fabulous world xxxx x

  35. lysaleelee

    thank you Terry for posting this. People like me don’t really truly realize the amount of work/thinking there is before a show even begins to be filmed. that’s probably what makes it magic for the casual viewer.
    As a child I dreamed to be a costume designer. Alas I didn’t have talent with a needle for this . so I chose a different path. But I’m still totally fascinated by the process.
    I admire that you are back into this madness after a long break, an almost retirement. what a dedication, what a love.
    I hope you’ll share some of the goodies from Season 2 at some point. not yet. there is still so much to learn about the season 1 !
    most sincere congratulations to you and your team. you all are so dedicated that it is a shame to not appreciate and show the appreciation more !
    love from France

  36. Rebecca Hoffman

    Terry (and crew),

    I absolutely in awe at the wonderful work you do. Everything is breathtakingly perfect. If there have been any mistakes or pieces you were less than happy with, one would not know. Thank you all for your hard work, and thank you so much for posting on your blog and Twitter. As I’m sure you’ve figured out by now, we are always eager for insights and information.

    You rock!!!
    Becky (@rph36)

  37. Floreanna

    Just be careful with yourself!
    I know how easy it is burning out. Working for something you really appreciate can be a dubbeleggd sword. You are working on and on because you like it and you do not notice how bad it is with your body. You mentioned your eye a couple of times… I am sure that you already know that the Adrenaline works until the crane breaks. Then it runs without stopping…
    Trust your staff and take a break once in a while, preferably with your kids and Ron and the dog.
    Take care of yourself!
    There is only one Terry and you are priceless to a lot of people (me included).

  38. firstlove

    I love this post. Thank you for sharing with us. It captures the journey that Outlander has taken you on, and thus, we can vicariously enjoy it as well. Having seen your work, with my own eyes, on display at The Grove in Los Angeles right now, I am in awe of you and your whole team. The wedding dress is beyond gorgeous and I love the embroidered dog bone. It is a delight to see. I love the shimmer of the lace around the shirt sleeve of Jamie’s wedding Garb. That his wedding attire with the great kilt and how it is draped around makes him the bride groom of dreams. I will keep my fingers-crossed that the emmy voters will realize how deserving you and your whole team are of such recognition.

    Good Luck,
    Sarah 🙂

  39. maureenanne

    I read the books so many years ago and I kept hearing about the development of a movie or series. It still amazes me that it happened and that it has been developed in such a heartfelt manner. The series has attracted the best of the best in all aspects of production and cast. Terry, thank you for sharing your experience with all of us and for your truly lovely and inspiring designs. Your dedication to the authenticity of the costumes always shines through. Your work has so much meaning. I see that you enjoy cooking and caring for family and that Cuilleen is a joyful companion for you while your family is away. What do you do to relax, unwind, and refresh your spirit?

  40. Andrew Schroeder


    As someone who hopes to enter into the costume design field for film and tv, I found this breakdown of info to be invaluable. I’m constantly amazed at how shows are able to put together such seemingly meticulously cohesive looks, but with talent, ingenuity and willpower, anything is possible.

  41. mwdesigns2014


    It’s such a delight to hear from you! Every nugget of Outlander Costuming you share, continuously fuels the passion for many with varied interests involving textiles and costuming. Your eye for detail is impeccable, and your ability to gather a crew, or “fiber family,” to execute those details, is noteworthy. Thank you.
    Michelle Warin

  42. debinsflorida

    Oh, Terry, thank you SO MUCH for giving us such a fascinatingly detailed account of what you and your team do! As a lifelong seamstress reading your posts, it’s the first time I’ve ever thought, “Now, THAT is my dream job!” I only wish I’d known when I was younger that there was such a job out there. Every episode I’ve watched, I (and every viewer, I’m sure) have been immensely grateful that you decided to take Ron’s advice and do the job yourself! It was surely meant to be. I hope you also know that every minute of sacrifice and sweat and hard work you and your crew have and continue to put into designing and making the costumes for a show that we all dearly love is more than appreciated. Every time I read the books, as I’m sure you did, too, I imagined in great detail (thanks to DG’s wonderful writing) the characters’ costumes, and now you’ve brought them to glorious life even more magnificently than I’d pictured! Now I can’t wait to see you all have come up with for Season 2. It’s going to be spectacular, I have no doubt!

  43. PprimMich

    I am so grateful that we have such awesome people bringing us Outlander. I got a little antsy the other day about criticisms I was seeing and wrote this post to Ron… http://mhsts.blogspot.com.au/2015/05/an-open-letter-to-ron-d-moore.html
    but really, after reading your post above, I should just address it to every single person sweating blood, sweat and tears to bring us this incredible production. Thank YOU…and please ensure Ron knows there are many many thousands of us who are incredibly thankful and appreciative…right down to every single button you source and age and attach.

  44. velosewer

    Thank you for taking the time to tell us about how started working on these great costumes. They really do look like proper clothes. They truly do. I keep going back and looking at all the great detailing on each piece. You and your team do a great job.
    You’ve really built the depth of each character with your costumes as have all the crew.
    I’m so glad season 2 will be shown this year!!!

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