'Outlander' costume designer dishes on those dazzling clothes
MEET THE COSTUME DESIGNER
Fans of Outlander know that half the fun of watching the period drama is the fashion, which helps set the tone for Claire (Caitriona Balfe) and Jamie (Sam Heughan)’s time-travel love story spanning World War II and 18th century Scotland. “It’s a costume designer’s dream,” says the show's style pro, Terry Dresbach. Speaking to EW from the 700-year-old home in the Scottish countryside that she shares with her husband, Outlander executive producer Ronald D. Moore, Dresbach spilled details about creating Highland haute couture and '40s inspired styles ahead of the show’s midseason return April 4 on Starz.
Black Jack Randall (Tobias Menzies) wears a custom-made army coat made from specially ordered scarlet fabric per Moore’s precise specifications. "I have watched many a TV series and movie that had red coats, where I’ve had to listen to Ron rant and yell that it was the wrong color red," says Dresbach. "So when this show came along, he went on and on about how it couldn’t be that horrible shade of red."
Dresbach considers this tartan dress—inspired by a rare slow moment during show production—one of her favorites. "I was taking a drive in the country when a branch fell across the road, this beautiful, silvery grey branch with soft green nettles. I took a picture, I loved it so much. One week later, I found a tartan that matched those colors perfectly," recalls Dresbach. The gown features "a million" pintucked pleats and is made from more than 12 yards of fabric weighing 30 pounds. Not pictured here? Four layers of gauzy underthings, including a period-appropriate corset and petticoats.
DRESSED TO KILT
The style of kilt you see on Outlander lead Sam Heughnan as he stomps around on chilly Scottish countryside is of his own design (albeit by accident). "One day I went on set and Sam was wearing his kilt so that the back, it looked like a long dress," recalls Dresbach, laughing. "I thought, ‘He can’t do that! In America, they’ll think he’s wearing a dress!’ But it just swirled in the most dramatic way and I ended up loving it." Other male cast members followed his lead—adjusting about nine to 12 yards of custom woven fabric to suit their personal style—and now "each of them has made it their own, and wears it in a way that’s particular and comfortable for them as a character and as a person," Dresbach notes.
'40s STYLE SUITS HIM
While in character as Frank Randall—a World War II veteran—Menzies wears generously cut overcoats, pleated pants, and sturdy ties, which helps transform the 41-year-old into a "manly" figure. Says Deresbach: "Frank is a man who survived the war--and we wanted to reflect that in the clothes. There’s nothing boyish about this kind of man."
HERE COMES THE BRIDE
The romantic wedding between Claire and Jamie called for an equally romantic metallic gown, which took four months to make by hand and weighed 66 pounds. The haute couture dress also required some creative transportation. "The trailer was really far from the church [where the wedding ceremony was filmed], so they built Caitrona a catmobile," jokes Dresbach. "It was a golf cart that had a platform and an enclosure over the top so she wouldn’t get rained on. And she had to be driven to the set standing up because she couldn’t sit down!" Dresbach promises more over-the-top fashion moments in Season 2. "It will be set in France, and every day is a dress moment."
AM I BLUE?
Each element of Claire’s 1940s inspired look is cut according to the style of the time. "There was fabric rationing during the war, and having just come out of it, the clothes mimic that style," Dresbach explains. "Skirts could only be so wide and you could have only so many buttons." The standout piece in this costume is Claire’s blue overcoat. “The war is over and she’s about to be reunited with her husband, so the coat represents hope and optimism," says the Emmy-award winning designer. "I wanted the audience to understand the way she felt in that moment."
Gellis Duncan (Lotte Verbeek) is a "woman of mystery," says Dresbach. "You never know which Geillis you’re going to see on which day—every time you see her, she’s playing a different character. She’s the wealthy man’s wife, she’s the witch, she’s the garden girl."
That translates into a closet of gorgeous gowns, including this black and white, ruffle-trimmed dress that will play a big part in an upcoming episode. "You’ll just have to find out when you watch the show," teases the costumer.
For more kilty pleasure—straight from Outlander stars Caitrona Balfe and Sam Heughnan—pick up the new issue of Entertainment Weekly, on sale April 3.