Clothes may make the man but for the last three (soon to be four) seasons, they have also made the woman, child and every extra in Outlander, thanks to the genius of Terry Dresbach. This week Dresbach, who oversaw the show’s costume department and who is married to Outlander showrunner Ron D. Moore, announced that Season 4 (which is due to premiere in November) was her last on the STARZ show. The announcement came on the heels of Dresbach’s second Emmy nomination (and the only one for Outlander this season) and after she had a serious health scare that put her in the hospital for several days. She cited her health and her children in an article in Entertainment Weekly explaining why she was stepping away. “I will never do another show,” she told Lynette Rice.
Outlander’s production values have helped the show stand out since it first aired, and the costumes figure large as part of that, both in the show’s attention to historical detail and its popularity. Outlander fans are nothing if not sticklers, and a show that had so-so costumes would never have made the cut. Not kidding.
So without further ado, we take you down costume memory lane with this big thank-you to Terry. Your attention to detail and historical accuracy, your work ethic and your love of Outlander have brought us all so much happiness. Best of luck in your next endeavors, whatever they may be. Here’s hoping that the second time is the charm and that you get the Emmy you so richly deserve.
Here are just a few of the highlights from Terry’s four seasons with Outlander.
Knitters around the world gasped in Season 1 when Claire arrived in 18th century Scotland and we began seeing shawls! Fingerless gloves! Capelets (was that even a 21st century thing before Outlander?)! The ending credits hadn’t finished rolling before knitters were scrambling for their largest needles and bulkiest yarn to try to copy the amazing knit goods on this show.
While the yarn porn diminished in Season 2, Terry brought it back full force with what we’re calling the man shawl in Season 3. Raise your hand if you were trying to think of how to convince your man to try to wear one of these? I thought so.
All Things Tartan
Terry may have single-handedly raised awareness of all things tartan as she explored the wonderful world of Highlanders. Indeed, Harper’s Bazaar posited precisely that in an article about how the show was reviving an interest in Scottish (read tartan) fashion. Who knew brown and gray could be so lovely? Answer? Terry Dresbach.
High-brow French Fashion
Terry’s design diversity and her ability to recreate more than one historical period was patently clear in Season 2 as she took us on an absolutely sumptuous ride through the Parisian elite. You could almost feel the material through the TV screen, it was that gorgeous.
Taking Us Back to the ’60s
For those of us who lived through the ’60s, Terry and her team nailed it. End of story. I swear some of these things hung in my mother’s closet.
Her Attention to Detail
If you ever needed convincing of how important a costume can be in selling an idea, the moment when Jamie sees Claire in her wedding dress for the first time should prove the point. “I’ll never forget when I came out of the church and saw you for the first time,” he tells Claire. “It was if I had stepped outside on a cloudy day and suddenly the sun came out.” That wedding dress need to absolutely shine and so it did. Terry has written of how she and her team sewed on individual pieces of mica to create the required shimmer for the wedding dress in Season 1.
And this is just one example of how no detail was too small for Terry and her team. They sewed animal references that really no one would ever see clearly on a TV screen but the cast would know were there. They “disintegrated” items like Claire’s shift in Season 1 and the “bat suit” in Season 3 to make the clothes as authentic as possible.
That same attention was paid to shoes as well, which these absolutely killer red shoes prove in spades.
These are just a small sampling of Terry’s handiwork. You can see a slice of her Outlander journey and the many details she considered on her Pinterest board, where she has released behind-the-scenes images and sketches of her designs and thought processes. Be prepared to get lost for a few hours.
Wonderful homage, Janet! Jamie’s kilts and boots get me every time.
Oh I am with you on that one 🙂
the Jacqueline Kennedy look was smashing. Make up from the mid 60’s was perfect I know, I wore it, all the way down to the hairdo and since I was 17, my hair was in that fashion but more for my age group, even the clothing,
Yes the make-up crew nailed that period too. It’s a total package with this show, which is just one reason I love it so much
Thank you so much for sharing this with us, Janet!
I agree, Terry’s costumes in Outlander, not only enhance the show for me, they bring life to it. It’s almost on a subliminal level as much as the music score. All of it says Outlander to me.
The costumes are not only beautiful, but Terry really understands just what she is doing what she wants to say in regards to the show through them.
Does that make sense?
Take for example Claire’s lovely white dress when she goes through the stones in the pilot S1 for the first time.
When I saw her dress in 1945, I thought it was lovely, very understated, and a little bit on the conservative side (very stylish for 1945). When she went through, the dress became torn and dirty, and just that said so much in regards to Claire’s mental state being thrown in Scotland 200 years in the past!
The costumes both enhance Claire, Jamie and Frank. All the characters really.
It seems that every time that John Berry or Tobias Menzies puts on that redcoat uniform, that they stood a little straighter, seemed much more serious, and had the weight of the world on both of their shoulders.
For me it’s impossible to choose a favorite costume: The opulent dresses the ladies wear in Paris, Frank’s fedora, Claire’s wedding dress, Jamie’s kilt.
I will miss Terri. It’s so easy to see her passion for her work.
I wish her much good luck in her endeavors.
Her costumes made it easier for the actors to figure out their characters I think. It helped give them a focus. I think your white shift is a perfect example. Thanks for sharing that.
Thank you Janet for a great article! Outlander is a show with so many parts – acting, writing, directing, lighting, music and the glorious costumes. Terri captured each time period wonderfully and brought it to life. I hope that she will feel nothing but love and support from fans for her decision to leave and blessings for her future.
One of my favorite dresses was the one Claire wore to visit the king to get Jamie out of prison…One reason I like it so much is it reminded me of the fine fabrics I worked with in my window treatment profession…Rich full colored fabrics are amazing to handle and create something beautiful with them…The part of the dress that made me smile was the trains down the back of the dress coming from the neckline…That was such a popular trend in 1965, the wautau (not sure of spelling) train…My bridesmaids dresses had those trains from their low back neckline to the hem…I had an omg moment seeing that dress…I truly wish Terry much health and happiness in her future…Speaking from experience, getting away from such a creative passion isn’t easy… I worked in the window treatment industry for 35 years and 20 years later I miss it still…Health and family reach a point also that has to become top priority, and a person just has to change their own world…Good luck to Terry and best wishes to her family…
Thank you all for your incredibly kind words.
My interaction with fellow fans of Outlander has been the singular most rewarding and powerful part of of my work on the show. You all inspired me every single day, and I have tried to weave your love for Outlander into every costume I created.
There is one more season to go, and I look forward to discussing every detail with you all!!!!!
Day officially made that you read this post! That’s the ultimate happy ending for me 🙂 And yes, we look forward to hearing all your thoughts as season 4 FINALLY premieres in November. I’m sure the costumes will be amazing per usual. Can’t wait to see colonial America come to life.
I must agree with you about the yarn porn. My jaw dropped when the first glimpses of those wonderful creations walked into my living room. Then the plaid blew my mind. I have loved reading all of the wonderful details Terry posted on her blog and I must say I have never felt so attached to any costumes on any show ever before. There is and has been something very special about this production and I am grateful for the time and generosity Terry has shown us.
Thank-you for writing this up for us!
I am so hopeful for more yarn porn in season 4. The time period is a good one for that so fingers crossed for us all 🙂
Not only is she an amazing costumer/designer, Terry Dresbach is a great person. I had the pleasure of meeting her at the Outlander fan convention, Thru the Stones. And we rode up the elevator with her-and she chatted us up about the costume that I was wearing-that I made myself. She is such a wonderful person and I wish her only the best!
Thank you Janet, you hit the nail on the head. Terry’s designs and attention to detail right down to the tiny little things is incredible. Terry your passion certainly shines through. I can’t really pick a favourite outfit as all are equally amazing and fit the part so well. I am looking forward to seeing what you have in store for us in S4. I am busy sewing several costumes as we speak to wear to an Outlander event I am attending in Glenn Innes Australia in October this year. I may even tweet them if I can pluck up the courage. All the best special lady.
Reading Terry’s blogs and Twitter, I grew to understand the tremendous amount of work that goes into costuming a period production. I will always appreciate her love of Outlander and the beautiful work her team did. My favorite…I don’t think I can pick. The Paris clothes were fantastic.
Thank you for the great article. I’m like everyone else, don’t think I can choose an outfit but I will say that Terry, I don’t know how you did it, but you made men’s knees sexy! Also, I’d buy those red shoes in a minute.
Every detail was perfect. Even the ones you never saw particularly Claire’s red shoes ones she wore under the red dress. Those were spectacular!!!