Outlander is the story of one woman from 1945 who travels back in time to the year 1743 where her life becomes strangely different as she finds herself marrying a Scottish warrior. Costume designer Terry Dresbach came out of retirement to work on designing the creative costumes on the eventful season. She had read the books that the series is based on over a dozen times so it was a natural fit for her to be a part of the project which she embraced wholeheartedly.
The inspiration for the costumes were derived from a combination of three things. “It comes from knowing the book so well. Then we did a ton of research and then there is Scotland, which is so staggeringly beautiful,” Dresbach said. From there, creative liberties were sometimes taken within the design because there wasn’t always very much detailed information about clothes during the particular time period in Scotland. Being a documentarian wasn’t the goal as much as creating a world that seemed true. “What’s so important is that the audience feels they can believe what they see on screen and I think we accomplished that really well,” she explained.
The colors and textures used in the costumes were taken directly from the scenery in Scotland. “The house that we live in is 700 years old and it’s on 200 acres so I’m out in the countryside every single day and I see what the ducks look like and what the marshes around the pond looks like, the sky and the clouds and my idea was to take all of that and translate it into the colors [on the costumes].”
The same idea also contributed to the textures. All the fabrics were very tactile and contained highs and lows, darks and light and this too came directly from the beauty of Scotland. “Scotland is about lighting. It has the most amazing lighting. In the course of the day it will always rain so you have black, black clouds and then the sun comes out. Lots of lights and darks are playing off each other. We tried to create a lot of that in our fabrics and our textures,” Dresbach said.
Capturing the spirit and essence of Scotland was Dresbach’s greatest delight. The country could be considered as another character on the show and doing it justice was very much on her mind. “When I’m out and about, the people in Scotland go ‘hey, you did a great job.’ I’m an American who’s come to a foreign country and is representing their culture and the fact that they appreciate that and love that is really important to me,” she said.
It’s an accomplishment to pull off designing all the costumes of the season with all its complexities. “Even I look back sometimes and go ‘how did we do that?’ We didn’t have enough time and a lot of it was flying by the seat of our pants and making it up as we go along and I’m proud of that,” Dresbach said.