Posted on 30 August 2018
In terms of historical accuracy, Terry Dresbach the Emmy Award winning costume designer for Outlander says she did a great deal of research and due diligence but in the end, the images on the screen are an amalgamation of history, form and function. She says, "there’s very little documentation about what was worn in Scotland after Culloden and their cultural genocide (which is what happened with England’s goal to erase a culture). It’s so much more than just making laws. It's doing things like getting rid of kilts. If you’re trying to wipe out a culture; there go the books, there goes the music, there goes the national dress, there go the paintings, there goes the culture - so there’s very little out there. We then set the standard of wanting to not modernise and contemporise history”. Dresbach continues, “I was jumping up and down, screaming about the eighteenth century being one of the sexiest, most fabulous period ever, and there was no need to mess with it” Dresbach fused this mandate with the contemporary Scottish environs to create her ultimate costume aesthetic. “There’s almost no day that you walk down the street in Scotland where people aren’t wearing a scarf around their neck. There’s a lot of wool, and going backward doing research through what the fabrics were, we were able to access some of that."
"The wool would have kept them dry so we draped everybody in these good heavy strong wools. When you start looking at the Scottish woollens, its textile heaven. These things are unreal. Before you even get to the tartans, to the plaids, the richness of the weaves are so organic. There’s a million colours blended in to make this one shade of brown. It’s an incredibly rich palette, and the fabrics then turn around and connect directly to nature”. In order to pin point the colour palette, Dresbach describes her research akin to putting together a puzzle, she laments, “How did people create colour? You have to do that because you’re not going to the fabric store. So you start pinpointing it to the region where the story takes place. Now your colours are dictated by the (local) plants. You put all that together and you end up with a palette, and then all of that interestingly enough matches with the environment you’re standing in and looking at every day. It felt right. The first day that we had all of our Highlanders on stage , somebody next to me kind of took a gasp of air and said, “ They look like they all just grew up out of the ground!” That’s exactly what I wanted to do. When you look at them I wanted to you to feel Scotland. When you look at Jamie’s clothes or any of our Highlanders’, they’re all the textures and values and tones and colours that you see every day walking around Scotland. Every single one.
In Part 2 of this blog series you will learn more about the tartans chosen by Dresbach. In the meantime we recommend reading The Making of Outlander, The Series The Official Guide to Series 1 & 2 by Tara Bennett Foreword by Diana Gabaldon AVAILABLE HERE
Here at Great Scot we're so proud to be working closely with the small, family mills who produced the cloths for the Outlander production!