The Costumes Are as Authentic as Possible—Including What’s Underneath!
No Velcro, no zippers, not a lot of shoes, and kilts are worn as kilts are supposed to be worn – with absolutely nothing underneath. These are true Scots! What’s not authentic are the effects of war and journeying through the highlands. To achieve the look of well-worn clothing, the costumes are attacked with cheese graters, burned with blow torches, and aged by tying them up with string and baking them.
Every Single Kilt Is Worn Differently.
“All of our actors wear their kilts just a bit differently from each other,” Outlander’s costumer Terry Dresbach tells us. “They personalize them and make them very much their own. We are talking about 12 yards of fabric that has to be belted and tucked by each actor, and they have developed their own ways of wearing them that belongs very much to them. It is incredibly important that they FEEL like their
character, and helping them to find that place is an essential part of our job.”
Sam (Jamie) Finds His Kilt “Liberating.”
“Sam/Jamie wears his with almost a long skirt hanging down the back that swings beautifully when he moves,” Outlander costumer Terry Dresbach says. Sam himself told us that he hates wearing trousers and finds kilts “liberating” and “freeing”…Especially while riding a horse.
While Scottish dialect has had sort of a revival from being thought of as slang, Scottish Gaelic of the 1700s is very different from anything anyone speaks today. It was not easy for the actors to learn, especially since they had to get used to a whole new set of sounds and had to learn to loosen their throats. One Gaelic word you’ll hear a lot on the show is “Sassenach,” which means “outlander.” It’s supposed to be a slightly offensive term for someone out of place, but it also becomes Jamie’s affectionate nickname for Claire.
The show is almost entirely shot on location all over Scotland, with very little green screen. “I think when people watch the show, they’ll fall in love with Scotland,” native Scotsman Sam Heughan tells us. “You’ll be amazed.” Caitriona Balfe agrees, saying, “There’s such a harsh climate there, and I think that really affects how people are and the realness and rawness of the story, so I think it was very important to everybody that we have that as an element in our show as well.”
Things Get DISTURBING.
Violence, torture, rape. Outlander will venture into true Games of Thrones-esque territory (and then some!) before season one is over. The greatest offender, of course, is Black Jack (Tobias Menzies), the ancestor of Claire’s husband Frank. And anyone who has read the books will tell you that what he does to Claire and Jamie won’t be easily erased from your mind. “That character, I would argue, is a study of sadism,” Menzies says of Black Jack. “He’s interested in people’s boundaries, their pain thresholds, what they can handle. It’s a rather sickening investigation.” Bring your Tums. And a shot of Scotch.
The Starz cable network has become known for lavish historical dramas like “Spartacus” and “Magic City.” Its latest, “Outlander,” presented a greater challenge, at least for the costume designer, in that its setting is 18th century Scotland.
Set to air Aug. 9, the Sony TV-produced series is based on the popular bestselling “Outlander” novels by Diana Gabaldon, which have developed a cult following worldwide. The story line follows Claire Randall, an independent and modern nurse who mysteriously goes back to a century where women were treated as property. In what ignites into a passionate relationship, she is forced to marry the Scottish warrior Jamie Fraser in order to save her life. But here lies the dilemma: Her heart is torn between two very different men — the suave English husband she left behind and the romantic Scot.
Costumed by Terry Dresbach, who is married to executive producer Ronald D. Moore, the series aims to stay true to authentic Scottish apparel as well as hairstyles of the era. Asked what her biggest challenge was prepping for her role, Caitriona Balfe, who plays Randall, replied, “Getting my hair permed, because the character had very curly hair. Oh, and the costumes were so heavy, really heavy wool, almost the equivalent of wearing a heavy blanket. Scotland is such a cold, wet place.”
Balfe described her costumes for the freshman 16-episode series, which finishes filming its second season in Scotland in August, as ranging from “stylish, comfortable clothes of the Forties to a real pain of being all tied up in unacceptable corsetry” of the 1700s.
Learning how to wrap a kilt the Highlander way was the biggest challenge for Sam Heughan, who plays Fraser. He said getting the authentic kilt formula was serious business for the series.
“She went back to the original materials and used berries to create the colors and tartans,” Heughan said, referring to designer Moore. “Different clans didn’t go out of their way to create specific colors. They just used the plant life around them, and it all blended very well with the background. It was great camouflage.”
The garments had other strategic uses as well. “Kilts were used as a shield wrapped around the arm, and the wool would keep you warm. Even when the wool would get wet, it didn’t get you wet,” the actor continued. “Highlanders used to soak their tartans in water, and it would freeze on them and act like a protective igloo.”
The historically accurate costume design created difficulties for the actor as well.
“I had to go to a few weeks of boot camp to learn how to wear a kilt and ride horses,” Heughan said. Still, “Riding in a kilt is far more comfortable than riding in trousers, because of all of the padding.”
Starz’s new 16 episode drama series Outlander will premiere on Saturday August 9th at 9/8c, the network announced today. In addition, Starz has released the key art for the series (see below) which is based on the novels by Diana Gabaldon and was developed for television by Battlestar Galactica‘s Ron Moore.
Outlander spans the genres of romance, science fiction, history, and adventure in one grandiose tale. It follows the story of Claire Randall (Caitriona Balfe), a married combat nurse from 1945 who is mysteriously swept back in time to 1743, where she is immediately thrown into an unknown world where her life is threatened. When she is forced to marry Jamie Fraser (Sam Heughan), a chivalrous and romantic young Scottish warrior, a passionate affair is ignited that tears Claire’s heart between two vastly different men in two irreconcilable lives. Tobias Menzes, Graham McTavish, Gary Lewis, Duncan Lacroix, Annette Badland, Lotte Verbeek and Stephen Walters also star. The drama series is being produced by Tall Ship Productions, Story Mining & Supply Company and Left Bank Pictures in association with Sony Pictures Television. The executive producers are Ronald D. Moore and Jim Kohlberg. Sony Pictures Television is handling global distribution.