The Bat Suit, and There’s Room for Everyone

One of the things I love about this Outlander trip is the tremendous acceptance, inclusion, love, and transformation that happens in, around, and because of it. There are so many different personalities, perspectives, talents, and energies in this community of artists, fans, and well, just people. And, there’s enough room for all of us. Surely this is a model for what’s possible in the world? 

The people grow, the story grows, we interact, and we affect each other. 

Terry Dresbach, Costume Designer, (which seems like a very inadequate title to me, by the way… Executive Costume Deisgner?  Why not? There are Producers and Executive Producers, and when she gets promoted she can be the Chief Executive Costume Designer?) Anyway, Terry is a feminist. Anyone who follows the creation of this show closely, knows this: for her, the books are chiefly about Claire. As the seasons roll on, I love that there is room for Claire to be the heroine Terry fell in love with, while also being what she is to others, whatever that may be. 

In Voyager, the book, before Claire goes back through the stones after the twenty year separation from Jamie, she buys a Jessica Gutenberg dress, which basically falls apart soon after her arrival. In the show, Claire sews her own damn dress, and she puts a lot of strategic thought and work into it. 

In the Inside 305 break down, Ron talks about how the dress became known as the “Bat Suit.” Those who’ve seen Episode 305 will know that that reference actually also made it into the show…

(They also talk about the way the time travel was portrayed in episode 305, which I thought was a great technique, harkening back to the airplane transition from USA,1948 to Le Havre, France,1745 in Season 2, episode 201.)

Terry gave some interesting background on how the Bat Suit came to be, on Twitter. I asked if she had been consulted about this plot point prior to its inclusion in the script, and she revealed that the idea was actually hers…

She goes on to explain her thinking…

Terry found this suit in the Dedirot Encyclopedia, an18th century encyclopedia of everything, including tailoring…

Here is a photo of the suit with Terry’s notes to her team. Claire wasn’t a seamstress, but she knew how to sew, like most women of that era, so the suit is practical, made from rain coats, complete with secret pockets, but imperfect.

She said it’s a machine hem, and that this is the actual color. She was asked what footwear Claire was wearing, and responded, 1960’s ankle boots.

 

 

Terry comments further on why the store bought option didn’t work for the show…

The shot above is of a Jessica Gutenberg dress, and what Terry means is, in Season 1, Episode 1, Caitriona wore the white dress for hours and hours in the freezing cold to film that first episode (keep in mind each Ep takes 12 days to film, and she was in that costume for at least half of that episode, which amounts to around 6 days, outside in Scotland 😩). 

Things we don’t think about…

And as far as the story goes…

Below is a shot (with preview of an added arisaid for when they hit the high seas). This does say S4, but I’m sure it’s hard to keep track of which century, which decade, and which season they’re in, with the way this thing moves. SPOILER: I suppose it’s possible this costume will be seen again in S4, but I believe it dies a watery death this season, doesn’t it??)

One last thing. You may or may not know that Mr. Sam Heughan actually played Batman in the world touring stage show, Batman Live, based on the DC comics superhero. That story: Bat Sam.

And there you go.

The Bat Suit.

What did you guys think of that storyline change? Leave your thoughts in the comments if you’d like to share. 

44 comments on “The Bat Suit, and There’s Room for Everyone

  1. As a sewer my whole life,,,this was fun to watch,,,impressed,,,that was not an easy job to have done with raincoat fabric….brought back memories ,,,Born in 1931 ,,,,my husband and I Love watching Outlander❤️❤️

  2. Dear Courtney,

    Thank you for your dedication to bring any and all Outlander BTS details to us – I love hearing the back story about our favorite books come to life!

    I thought the storyline change was very well written and carried out. I loved seeing Claire sew her own outfit, and how she thought about making it out of raincoats to add a waterproof effect, and add all the pockets for the things she wanted to take, having had the previous experience of time-travel. Claire is an amazing woman, and this scene shows how thoughtful she was about returning to the 18th century, and cognizant about actually living life during that time. Of course, finding Jamie is at the forefront, but this scene made me believe that she was preparing for survival by using “modern material” in an 18th century fashion to help with the elements of Scottish weather as well as daily use of one outfit.

    Claire’s transition from the taxi (with Caitriona’s voiceover describing her thoughts of puddles) to stepping out of the carriage and into the puddle in Scotland was brilliant and very touching, in my opinion. There is so much detail in the books, and the writers have done an amazing job of capturing the essence but leaving some things out for the sake of time.

    This season has been outstanding…I thought seasons 1 and 2 were wonderful and season 3 is amazing in its own right, and so hopeful. How pleasing it was to watch Episode 305 and actually see Jamie! I thought for sure it would have stopped when Claire opened the door and the camera zooms in on the ringing bell.

    Episode 306 will undoubtedly be worth the wait…this team of exemplary professionals treats Outlander like their own child…giving it the utmost care and attention to detail.

    With a grateful heart,
    Gisele

  3. I love that she made her suit. Having made costumes, formals and much more for 3 daughters, I knew she could do it. Terry is a magician.

  4. Anyone who can plan how to sew skin and organs back together can plan a dress, I think. This episode was well done; of course, the book has more about the characters and emotions, but different media, different needs.

    The costuming team is brilliant.

  5. As soon as I heard the Batman reference along with the music, I thought it was partially about Sam’s stage role in Batman Live.
    Having just come back from Scotland ( where incidentally we met up as fellow Boulderites) I agree that Cait needed heavier clothing. Glad they solved that.
    As far as a new title for Terry, she definitely needs one , along with an Emmy for costuming. It’s part of what makes this show so wonderful. Each part is the highest quality. I’ll bet even the morning coffee is outstanding!

  6. I love this. I was always bothered in the books about how badly she was able to hang onto her clothes, much less stay decent…..Gabaldon often writes about being barefoot….losing shoes…..dresses disappearing leaving her wrapped in whatever was handy……and this seems much more “real” although that is perhaps something about us in the 21st century trying to wrap our heads around life in the 18th……..

  7. I loved the change but what I loved most was this seemed to be a turning point with Claire. The hard, rigid woman we have watched for 5 episodes started to slip away, she was loose and introspective, dare I say you could see the hope & determination at the same time.
    I love the connect made with the batsuit, it was fun and it was the levitity that was needed. Bringing us a feeling of happiness to preceed the goodbyes.
    I thought of Sam’s Batman stage production – knowing it wasn’t a nod but a cool coincidence that happens and brings smiles to peoples faces.

  8. I loved the bat suit. It’s really much more practical and just makes more sense. I loved seeing the sewing machine, I grew up with a Singer freather weight and after I was married in 71 , we bought a used Singer that looked just like the one on the show. I loved that machine, and yes, it could handle any material. Thank you for all your creativity and attention to details!!

  9. This was a great improvement! Diana is my age (65) which means she is much closer to Brianna’s generation than Claire’s (Diana was born in ’52 and would have been 18 in 1970) so I get that when writing Voyager she thought of the Franco Zefferelli (Romeo and Juliet) -inspired costume-like dresses available by the time Claire goes back, but Claire herself was not of the hippie/ flower child generation, and from the way they have dressed Bree, she did not go for that sort of clothing either, so it would have been out of character for Claire to dress as though she was headed to a Ren Faire (Shakespearean era costumes (and the patterns for same) were available then, but 1700 Scotland, not so much).

    I thought the Batman theme WAS an intentional nod to Sam’s previous role (if he had not bulked up for Batman, I wonder if the Outlander casting folks could have seen the Jamie potential in slim Sam?) and said so to my husband as we were watching (much to his annoyance, as I have begged him not to pause and comment the first time we view a new episode). Love the injection of 20th century pop culture humor – very Gabaldon.

  10. I also wondered why Claire/ Cait was not shivering to death in Season I, Episode 1. She looked hunched and miserable, but her lips and skin should have been BLUE!!

  11. I loved the little surprise of the bat suit and the scene with the sewing machine. Hope Singer paid handsomely for the plug. I started collecting old Singer machines because I love the history and pure genius in their craftsmanship in the featherweights and the 99. Claire has a daunting task figuring out how to convert a raincoat to her jacket of many pockets. Was quite impressed with the results. I feel emboldened to tackle my sewing challenges…(currently on my featherweight is a christening dress for my first granddaughter.) Claire is brave and I must be too.

    • Aw, Kathleen, you can do it! Let’s see a photo when you’re finished! :).

      I *think* I read that Claire was supposed to have used a bunch of raincoats (i.e., maybe went out and bought them for this project); there was allegedly a shot of the pile of raincoats originally in the sewing sequence, which was cut from the final scenes.

  12. First, let me say the costuming in this show is magnificent & the designers & seamstresses deserve awards. It made perfect sense that Claire would be prepared for her return to the 17th century by seeing her own outfit.
    Many women sewed in the sixties. In 1966, I had my first summer job, and I earned enough money to buy a portable Singer. During my last two years of high school, I sewed paisley bell bottom pants(think Cher) and a long satin dress for the Valentine’s Day Sweetheart Ball among other things.
    It was smart to think of Caitriona’s comfort level while filming. Her personal grit & determination as an actress were revealed in Season 1 when she spent days in her thin shift.
    Although I got the Batman allusions (both to the sixties and Sam’s role) , I didn’t particularly find the theme music clever. It fell flat for me.
    Kudos to Courtney and her team for such major contributions to our beloved Outlander!

  13. Watching the sewing scene reminded me so much of my grandmother. She was born in 1915, and was trained as a pattern maker before starting her own dress shop. She could literally make a man’s suit from a bolt of fabric with no existing pattern. She made an incredible wedding gown from a white silk parachute . The expression on grandma’s face when she sewed was so perfectly captured in Claire’s concentration in this scene. Made me miss her, and also made me grateful for the bits of sewing I learned from her over the years.

    • The scene also made me think of my Nan (Grandmother) who made all of her own clothes and my first wedding gown. I loved that they made this small plot change from the books because it shows how smart Claire is. I thought the Batman theme lightened the mood and at that point it was needed. I felt it was due to its popularity of the time and the fact she was making a “suit.” I enjoy every aspect of this show and love how the characters have been brought to life.

  14. I loved the well thought out plan and the interesting way the scene was put together. It gave Claire purpose and excitement to her pending trip. It took a lot of strength going back when she had a life and career in the present to go back to the past plus not really knowing if Jamie fell in love again, it was surly an act of pure faith in their once in a lifetime love!!!

  15. Loved all the comments and this article. I’d forgotten the dress from the book–she would have looked so out of place on that Edinburgh street! I took up sewing in 1966 because fabric was cheap and I could make those romantic looks. My mom was a wonderful seamstress. I learned on a Singer treadle machine. I made a red velvet Juliet dress and slashed the sleeves with my mom saying “you can’t do that” and me saying “watch me!”–thus was born the costume designer, where it doesn’t have to be perfectly sewn. The whole section with Claire cutting and sewing was a delight to me.

  16. Thanks so much for all you do; I really enjoy your insightful comments. So often I read your posts, only to find you have crystallized and documented exactly what I have been thinking. And while I must say I’m so very grateful that we were not left hanging (I, too, focused on that bell by the door) – I just that taking us the one step further was both generous and magnificent! But also, I am particularly struck by your initial comments about the inclusiveness of the Outlander family. It means a great deal to me, to be part of a group that not only shares my feelings, but willingly welcomes all, and, in fact, is known for it’s friendliness and joy. That’s really, really important to us all in today’s world. So thanks for pointing that out!

  17. I loved the change. Claire started her journey making the Bat Suit and it gave her a little more control of her journey by adding the hidden pockets for the things she’d need. She’s been through the stones and know what will make it and what won’t. Helps her confidence. Plus I love the rain coat idea for the material. I have the same Singer sewing machine from the late sixties Claire used and I still use it. And, I do know how to can foods and made most of my clothes in high school and had to take home economics even though I wanted to take auto mechanics (because my boyfriend was in the class, not a feminist yet). And, I’m glad I don’t have to do those things anymore. Caitriona Balfe was magnificent in 305.

  18. Well I always worry that , it will , affect the story line. The Gutenburger dress or McClitock dress gets her around the brothel. This book is so vast and rich in detail. I worry that some of the fun and bridging moments will be missed. And the suit looked to perfect to the non costume making eye.

  19. I am so happy to have read the actual reasons from ‘costume’ and ‘production’ for some of the reasons some things (agreed with or not) were done within the Outlander story line or change. It all makes complete sense when it is explained by the folks that work behind the scenes to bring this fantastic story to life. I. for one, seriously questioned the “Batman” theme being played while she was fabricating her outfit and thought it silly and ??? ….now, I know the history behind that decision. Please keep this site going…it truly helps! (me, at least 🙂 )

  20. The costumes in Outlander are beautiful. I’m sure the little white dress from Season 1 was cold but it fit well to look similar to an undergarment that would have been worn at that time considering she had know idea she would be going back in time. I did appreciate that Claire sewed her dress for traveling back through the stones but I didn’t like the use of the rain coats. I realize it rains a great deal in Scotland but the fabric would have stood out as much as a dress from a different era. I didn’t care for the batman music either.

    • I agree, Sue Bennett, that the raincoat fabric would have stood out too much for Claire to use it successfully. Great idea since Gabaldon makes the point in the book that Claire later wishes she had had a waterproof layer sewn into the woollen cape she had made for her for her trip back in time, but I think the texture of the fabric would have been too noticeable to others in the earlier century. That said, this is my first glimmer of a disagreement with any costume choice on this series (I thought the re-creation of the awful housecoats we wore in the 60s was brilliant).

  21. This outfit is, as all of Terry’s costumes are, beautiful and exquisitely detailed. But that’s the problem: it looks like the work of a costume designer and a team of seamstresses rather than something a surgeon who does not sew for herself or her daughter save for long ago Halloween costumes could make. Watching Claire execute the intricate cutting, sewing, and finishing skills necessary to make that outfit wrenched me out of the suspension of disbelief I had going for this episode.

    I felt the puppet master at work rather than the actors, and that is a real loss in an episode like this one where viewers have to believe that Claire would leave her only daughter for what, at this point, is forever. The gravity of that decision should not have been undercut by sewing an unbelievable garment while the BatMan theme played in the background for far too long.

    In other words, this is a beautiful garment, but not the right time or place for it to appear. Other, less intrusive alternatives, would have worked. For example, Claire is very familiar with historians. Why not do what they do when they want to play at “time travel”: go to the talented people who make replica period clothing for the very active historical re-enactment groups that exist around the Boston area. Historical re-enactments have always been popular there, and the clothing I’ve seen at those events is as beautiful and period accurate as anything in Outlander.

  22. I like the change that Claire made her own dress, in fact, it is actually more believable to me than finding a dress in a used clothing store that would be appropriate in the 1700s. I didn’t mind the batman references, but thought the Batman theme music was kind of cheesy. Could have done without that!

  23. Guys, I have loved reading all of your comments so much, especially those relating memories of grandmothers, first sewing machines, etc. Just awesome. Thanks so much for sharing your stories and your thoughts xo

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