Terry Dresbach Talks Dressing Lord John Grey: Ep 406, Blood of My Blood

Photo: LJG and Jamie, 406, Starz

But first, it’s my pleasure to announce that I will be hosting another round table discussion this week, on Episode 406; I look forward to bringing you our lively discussion. If you’d like to add a discussion topic suggestion, please comment below. 

As many of you know, Season 4 is Terry Dresbach’s last season as Costume Designer on the show. It’s my opinion that her contribution to the screen adaptation of Outlander cannot be overstated. I know I’m singing to the choir here, but the thought, time, energy, blood, sweat, and tears that has gone into creating the storytelling fabric of this world we all know and love, is nothing short of genius. Season 4 is no exception. Terry is a teacher at heart, and lucky for us, she takes to Twitter after each episode. This week, she tweeted about costuming Lord John Grey for 406…

Terry: Fascinated with how much people like this costume.

Photo: Terry’s Twitter, Lord John Grey Coat, Ep 406

Terry: That coat was the bane of my existence, and had the curse of the costume Gods on it. I originally wanted to do an 18th century of a down coat…sort of like Colum wore in S1.

Photo: Terry’s Twitter, Colum MacKenzie, Season 1

Terry: So I sketched up this…

Terry D, Twitter, sketch for LJG coat, Ep 406

Terry: And it just NEVER worked. Do not know why. People always ask if there are designs that don’t work. Not sure what is what about this one. Different team members? Never could figure out why it eluded us.

Photo: Lord John Grey Ep 406 coats, Terry D, Twitter

Terry: But it did. Might have been my most frustrating garment. Had it remade multiple times.



Photos: Lord John Grey Ep 406 coats, Terry D, Twitter

Terry: I have DOZENS of these pictures.



Photos: Lord John Grey Ep 406 coats, Terry D, Twitter

Terry: We ended up here, and I knew after months of f***ing around with this coat, I just was not going to get it over the finish line. Which was a shame, because it should have been extraordinary. But it was FAR from extraordinary. (My note after I saw the pic).

Photo: Lord John Grey Ep 406 coats, Terry D, Twitter

Terry: I was going to be up against the deadline, and we had to start over. I wanted this costume to be DASHING and romantic. LJG does the wilderness. Military man, wealthy, dramatic and in love.

Terry: So, we dug into our extras stock, found this cloak and remade it.


Terry: We tore it apart, added the buckles that matched the gaiters,

and relined it with beaver.

Photos: Lord John Grey Ep 406 coats, Terry D, Twitter

…You have to pivot. You can’t fold, can’t fall apart. Shit happens, deal with it. The coat works. It is a bit flimsy, not constructed for a principle character. But it achieves the goal, and sometimes that is good enough… 

Fans have lots of interesting comments and questions about the costume design process, always…

Merry Festivus: I always like seeing the callbacks to military uniforms in his clothing/style. It adds another layer (he’s always a soldier at heart).
Terry: Yup. That was a note from Ron. He wanted to be sure I maintained that.

Queen Bee: It’s probably not real mink but it looks like it and it’s fabulous!
Terry: It’s real beaver

Queen Bee: I would say that’s even more rare. Never heard of beaver farms but I loved it. Also liked Jamie’s fur scarf and Claire’s fur lined arm gloves. I noticed the hand stitching instead of machine stitching. Wonderful.
Terry: Beaver was an enormous trade item in the 18th century. A mainstay of the fur trade.

Nicola Forrester: Your costumes are amazing. The thought and detail you all put in is incredible. I understand back then they would have worn real fur… but i do hope however, that you use faux fur???
Terry: No, we use vintage fur.

Nicola Forrester: Is using vintage fur is any more ethical? As promoting wearing fur, regardless of whether the animal died yesterday or 60yrs ago is still promoting it. I do understand that not everyone has the same view point as myself. and I am only expressing my opinion. No offence intended.
Terry: I am okay with it. I don’t believe that one is promoting anything when presenting HISTORY. But I think people should smoke and do all sorts of things in historical films and shows, that would have actually been done at that time. The Native Americans are wearing real leather. We are not promoting the wearing of leather. But they wore it, and they wore fur, as we have shown. No offense taken.

DeesKids: Some actors are easier to fit than others I would imagine. Was David Berry one of those ? He appears to have a perfect physique His costumes are perfection and he carries them well.
Terry: No. Bodies are bodies. If I need to make actor A, look romantic and dashing in a romance novel kind of way…I do “THIS”. If I need to make him look pretty average…I do “THIS” Good costuming makes you believe.

Yael Fraser: His coat and costumes were very “Lord John” for me (which is totally subjective I know) It was just so him… He looked dashing and stood out without looking presumptuous. Loved it! ??
Terry: That describes well, what I was trying to accomplish. Glad we realized it.

Carol Perry: To me apprenticeship and experience are key. Terry how many years training/experience would it take to excel at what you do and be a sought after talent for a tv show or movie? I’m old enough to remember the name Edith Head and her awards.
Terry: I have done this for 30 years. It took about 20 to build up to where I am now. Gary and I when we started out used to watch big period movies, and say “We could do that!” We laugh at our younger selves. We would have been fired in a week! …I am as Zen as I can possibly be, in a job that is like standing in a Stage 10 Hurricane. But in a time when people think experience doesn’t matter…experience matters. The thing that I just have not been able to properly convey, and don’t know how I could without a documentary, is just how enormous our jobs are… 50,000 buttons in one season. We make thousands of costumes every year. I run an enormous factory, oversee millions of dollars, manage, schedule. It’s not me in a room with a sewing machine. You have to be a good designer, yes. You have to know what works, what doesn’t, understand character, fabric, color, story, BUT you have to be a serious plant manager. You have to make sure your plant delivers 100,000 cars, a million widgets… And here is the trick…not only does the audience not know what goes into delivering thousands of costumes to the screen, but most people above us and around us, also don’t know. That makes it hard. You cannot get bogged down in little things. But then again, if you don’t, you will get killed by viewers.

To the inevitable wig question, Terry answered: I don’t do hair!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Libby Perry: It’s exceptionally elegant in its simplicity. That’s what spoke to me. You could sense the position LJG had in society by how he wore it and how well it fell about him.

Terry: And THAT, Ladies and Gentlemen, is Costume Design, in a nutshell.

Terry, you will be MISSED for so many reasons!!! 

19 comments on “Terry Dresbach Talks Dressing Lord John Grey: Ep 406, Blood of My Blood

  1. Love Outlander costuming, and Teri’s work is fabulous! I am sure she pays her staff and seamstresses what they are worth!
    But all is not always so in the garment, custom drapery industry. Believe me, I know.
    I retired from school teaching, but needed a little part time job, and I am a quilter and have been sewing since I was a child. Went to work in a small shop that made custom drapes for designers.
    Pay was $6 an hour (about 7 years ago). We had backless stools to sit on or 30 year old office chairs. The machines were 40 years old. We were given a sketch with a few measurements, and expected to produce custom drapes, pillows etc. usually within 1-2 days that the designers charged big bucks for. The skills required are just as stringent as a plumber or carpenter.
    I did that for about 5 years, worked with other great “sewers”, learned a lot about fabric, techniques and now I do it in my home just for pleasure.
    So when you see costumes, custom drapes, etc. so know that some nameless women or men put a lot time, effort, some swearing, and yes, bleeding pin stuck fingers into it.
    Go Teri and crew!

  2. These roundtables are the best. Live the extra color and perspective on the craftspeople it brings. I wish Terry would make that documentary. The show will not be the same look after she goes. I will always be in awe of those Paris costumes.

  3. REALLY!? Terry gone! Why!? Such a meticulous, thoughtful designer. Always authentic. YIKES! again – REALLY!!!!! Can’t imagine who will take her place. Good luck to all.

  4. Thank you, Courtney, for both arranging another roundtable and paying tribute to Terry Dresbach with this gorgeous example. We will certainly miss her next season and forever. She’s such an amazing artist and person! I follow @OutlanderCostum and her “masterclasses” belong to my favourite Outlander related moments and the exchanges with fans are highly stimulating. I’ve always understood costumes as much more than pure fashion, but thanks to her generous and patient explanations I’ve dicovered further layers of meaning into it. For me the costumes in this show are magnificent in their own way in every single season, I couldn’t choose one. I particularly love how they convey the character’s personality and conribute to the episode’s mood/tone but I also simply revel in the colour palettes, textures, patterns, trimmings, shapes presented each week. I can’t get enough.
    Truly looking forward to the next roundtable and curious to hear your views. Thanks again!

  5. I found myself staring at Jaime’s SHIRT (or material there of) when he was tickling the fish while out with William. I was fascinated with the ‘look’ of the shirt… and was thinking how 1700’s it looked. I don’t recall actually thinking this through seasons 1-3+…. and that would say to me that the costumes were so well placed within each scene that they were just as they should be.. pleasing and acceptable to the eyes… an integral part of each scene. I don’t know why I stared at Jaime’s shirt so intently… the material reminded me of things I’ve inherited from my ancestors… the woven material. Yes, Terry will be missed. It’s doubtful that anyone else would be as determined to be 100% correct.

    • I think the costumes are extraordinary and exceptionally done well to detail during the time of Outlander. A lot of hard work is always behind something that looks easy, something I learned in my life.

  6. There is not enough space to really convey how much Terry will be missed! However I bet she will keep an eye out and/or an occasional hand in. Whose going to run that factory? The clothing has been pretty well set for what is to come in the books, when something out of the ordinary is needed, consultation won’t be too far away. Terry, I loved your costumes, worthy of the Smithsonian! Outlander has made such an impact and you are a critical part of accomplishing that! Thank you.

  7. I LOVE her! Her commitment to and love of the Outlander books have been hugely responsible for the integrity, look and feel of the show. She truly will be missed.

  8. I felt ur pain on this one….so many times u work and work ona direction that makes sense when u talk abt it, sketch it, swatch it and for ur life, it just doesn’t come together. I loved seeing how it progressed…or didnt and why it didnt work. For me it was the color of the initial coat and the texture of the quilting. The combination felt too rough, maybe rustic is a bettef word, for the so-put-together LJG. The final result was very satisfying to see…the contest between he and Jamie. LJG is not man of the backwords and it was absolutely right for him to look in that world but not of the world.
    Terry, thank you so much for these years you have shared ur talent and expertise to OUTLANDER. You inspire my own work and affirm the real life of costumers everywhere. May ur future life be all u wish for.

  9. Terry your creations are just magnificent! I had the extreme pleasure of seeing several from Season 2 that were in the windows of Saks Fifth Avenue in NYC 2 1/2 years ago. When you examine them up close the beauty is only surpassed by the workmanship. I was truly in awe. Best of luck to you in your much deserved “retirement.” You will be missed beyond belief.

  10. Yes, I agree Terry will be missed! I retired in 2013, after 30 plus years of teaching elementary students. I loved my work, but when it’s time, it’s time. I still teach part time (forest science and outdoor school) to keep engaged. My guess is Terry will continue designing in some way, after recovering from the Outlander project. On another note, I have an gorgeous old fur coat that I inherited and would gladly donate (only) to Outlander if needed. Let me know, Mary

  11. Loved this discussion with Terry. She is outstanding in so many ways and I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to see her incredible costumes, learn about her work, and hear her explanations of the costume design industry. Thanks for sharing and being so willing to have these discussions and being honest in all that you say.

  12. This is for Terry. The clothes you have created for the cast members have been very authentic for the era and the location. The Paris gowns, men’s and servant’s attire were magnificent. You have such a gift; I will miss your work In the season’s to come.

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