In this post, you will learn about the Outlander costumes and how the knitwear seen on the show has inspired so many people to get the needles out.
Outlander is a worldwide phenomenon that took the world by storm.
It began in 1991 with Diana Gabaldon’s first book, Outlander, and continued with Outlander, the tv show.
The eight-book series and the five-season TV series tell the wondrous love story of Claire Randall (Caitriona Balfe), a 1940s modern woman, and Jamie Fraser (Sam Heughan) an 18th-century Scottish soldier.
World Outlander Day
Claire Randall time travels through The Stones to 18th century Scotland where she meets young Jamie Fraser, and that’s how their story starts.
A story that includes war, politics, marriage of convenience and everything you didn’t know you needed.
We follow Claire and Jamie to Scotland, to France, to 1970’s Boston, and in 1779’s North Carolina.
And while Claire’s and Jamie’s star-crossed love story is one of the main reasons both the show and the books were such a hit that there is a World Outlander Day on June 1st (the day that Diana Gabaldon published her first Outlander book).
There is another reason behind Outlander’s big success and this is the fantastic costumes.
While watching a period movie or show, one of the main points is the costumes.
Outlander does costumes amazingly; every piece is beautiful and unique and tells a small story about the character wearing it.
How Accurate Are The Outlander Costumes?
There are some costumes that are accurate which include the costumes seen in season 1 where the period is set in 18th Century Scotland.
During that first season, the costume’s colors took inspiration from the landscape, with women wearing tight corsets and bum rolls underneath their skirts, which were commonly used in the 1700s.
Jamie wears his kilt accurately, laying it down, then lying on top of it and rolling himself up.
Jamie also wears a tam which is a woolen hat of Scottish origin, this looks like a grey beret worn slouched over on one side.
Designed in seasons 1- 4 by Terry Dresbach
The genius behind the costumes is designer Terry Dresbach who is actually married to the Outlander producer R.Moore and an avid Outlander book fan even before she knew him.
Terry Dresbach said in many interviews that they had very little time to prepare the costumes (7 weeks!) and while researching there was not a lot of information available on 18th century Scottish fashion and assumptions had to be made on what was worn.
Ultimately, we had to make certain assumptions, having screwed ourselves by insisting on doing this the right way. Scotland was a modern enlightened country in the 18th century, an ally of France. Most of Europe followed fashions set by France, adapting them for their cultures and climates. We tried to do that for Scotland. We interpreted the silhouette in heavy wool. People still live in wool in Scotland. Keeps you warm and dry.T. Dresbach said in her interview with frockflicks.
Claire’s wedding dress from season 1
Many costumes stand out on the show; one of them is Claire’s amazingly stunning wedding dress which was made to look beautiful in candlelight.
The leaves and acorns on the front were hand-embroidered with metal strands, and there was paper-thin shaving on micro rocks sewn on the skirt of the dress so the dress would sparkle in the candlelight.
Claire’s red dress worn in season 2 in France
Another unforgettable costume is the red dress that Claire wears on the French court, which is one of the most vibrant dresses worn on the show, and the modern touch on the cleavage makes it one of the most iconic dresses.
Inspired by the 1940’s Dior silhouette, Terry Dresbach has said that the dress was created with 15 yards of duchess satin.
The actress who plays Claire, Catriona Balfe says that she helped design the dress, making it unique as it blends 18th-century french fashion and Claire’s modern 1940’s style.
An interesting reinvention of a classic Dior from the late 40s. The New Look has been reinterpreted so many, many times.Terry Dresbach
Brianna’s wedding dress in season 5
Also, an iconic dress is Brianna’s wedding dress by Trisha Biggar (costume designer for season 5).
While the dress isn’t historically accurate, it blends many periods that make it perfect for Brianna, a time traveler.
The dress’ embroidered orange blossoms was inspired by the bohemian vibe of the 60’s and 70’s, it also has embroidered Scottish Thistles.
It’s a cotton and silk gauze over a very fine silk taffeta, I used a variety of different photos for inspiration.Trisha Biggar
In addition, there is another way Outlander took the world by storm it’s fantastic collection of knitwear.
Claire and Brianna, the leading ladies of the show, and the rest of the characters wear beautiful knitted pieces that the knitting community loves and started recreating and getting inspired by.
There are so many pieces worn, like fingerless gloves, hats, shawls, capelets, cowls, and the iconic blue cardigan that Claire wears in the season 5 finale.
The knitwear served a great purpose
Terry Dresbach said in interviews that the knitwear was actually needed in the making of the show and that while Hollywood demands cleavage, the first series was filmed in a “cold and drafty” castle.
The actors and actresses would actually be freezing so needed the warmth that the shawls and wraps could offer.
Dresbach also said that due to the little time they had for production, they contracted local Scottish knitters to make some of the pieces and bought many of them from local Etsy sellers.
I want the Scottish artisan’s perspective, They’re descendants of the knitters on our show.T.Dresbach
Knitting as part of the Scottish history
Scotland does have a tremendous history when it comes to knitwear, as knitting reached Scotland in the 15th century and became a source of income for many people.
While now most people treat knitting as a hobby, back then, it was mainly done by men and was considered a necessary skill and by the 17th/18th century the knitwear trade was flourishing, and it was an occupation for a lot of people.
So while some of the knitwear worn on Outlander looks a bit more modern, like Claire’s chunky cowl from season 1 and Brianna’s capelet worn in season 4, they never overstage the costumes or take away anything from the story.
Modern details give the knitwear a welcomed update
Even more, they tie amazingly with Scotland’s knitting history and even more with the fact that Claire is a time traveler and all the modern details of the show make it even better.
Outlander inspired so many people to make their own versions of the knitwear, including me.
I love all the knitted pieces shown in the series and always feel inspired to try and recreate them.
The Outlander Knitting Pattern Collection
You can see all of the Handy Little Me Outlander patterns here including well-recognized shawls (like the Rent shawl and the Carolina shawl), Claire’s blue cardigan from season 5, arm warmers, fingerless gloves, berets, and cowls.
There are patterns for all skill levels, from beginner to intermediate.
You can also check out the Outlander ebook collection, where you will see Outlander pattern pdf ebooks that you can purchase to download and print out.