We put pockets in all her skirts, because those differences in clothing change how you move your body.

Terry Dresbach, Costume Designer, "Outlander"

Taking Stock of Frocks

COSTUMES CAN REVEAL CHARACTERS THROUGH TINY DETAILS THE AUDIENCE AND ACTORS MAY NOT EVEN BE AWARE OF.

By Karen Idelson

Costume designers are after that moment when just the right mix of details creates a character.

For Starz costume designers, who sometimes find their characters in extreme situations, those details have been especially telling.

As a fan of the books that inspired the hit series “Outlander,” Terry Dresbach knew from the start that she’d be designing for a story that took the audience across time and borders — Scotland in the 1970s, during World War II and in the 18th century; Boston during the Truman administration; 18th century France; the American Colonies before the Revolutionary War.

“I was just realizing the other day that it’s two centuries, seven decades and five cultures,” says Dresbach. “I added it up. For Claire [the series heroine, played by Caitriona Balfe], I thought you’d carry that piece of yourself no matter where you are.

“So we put pockets in all her skirts, because those differences in clothing change how you move your body. She has to hide who she is, so her costumes are somewhat different — but not too different, because if she’s found out she could be killed.”

Balfe found her character in Dresbach’s designs. “My favorite costume from season four is probably the man’s secondhand beige velvet riding coat that Claire wears when they are first settling the Ridge,” she says. “It felt like an incredibly honest costume and perfectly appropriate for a woman on the frontier without vanity or frivolity. It had a strength to it and a practicality that spoke perfectly to a woman.”

For the limited series “The Spanish Princess,” which follows Catherine of Aragon as she weds Prince Arthur and later King Henry VIII around the turn of the 16th century, Phoebe De Gaye saw her heroine as a dynamic stranger coming to a dangerous new land.

“We wanted to contrast the Spanish court with the Tudor court,” says De Gaye, adding that the English court “was very dark and very conspiratorial and fake.” There, she used dark colors, with just a glint of color coming via gold chains.

“[Catherine] comes from this country full of sunshine and wealth and abundance,” De Gaye says. “The Tudor court is almost backward by comparison.”

The modern-day setting of “Now Apocalypse” offered different challenges to Trayce Gigi Field, bounding not through time or space but from one twentysomething adventure to the next.
“We have a lot of bright, poppy colors that are an homage to that ’90s feeling,” says Field. “Kurt Cobain, the movie ‘Trainspotting’ and street fashion were big inspirations, and these characters are at a point in their lives where they’re open to a lot of different things.”

"Now Apocalypse" severine COSTUME SKETCH

'"Now APocalypse" alien COSTUME SKETCH

"The Spanish Princess" COSTUME SKETCH