Some promo pictures for the upcoming third season of Outlander recently dropped, and I wanted to address them, since they have apparently caused a stir:
The issue apparently is that Claire is wearing what looks like a modern button-down shirt with an 18th-century skirt.
No, it’s not historically accurate.
I am OK with this.
We here at Frock Flicks have said from the beginning that we want to see more historical accuracy in film and television, and Terry Dresbach and her team do a good job with the period. I find more things about the costuming I can quibble with in a show like Harlots (2017) than I’ve ever found with Outlander. And frankly, this is a story about a woman who goes back in time through a magical stone circle, for cryin’ out loud!
Yes, the photo shows Claire in what is possibly a modern button-down shirt with an 18th-century-esque skirt. Yes, we are aware that this is Not Historically Accurate in any way, shape, or form. I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that the costume designer knew this, too. In fact, if you’ve read the books or watched the first two seasons, you would be used to Claire’s tendency to mix-n-match the 1940s with the 1740s when it comes to her clothes. We’ve covered the dresses in Season Two that were directly inspired by Dior’s Bar Suit, and we’ve talked at length about the other myriad of ways that the designs that Claire wears in the show are meant to look like someone from the 1940s got thrown back in time 200 years — which is pretty much the basic gist of the plot.
Why am I OK with this?
Frankly, Claire has to stand out — she’s the main character, after all. She has to stand apart just enough so that the audience gets that she’s just a little different, just a hair off here or there, because she’s from the future, yo. I think it’s fair to say that the show actually pulls this off really well in terms of letting Claire’s personality come through in subtle ways that are evident in her costumes. Now, do I like every costume Claire wears in the show? No, but that’s not to say that they’re bad designs. I’ve always maintained that, when it comes to costuming, Outlander manages to pull off the right combination of historical reference, character, and modern aesthetics without crossing the line into WTFrock territory.
Even when it comes to The Red Dress — there was clearly a real concerted effort to deliver this big deal dress to fans of the books by trying to take a description of a gown written by an author who doesn’t sew or wear historical costumes, while still maintaining cohesion with the show’s established aesthetic. That’s not easy! I give props to the show for attempting to find a balance between 20 years of expectations built up by fans of the novels and establishing a cohesive design aesthetic that appeals to contemporary viewers, all while not throwing historical accuracy entirely out the window.
And finally … Never judge a series by its promo photos.
I’ve fallen into this trap numerous times, even on this blog, where a promotional photo of a show starts making its rounds in the historical costuming community and everyone loses their shit (guilty as charged!) because it’s not historically accurate. Over time, however, I’ve learned to reserve judgement for these promo photos, because they’re typically out of context and, in the case of the promo photo above, more of a fashion magazine spread than an actual snapshot from the show. Who knows if this was something taken directly from the new season, or if it was pulled together by the stylist in charge of the photo shoot? There could be a perfectly valid explanation why Claire is dressed this way (Hint: She’s From the Future).
In fact, readers of the novels will know that Claire goes back to 18th-century Scotland wearing a dress made by a 1960s designer, complete with zipper up the back. This is quite possibly the only time I will ever be OK with a zipper in an 18th-century period piece, and honestly, I’m kind of hoping that that detail stays in the script.
Oh, and because some of you have asked, sorry, we aren’t doing recaps or podcasts for Outlander season three. That was a one-time deal for the fancy French fashions in season two! But we’re watching and will check in with the show when we can.
Got opinions about the new Outlander before it starts this weekend?