We’ll be recapping every episode of Outlander this season, both in blog post AND podcast. Kendra and Sarah will be focusing mostly on the costumes — designed by Terry Dresbach — in our blog posts, but probably tackling both the costumes and the story itself in our podcasts. You can find the podcast at the bottom of this post, or on iTunes!
For those who aren’t regular Frock Flicks readers: this blog and podcast is all about costumes in historical movies and TV shows, and we approach things from the angle of history. So, expect us to be talking about the costumes primarily from the point of view of comparison with the real history of the 1740s. We’ll also talk about costume in terms of story, and the deviations that come with this one having the fantasy element of time travel. But, know that when we talk about that dreaded phrase “historical accuracy,” we’re not doing it to be mean or judgy. It’s just one lens through which to watch this fabulous show.
IMPORTANT NOTE! We have a long discussion on the podcast about the decision to mash-up 1740s with 1940s in Claire’s wardrobe. Short summary: we like it, because it allows the costumers to play with Claire’s wardrobe and not have to worry about the dreaded “historical accuracy.” So, keep that in mind as you read our commentary, and listen to the podcast for the details!
Okay, so last week was a fake-out, costume wise. We’re REALLY in Paris now, Dorothy! During the opening, we see a lovely close-up of a beautiful gown while the wearer is dressing — we’ll come back to this dress in a bit:
The “Bar Suit/New Look” Dress:
Very obviously modeled on Dior’s New Look. Since Claire traveled back in time in 1946, she’s apparently psychic considering that Dior debuted the New Look in 1947 (February 12th, to be exact). That said, it is a fabulous suit and the 1740s/1940s mash-up works really well. Props to costume designer Terry Dresbach for nailing this one, timeline issues aside. The silver silk satin used for the jacket is fab. We agreed that it was probably the best outfit in the entire episode.
A strange, short, knowledgeable man who runs an apothecary shop. The embroidery on his waistcoat makes him look mystical.
Jamie, Murtagh, and a Bunch of Frenchies:
Oh right, Jamie & Murtagh! Thank you to AshleyOlivia, who linked us to this genius post on the up’s and down’s of Jamie’s hair (basic theory: when he’s exercising, getting beat up, or shagging, his hair looks glorious; when he’s trying to clean up, it looks dorky). I think they may have something, because look at how scrummy Jamie’s hair looks:
Murtagh is sticking with the kilt, Frenchies or no Frenchies.
Claire’s Black At-Home Dress:
Claire’s black dress, really only seen from the waist-up in the once scene it appears in, was probably based on this painting by John Vanderbeck. We have some quibbles with the accuracy of this style being used for everyday wear, since gowns like this appear to be 1) based off an earlier 17th century style; 2) were likely worn as either fancy dress (ie. masquerade costume).
Bonnie Prince Charlie:
Fabulous. Love the 1730s-style wig (totally appropriate to 1740s), the tangerine frock coat, the patterned waistcoat, the poncy skirt-chasing brain…
Overall, we enjoyed the brothel scene for its surprising charm. 18th century pairs SO well with burlesque!
Jamie & Murtagh Clean Up, Pt. 2:
Claire’s Dressing Gown:
Louise de Rohan & Mary Hawkins’ Dressing Gowns:
We meet Claire’s new French BFF, Louise de Rohan, who schools Claire — and Louise’s charge, English girl Mary Hawkins — on pubic hair depilation.
Claire’s Riding Habit:
Riding habits weren’t just worn for horse riding in the 18th century! Particularly in England in this point in the century, they were worn for fashionable daywear too. Claire is right on point for Britain. It’s a trend that will soon take off in France.
Jamie & Murtagh Clean Up, Take 2:
Jamie’s in black? velvet, Murtagh is wearing something shiny!
The Red Dress:
Let’s take a brief detour to really talk about THE dress in this episode, because we have some Thoughts About It. First off, it is a really pretty color and it looks great on Caitriona Balfe. But that’s about the limit of what we like here, because there’s so much What The Frock happening here that really needs to be addressed.
First: The length of the skirt. Now, we know there’s been some heated debate online about the alleged historical accuracy of ankle length skirts in the 18th century, but let’s be clear: This is 1746, and any examples of short skirts on elite women don’t show up until a solid 40 years in the future. Yes, we get that Claire is actually from the future, and hell, maybe she even researched historical costume while not tending to horrific battlefield injuries during WWII, and maaaaybe she got confused about which half of the 18th century had a brief fad for short skirts and decided, well, fuck it, I’m from the future and I do what I want (which, tbh, has been her M.O. pretty much from the start). It probably had more to do with the fancy shoes than anything.
Second: That neckline. We are a bit confused because on the promo images that came out a few months ago, Claire is pretty obviously wearing a completely different bodice. It has kind of a sweetheart neckline, and ok, it too is not historically accurate, but at least it’s approaching an appropriate silhouette for this century.
Thirdly, it’s not at all what was described in the novel, so those who are crying foul about us forgetting it’s taken from the novel, well… We will let the novel speak for itself:
I essayed a restorative deep breath, but the tightness of the whalebone corseting made it come out as a strangled gasp…. Handling the train a bit gingerly, I stepped down into the room, swaying gently as the seamstress had instructed, to show off the filmy gussets of silk plissé let into the overskirt…. “It’s…ah…red, isn’t it?” he observed. “Rather.” Sang-du-Christ, to be exact. Christ’s blood, the most fashionable color of the season, or so I had been given to understand…But I did mean to be visible. Jamie had urged me to have something made that would make me stand out in the crowd… I sashayed a bit, making the huge overskirt swing like a bell…. (Jamie) “I can see every inch of ye, down to the third rib!” I peered downward. “No, you can’t. That isn’t me under the lace, it’s a fining of white charmeuse.” “Aye well, it looks like you!” He came closer, bending to inspect the bodice of the dress. He peered into my cleavage. “Christ, I can see down to your navel! Surely ye dinna mean to go out in public like that!”… His other hand grasped the soft roundness of my breast, swelling up above the tethering grip of the corsets, voluptuously free under a single layer of sheer silk..
So, basically, the only similarities between this dress and the book’s description is that it is red. Even the omission of the corset in the film version is not in keeping with the description of the dress in the book, because it’s literally the first thing Diana Gabaldon describes. Also, where is the train? Where are the “filmy gussets of silk plissé”?
And, see below — it’s got back-lacing! Sigh. Kendra would have liked it 10x more if it had actually opened in front.
Check out the vast acres of shiny!
Louise de Rohan’s Court Gown:
From the front, this gown is is straight-up referencing Boucher’s portrait of Madame de Pompadour, from 1756, and it’s practically perfect.
It’s the back we have problems with, because it’s cut just like the extra on the right — fitted back, separate waist seam, no pleats.
From the back, it, and everyone else’s dresses in the court scene (and in the brothel above), are certainly not THE dress style of the 1740s, the robe à la française with its super characteristic and fashionable long hanging back pleats.
Is this the end of the world? Nope. Is it interesting to note? Yes!
Mary Hawkins’s Court Gown:
A pretty shade of lavender satin, perfect for an innocent young miss.
It looks inspired by the English trend for 17th century-inspired masquerade costume, like this one:
Annalise de Marillac’s Robe à la Piemontaise:
Another dress that’s perfect from the front!
And the only dress to look like a robe à la française from the back!
Except, for nitpickers like us — when she turns sideways, you can see that it’s a robe à la piemontaise, a late 1770s-1780s style where the pleats were cut as part of the skirt, but separate from the bodice back (so, like a cape).
What the robe à la française looks like from the side. The back pleats are part and parcel of the bodice/skirt back.
Louis XV’s Shitting Robe:
This characterization is totally true to the book, and totally ruins Kendra’s crush on the French king. It’s gold, gold, and more gold when you’re king, even if you’re constipated!
A lot of great wigs in this scene:
The Court, Redux:
Louis XV & Nipple Swans:
Post-shitting (or, okay, NOT shitting), Louis is sticking with the gold. AND HOW. Check out that sparkly, sparkly embroidery! Check out that fabulous wig! Check out all that lace!
What’s the perfect accessory for a king? Why, a mistress with piercings that are nipple swans! This is straight from the book, so if there’s blame to throw around, throw it that direction. OTHERWISE, it’s a lovely dress and I wish I could see the back. Beautiful fabric, gorgeous poufy trimming pattern.
The Duke of Sandringham:
Yes, white wigs are historically accurate, so long as they’re not shiny plasticky cheapness. White hair was rarer, and so more expensive, and so more fashionable. In fact, powdering came about in part as a cheaper way to turn wigs white (or grey, as more often happened) — it was also used because it was a degreaser, kind of like our modern-day dry shampoo.
Because it’s VERSAILLES, bitches!
Alrighty, kids! What did you think of Paris and the fashionable/court styles? Claire mashing up the 1940s with the 1740s? The Red Dress? The Nipple Swans?
Outlander Season Two, Episode Two, Podcast Recap
Listen to our podcast recap of the episode here or on iTunes!