Podcast: Outlander (2014)

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This adaptation of the popular historical fiction/time travel books gets a lot right, but controversy ensued when the costume designer posted online some so-called facts about 18th-century hygiene. We review the movie and the costumes and discuss the controversy — and how they REALLY handled hygiene back in the day.

You can listen to our critique of the first two episodes of Outlander’s costumes below or listen on iTunes.

26 Responses

  1. Amy Osterholm

    LOVED the ‘cast! Can’t wait for more.
    One question, one request:
    Kendra, you’ve read the books, what did you think of the guy playing Jamie? OK, hot, but is he Jamie, described as tall and lean with long red/auburn hair? A bit OT but inquiring minds want to know.
    This inquiring mind also would love more costumey detail! When you say Claire’s silhouette is more 16th/17th c., what do you mean? How does it look different to your eye than a mid 18th c? And what about that bum roll?
    You guys, collectively, know so much, I’m dying to learn more of it from you!

    Reply
  2. Stephani

    EXCELLENT discussion! I wish I got Starz and could watch the show, as I just finished the first book and really enjoyed it. Guess I have to wait until Amazon or Netflix gets it. But I really appreciate your honest, straightforward appraisals both of the costuming and of the “scandal” surrounding the costume designer’s post and Sarah’s counter-post. It’s true that as a professional one must develop a thick skin and as a scholar/writer it behooves one to DO THE RESEARCH using credible sources.
    Plus, you ladies are a hoot to listen to!

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    • Trystan

      Thanks! I’m going to have to keep going over to Kendra’s if I want to see any more episodes, since I don’t get Starz either ;-) It’s not a bad show & I can see potential for a grand sweeping romance. Clearly the producer & costume designer are doing it as a labor of love. Just, um, don’t try to talk about history you don’t know, at least not on the internet where fact-checking is just click away, LOL.

      Reply
  3. Isis

    I really enjoyed the podcast. And I do love the series. I was very wary of it as I loved the the first two books with a passion and there have been the last few TV-series set in the 18th century have been so ghastly I haven’t been able to see more than the first episode. But I think they are doing a great job with the casting and so far it is remarkably close to the book. On the whole the costumes are good and much better than a lot out there. I try very hard not to nitpick on details like caps and neckerchief though I must admit to a slight annoyance in the last episode where the ladies in this backwater castle is wearing fashion and hairstyles that wasn’t even worn yet. Oh well, I guess higher hair is something that connotes 18th century so much that it is hard to not have it. :)

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    • Trystan

      Ooo, now I really need to catch up on the next episodes! But yes, the costumes are better than many, so it’s just little things that stand out.

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      • Isis

        Mind, it is not giant 1770’s hair, but definitely more pouf than the 1740’s had. and a zone-front and I miss the winged cuffs, but again, I tink flounces connotes 18th cntury to the viewers. I did a slight hiccup at Claire’s tartan/flower combo, but I also recently saw a pcturee of an extant leopard print francasie, so who am I do judge… :)

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  4. Aimee Steinberger

    I really enjoyed listening to this finally last night! :) While I was watching the episodes, the costumes felt reasonably nice but I’m not as knowledgable as you guys so I was looking forward to hearing your opinions. I had no idea that clan tartans were largely 19th century construction! I’d be curious to find out more about what the differences of Scottish 18th century costume preferences compared to their french or english counterparts. You touched on it a bit with the etsy fichus (lol) and arm warmers… and of course it seems like there was more plaid even though it wasn’t a clan tartan specifically.

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  5. kate

    Loved hearing your podcast. Just fyi Jamie wears his hair short on the show like in the book. He had a headwound recently in the book and had his hair chopped up. the actress who plays Claire had her hair permed twice to achieve the hair of the book. which is quite unmanagable in the books.

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  6. Molly

    I should not have listened to this at work! Gotta say, I nearly lost it at the “shitting in a corner” discussion. :)

    I hope you plan to cover more episodes! (Certainly next season which takes place in a much more fashion-forward locale should be some fun eye candy).

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  7. Leslie Owens

    Just found your site. Love it!

    And, your podcast about Outlander is great. I am also a fan of the books; Gabaldon is a master at research and have found very few mistakes in her books. The show is something else.
    I have two issues with the costuming in Outlander, both of which I have written the production staff about it but have gotten no response, no surprise.

    One, I don’t think knitted wraps and wristlets are period at all. As far as I remember, knitting was for socks and underwear only. Not saying the wraps aren’t nice – just not accurate. But, I’m not a historian.

    Second, and this is my real beef – the episode titled Rent included a waulking scene where a group of village women are waulking wool cloth. More or less accurate, including chants, urine and a length of wool tartan. I was thrilled since waulking is a large part of what I do – I’m a weaver, dyer and felter. AND THEN, the woman tells Claire that the urine is for setting the dyes. NOT TRUE! and what a loss of an opportunity to tell a story. Urine and the pounding is for fulling the cloth, that is, making the cloth hard and dense so that the plaid is weatherproof and warm, even in the wet cold Scots weather. That process allows it to be the go-to piece of clothing for Scots outlaws and clansmen traveling through the Highlands, and traveling in that way is a huge part of the Outlander story. Also, if the dyes weren’t set yet, the colors would run and blend in the waulking, and the pattern would be lost entirely, even the muted hunting plaids in the show. Vegetable dyes are set in the dyeing process as well, not in a later process. Just not accurate at all, and they could have Googled waulking and gotten more accurate information.

    Just had to get that off my chest, not that anyone cares. I’m annoyed because there are thousands of practicing spinners, weavers, dyers and felters in Scotland, and the US, and I’m guessing they asked some museum docent instead.

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    • Trystan

      HAH — now I wonder if that was only in the TV show or in the book? Don’t know how much detail was originally there & was lost in translation, as it were.

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      • Leslie Owens

        It was the show that added the waulking scene, and it wasn’t in the book. Diana researched all her fiber processes extensively.

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  8. Janelle

    Re: the kilt in the show – the costume designer said she gave each of the actors their kilts and they each decided how to wear them. She said she did this because No two clansmen would wear them the same.

    Great Podcast!

    Reply
  9. Broughps

    Your blog was posted on Outlander’s IMDb board. Nice to hear from people who know what they’re talking about.

    Responding as I listen.

    For the record the guys do do up their kilts everyday. They aren’t sewn down. Sam has mentioned this on a few occasions.

    Jamie doesn’t wear a wig in the books.

    From the books – Claire refused to wear caps on her head.

    Sam doesn’t have much chest hair, no waxing required.

    In the later books Claire talks about making underwear for when she has her period.

    Looking forward to more of your podcasts.

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    • Kendra

      Yay for period period underwear! (get it?) But really, thanks for popping in with more recent memories than my own! Of course I reread the first book recently, but only AFTER we podcasted. Bad planning on my part!

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  10. Broughps

    Have you guys gotten a chance to watch beyond eps 1 and 2? We have a good laugh on the Outlander IMDb board about Claire’s needing a wagon of her own just for all her clothing changes when she’s on the road.

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  11. Dee M.

    Okay, guys. I listened to the recording, and I can verify what you say. I’m an American who is married to a Scottish guy and who lives in Scotland. I have been to A LOT of castles. All the castles have toilets. The 15th, 16th and 17th century castles – yes, all the castles – have toilets. The bigger bedrooms had ensuite toilets. There were always a couple of toilets near the banquet hall. They were like little outhouses with drainage pipes or gutters down the outside of the building, leading to a cesspit. People washed up using ceramic basins. It’s not hard to find them in antique shops. It wasn’t up to modern standards of cleanliness, but I’ve been on camping trips that were less sanitary. People who lived in regular houses had outhouses.

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  12. Adina

    I love you guys, but throughout this podcast I just kept going “It’s not Bollywood!” Yes, the movie does bring elements of Indian costume into it, but Bollywood is it’s own cinematic tradition, and this film has nothing to do with it.
    A good place to start for Bollywood is “Devdas” it’s iconic + historical.

    Reply

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