Continuing with Outlander, Season 4


I don’t know that I have too much to say about the last few episodes of Outlander, but I promised Trystan I would watch it, and maybe y’all have thoughts? We’ve mostly been in the backcountry, so it’s all nubby wool and knitted things and sticking to the same practical costume world that was built long ago. That being said, there’s a lot of great layering and distressing and subtle details, but it’s harder for me to write much about that!

I did enjoy reading this interview at with costume designer Terry Dresbach, especially her reflections on costuming the Native Americans:

You’re talking about two groups of people who were in a genocidal war. Part of that genocide was to not only wipe them out physically, but to wipe out their culture. I researched it for a year and talked to different people in different tribes. I spent a lot of time talking to the Smithsonian. At one point somebody at the Smithsonian said to me, “If you’re asking me about the Cheyenne or the Navajo, we can give you a lot of information because there are photographs.” But the Eastern Woodlands Indians were virtually wiped out, and the people who would’ve kept records of them were the ones who were wiping them out … We really crossed our fingers while trying to give as accurate a representation as humanly possible while being able to sleep at night. It was a hugely important thing to us to get this right and not to buckle into any bad stereotypes. And it was distressing to find out that I couldn’t have a 100 percent verified “this is what happened.” I had to pull together a little bit here and a little bit there.

Outlander Season 4 2018

I can tell you nothing about historical accuracy, but I do like the effect – lots of different textures, layers, decorative elements. Also, guyliner.

Probably the best thing was Brianna’s Holly Hobby dress that she wears to go back to the 18th century:

However, I spent the rest of the episode scoffing at her messy/tousled 1990’s updo. Brianna has straight hair. There is no reason her hair would do this naturally. It CLEARLY has nothing to do with the 18th century. Why didn’t Laoghaire grab a comb and organize this rat’s nest?

Outlander Season 4 2018

I feel like she bought one of those fake-hair-on-a-clip thingies at Sally Beauty.

Outlander Season 4 2018

Because girl wasn’t sleeping in no pincurls.

Outlander Season 4 2018

Come on, Laoghaire! You know you want a new punishment method! (Note: no one ages on this show)

Claire is keeping it ultra-warm and relatively practical:

Outlander Season 4 2018
Outlander Season 4 2018

This jacket is just SO something my mother would have worn in the early 1980s.

I’m assuming Willie’s bangs are to make him look more like Jamie, but he just looked like Little Lord Fauntleroy to me:

Outlander Season 4 2018

Claire will side-part til she dies.

Outlander Season 4 2018

I liked Brianna wearing Claire’s fur-lined coat:

Outlander Season 4 2018

Although I question this bonnet-y thing on her new servant’s head:

Outlander Season 4 2018

Roger lost all sex appeal when he shaved his beard:

Outlander Season 4 2018

I also wished there had been a few “holy crap! I just time traveled!” scenes with Roger and/or Brianna. I mean, theoretically they knew about it, but that’s different than SUDDENLY BEING 200 YEARS EARLIER.

I finally realized I recognized (the actor who plays) Stephen Bonnet from Downton Abbey (Jimmy):

Outlander Season 4 2018

I liked his little pleated/striped ribbon on his hat!

And I came across this shot of some extras on set and had a good laugh at the bodice on the left:

Outlander Season 4 2018

Alllll your renfaire dreams come true!

Fingers crossed we head back to River Run for some shiny!


What’s your take on Outlander season 4 so far?


About the author



Kendra has been a fixture in the online costuming world since the late 1990s. Her website, Démodé Couture, is one of the most well-known online resources for historical costumers. In the summer of 2014, she published a book on 18th-century wig and hair styling. Kendra is a librarian at a university, specializing in history and fashion. She’s also an academic, with several articles on fashion history published in research journals.

29 Responses

  1. karenbs333

    Although I know actually nothing about how the eastern nations would have dressed, the outfits looked quite valid and thoughtfully designed. There would have been a lot of trading going on with the French traders to the north, who would have given them the jewelry and colorful cloth on exchange for furs. These items in turn would be traded further south. And the layering looked good too.

  2. Lee Jones

    At one point somebody at the Smithsonian said to me, “If you’re asking me about the Cheyenne or the Navajo, we can give you a lot of information because there are photographs.” But the Eastern Woodlands Indians were virtually wiped out, and the people who would’ve kept records of them were the ones who were wiping them out … We really crossed our fingers while trying to give as accurate a representation as humanly possible while being able to sleep at night.

    I wonder . . . did Elsa Zamparelli, who had designed the costumes for “The Last of the Mohicans”, have the same problem?

    • Aleko

      According to a friend who was hired to do the military uniforms, she had a different problem. Like Dresbach, she did everything she could to research the appearance of 18th-century Hurons, got a couple of sample costumes made up and found pure-blooded Hurons to wear them, then took these guys to show the director. Michael Mann just looked at them and said, ‘Mmmm . . .It just doesn’t say ‘Huron’ to me’, and sent her away to put more warpaint and feathers on them.

    • Aleko

      Another story from my friend about TLotM: whole groups of French-&-Indian-Wars re-enactors were hired to be the redcoat column that marches out from Fort William Henry and gets massacred on the way. These guys were profoundly unimpressed by the directors’ plans for that massacre: and during the first take, when the Hurons come leaping through the undergrowth waving tomahawks, their commander just barked ‘Left and right files, outward face! Charge bayonets!’ The Hurons skidded to a halt just in time to avoid impaling themselves on a hedge of bayonet-points, and complained ‘How can we slaughter you horribly if you do that?’ The re-enactors replied, ‘Aha, good question!’.

      The director came storming up and told them not to be a bunch of smart*sses and ruin his scene by doing the obvious sensible thing that any 18th-century troops would CERTAINLY have done: and having made their point that the scene as devised was ridiculous, the re-enactors shrugged and obediently let themselves be filmed shambling dumbly through the woods not trying to defend themselves while the Indians chopped them up at leisure.

      • Dee

        Thank you for sharing those insights. I’ll be thinking about that when I watch the movie again.

      • ksstrek

        That reminds me of an Alan Alda movie “Sweet Liberty” (1986). They were making a movie about a battle during the American Revolution and using re-enactors and the director wanted to change the dynamics and outcome of the battle. Older movie but a good watch.

  3. picasso Manu

    WHAT is it, indeed? That thing on the left. I really tried to calculate the logistics of the whole thing (okay, I tried with my hands): The girls are completely running amock. Painful, unsexy as Hell too. And more complicated to make than a “normal” bodice. Weird. But rocking the 2018 off shoulder tee look, I guess. shudder

  4. broughps

    Don’t remember the last two being in the show, but I’m guessing they’re suppose to be whores.

    Did any of you read Terry’s reasoning for the Holly Hobby dress? I don’t buy it myself.

    The dress Bree wears under the fur trimmed coat was also Claire’s outfit and apparently they left it ill fitting to show that it was a hand me down.

        • Kendra

          Yeah, but Claire has actually been to the 18th c. and knows what clothes are supposed to look like, Brianna hasn’t/doesn’t. So I bought it.

        • Dee

          Bree, a history and then engineering major in her early 20s, who lived with an historian father and a surgeon mother in the run-up to the bicentennial celebration would have had lots of sensible options that at least looked like the 1770s on the surface. Historical reenactments going on all around her in Boston in the early 70s and a theatre dept. at her university. If the Gunne Sax dress was a bad idea for Claire, why would Bree wear it, esp. after knowing what Claire did sewing the bat suit? Every girl in that era had to learn to sew in Home Ec, but even if she didn’t, just grab a plain maxi skirt, a portrait blouse and throw that cape over it. Done. Terry is changing Bree to a dimwit, or went off her rocker reminiscing and wanting to put Bree in “Terry” clothing. Bree wouldn’t go off in a gauzy cotton dress (even though she grabbed one at the last second in Voyager, in a foreign country with few options). Give Bree even a day to plan and she would do better.

      • broughps

        What I’m referring to is on Terry’s Outlander Costume Twitter feed. In the books Bree goes back dressed in 18th men’s clothes to disguise herself and keep herself safe because she knew a lone female could be trouble. Terry’s reasoning was if Bree had worn pants she would have been continually raped.

      • broughps

        It annoys a lot of us. Bree’s height was as much a character as Bree herself.

        • Emily

          The entire TV version of Bree annoys the hell out of me. She’s so much better in the books it’s not even funny.

    • ksstrek

      Even with naturally curly hair in the 60’s and early 70’s she may very well have been straightening it. I remember putting my head down on an ironing board so my friend could press my hair straight with a steam iron.

  5. Saraquill

    I can’t say how period or tribal accurate the indigenous character’s clothes are. I will say they look like regalia I’ve seen at powwows.

  6. Jen

    Every time I see Willie and his bangs, I keep thinking of Tara Lipinksi skating in the 1998 Winter Olympics.

  7. Emily

    This season has thrown me off so much re: what’s happening that I’m sort of confused. :) We are SUPPOSED to go back to River Run in the books. I HOPE we do here, because there’s a whole bunch of awesome stuff that happens there that will give my Lord John loving heart happiness.
    I also sort of hate how Bree is characterized in the series. She is a MUCH better character in the books. That being said, I loved the dress she wore–I liked the nod to Voyager.
    I totally agree that Roger loses so much when he shaves. It’s sort of crazy how much it changed his face.

  8. SarahV

    I here to just to chime in with my full-throated agreement about Roger. Bring back the beard, Roger!

  9. Jonathan

    My main question about Lizzie’s bonnet is the shape – the back should poof up more, and I think the front should be larger and angled more forward rather than up. I don’t do 1770s clothing, but a friend of mine who does sent me pictures for one she’s making a few weeks ago – and she did say that she was making it black since that was the most common color for them in the colonies. I’m willing to grant them the shape of the brim as changed so we can see the actress’s face better, but it still feels small.

  10. Emily

    Is there any history of self-striping yarn before the 20th century? I love the capelet Bree wears in “Birds and the Bees”, b ut it SCREAMS modern to me, and not just the thick knit.