Keeping Up with Outlander


If you listened to our podcast about Outlander, then you know I (Kendra) would be eagerly awaiting each new episode. Yep, Saturday nights have been hot and happening around my place, as I send the husband off to Do Something Else! (You don’t talk during Outlander, bitchez).

I thought about trying to recap each episode but there’s no way I could do it (too busy), plus Jezebel’s recaps are pretty darn entertaining. For those who are into the show, there’s also been some interesting articles at the Hollywood Reporter. But I do want to post periodically with my ongoing thoughts, with a particular highlight on costuming!

Since the podcast, we’ve hung out more with Geillis (the witchy one), had The Gathering (where all of clan MacKenzie showed up at Castle Leoch for a formal oath-swearing), some high profile extras have appeared, and then Claire went out on the road with Dougal MacKenzie (the laird’s brother & right-hand man) as they collected rent from tenants… and at the very end of the last episode, we encountered some redcoats.

First of all, I think anyone who is going to watch this show is going to have to accept a couple of facts:

1) Claire, the lead, is going to be in relatively pretty clothes that fit well, with a semi-extensive wardrobe. Why? Because a modern audience isn’t going to want to watch a historical costume series with a lead actress who runs around in one ugly sack. It’s just not going to fly!

So when Claire heads out on the road, she wears a very fetching fur-trimmed double-breasted jacket.

Outlander 2014

Claire heads out on the road in a very fetching fur-trimmed jacket |

2) On some level, it’s theater. So while part of me raises my eyebrows at the crazy shit Geillis wears, like this monkey-fur waistcoat that the actress wore backwards…. it’s theater. They’re trying to show us that there’s something off about Geillis. They’re making aesthetic choices in order to communicate visually. (FYI, she wears this outfit with bright red shoes!)

2014 Outlander

Geillis in her backwards, monkey-fur waistcoat.

Moving on…

Both author Diana Gabaldon and producer Ron Moore made cameos in The Gathering episode, Diana in a blue velvet dress and Ron in an embroidered suit. Interestingly, there is also an image of Diana going around that has her in a blue plaid dress, but I don’t believe she wears this on screen. The embroidery on Ron’s suit is really pretty.

2014 Outlander

Diana Gabaldon & Ron Moore

2014 Outlander

Diana Gabaldon in costume

Claire has been in all sorts of outfits. For the Gathering, she wore this plaid number with (embroidered?) floral petticoat and stomacher, which didn’t seem so harmonious in my eyes… but then I remember how this image of an 18th century Scotswoman in a plaid-fabric dress looks jarring to me, and that is clearly historically accurate!

2014 Outlander

Claire in black & floral

There were some (ahem) interesting choices on the extras in the Gathering scene, especially on the women — who were wearing high, late 1760s hair. And the woman with the yellow embroidered leaves on her stomacher and robings (the pleated front edges of her gown) — shudder.

2014 Outlander

The Gathering

2014 Outlander

The Gathering

BUT! And this is an important but! We have been continuing to be In History. Claire has even been wearing fichus!

Claire wears a fichu |


And, this green plaid dress is really beautifully cut and made.

2014 Outlander

And us Ladies of a Certain Age have been growing increasingly hot for Dougal… I don’t know, he’s all manly and authoritative! I can’t help it!

Outlander s02e09

But the coolest scene, from a textile history nerd perspective, is when Claire comes across some Highland women waulking wool. They all sit across from each other at a table, pour hot urine on the wool, and push it back and forth while singing waulking songs to keep the time — all to felt the wool. The scene is straight out of historical sources, and it made me pretty happy!

Waulking wool

Waulking wool

So yeah. I’m still happy, although yes, LET’S GET TO THE SHAGGING. Ahem.


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.

6 Responses

  1. Isis

    Seen as short hand for conveying “otherness” it is actually quite clever to not give Claire and Geillis with caps and fishu (what is plural of that? fishus?). It makes them stand out a little and if you aren’t tuned in on 18th century fashion you probably don’t think of it. I wonder if Claire will get more of them as she continue to adapt to her new world? I think that would be interesting, but probably not, caps aren’t generally considered sexy. It gets a bit funny though when she clearly has a quite big wardrobe on her trip, but still sleeps with her clothes on. Why, if she will change clothes the next day? I can understand it out of doors, but not in an inn.

    I also got the hiccups of her gathering gown, but as you said, not all that far off.

    I do love Dougal. It must be good acting for I was not keen on him in the books at all. Graham McTavish makes a good job in getting a range of emotions across while standing around with his arms crossed and smouldering. :D

    So can we please have the next episode now?

    • Suzie

      It is interesting, because in later books Claire continues to refuse to wear a cap, due to her modern sensibilies, and it continues tp scandalise the other women around, to the point of it becoming a running gag.

  2. Amy Osterholm

    So, what did we think of the weird knit neck cozy Claire wore in parts of The Gathering? Maybe it’s some kind of historical heeland garment, a warmer woolly fichu thang, but the look of it gave me the yips. Right up there with the backwards monkey fur waistcoat.
    Loved her fur trimmed coat, though. Don’t care about accuracy: WANT.

    • Rachel R

      I also wondered about the neck wrap Claire wears in scenes of the last episode of Outlander, “By the Pricking of my Thumbs.” What exactly is it, and is it a historically accurate piece of clothing? I must know!
      Also, the post mentions that the women at the Gathering are sporting 1760s hair styles. What would more accurate 1740s hair styles be?

  3. Jan Doell

    I have been told that in the 1740’s women ‘did not’ wear the plaid fabric design in skirts (petticoats). Is there any truth to that? I have been told that women “only wore plaids” in their Arisaig’s… Any ‘historically accurate’ advice on this would be really helpful! I have done many web searched for museum clothes from that era and haven’t been able to find anything either way.