Costume Exhibit: The Artistry of Outlander at The Paley Center

I made an unplanned visit to the Outlander costume exhibit. Mercy!

My daughter and I were shopping in Santa Monica (after driving down from Northern California for her incoming freshman academic advising appointment at her new college), when a friend on Facebook (thank you Teresa!) reminded me about the free The Artistry of Outlander exhibit at The Paley Center for Media. Google told me it was only 30 minutes away and my daughter was game, so off we went.

If you watch Outlander, you know that they spent the first part of the second season in Paris, where the costumes — for both men and women — are over the top. And this exhibit gives you an up close look at many of them. I did not realize how many fine details these costumes have that you simply cannot see on screen. Terry Dresbach, the Outlander costume designer, and her team cut no corners.

Photos speak louder than words in a case like this, so let’s get to it:


Claire’s Versailles garden dress.

This is my favorite costume from the Paris adventure. It’s one of at least two that draw inspiration from both the 18th century and the 1940s, which is noted on the display. Who knew brown and mustard and embroidered pink flowers could be so gorgeous together? Need a closer look?


Claire’s Versailles garden dress — embroidery detail.

This dress is stunning, and the scene so lovely, until …


Shudder. That’s enough of him.

Let’s move onto something far more pleasant. Louise!


Louise de Rohan’s blue silk dress.

Louise de Rohan is just a cotton candy confection of a person. This dress is full of frilly details, but look at them closely.


Louise de Rohan’s blue silk dress — trim detail.

The striped trim has raw pinked edges that are currently raveling! I’m sure this could be tidied up with a pair of scissors, but it was rather amazing to see how the edges were finished.

Details, that was the theme of the exhibit in my mind, even for the men.


Comte St. Germain’s brown coat and pink vest.

This is one of the more “plain” outfits Comte St. Germain wears. (He’s quite a bit more of a clothes horse than I realized. Many of his costumes are on display.) But look at the details!


Comte St. Germain’s brown coat — trim and button detail.


Comte St. Germain’s brown coat — cuff detail.

Just look at the buttons and the trim! There are about two dozen of these custom embroidered buttons on this coat. Did you catch any of this when watching? Me either.

Another exquisite dresser is Prince Charles Stuart, of course.


Prince Charles Stuart’s brown embroidered jacket.

This one has exceptional embroidery as well as custom embroidered buttons.


Prince Charles Stuart’s embroidered brown coat — embroidery and button detail.

I hadn’t remembered the following dress at all, but it was one of my favorites at the exhibit, because it’s muslin!


Louise de Rohan’s hand-painted muslin dress.

Yes, it really is muslin. There are beautiful florals on pretty much every costume. Some of the florals are embroidered, but many are hand-painted, like on this dress.


Louise de Rohan’s hand-painted muslin dress — sleeve detail.

This dress also has raw pinked edges, hiding among the two different kinds of lace on the sleeve. Because of the humble muslin, this dress seemed more accessible than the rest. It seems almost reasonable that I could make a hand-painted muslin dress. Almost.


Louise de Rohan’s hand-painted muslin dress — back detail.

I had to look at this very closely to see how it closes. Clearly, the closure is at center back. But how? Hooks and eyes, that’s how! By getting as close as I dared (I’ve been told to step back at costume exhibits before), I could just see a hook through the widest part of the gap. No wonder no one could dress themselves! Can you imagine?

And now for another 18th Century/1940s mashup — Claire’s Dior inspired “suit.”


Claire’s Dior-inspired “suit.”

Although the original iconic “bar suit” dates from 1947 (which is just after Clare left that era), Terry Dresbach designed this suit to span the couture of Clare’s two timelines. I think it was a pretty clever idea. She’s the costume designer; she can do what she wants!


Clare’s Dior-inspired “suit” — matching gloves.

And here’s another detail I didn’t see on screen, the cutouts on the matching leather gloves. I am becoming more and more fond of gloves, and although it doesn’t really get cold enough in my area of Northern California, I wear them in winter anyway.

Now we’ve come to another of my favorites — Master Raymond’s jacket.


Master Raymond’s jacket.

How wonderful is this jacket? It has custom embroidery and hand-painted details of various mystical and astrological symbols, only some of which I recognize. But it’s so clever, it deserves a closer look at each panel:


Master Raymond’s jacket — detail.


Master Raymond’s jacket — detail.



Master Raymond’s jacket — detail.


Master Raymond’s jacket — detail.



Master Raymond’s jacket — back detail.

I just love this jacket. How much fun would it be to embroidery a vest in a similar fashion? I have an embroidery machine. It’s not impossible!

And now we’ll wrap up with The Red Dress. The Red Dress was in the front window of The Paley Center, so there was no way to take a full-length shot without horrific glare (even on an overcast day), but, my camera has a tilt and twist view screen, so I could put the camera in front of the dress (where I wouldn’t fit), while I stood to the side to frame the shot. Et voila!


Claire’s Red Dress — detail.

The criss-cross straps in front, the neckline trim, the piping along the bodice bottom — There is so much more going on with this dress than I realized. Thank goodness I got to see this one, and so many others, in person.

And my takeaway — I need to up my sewing game when it comes to the fine details. Painted muslin, mystical symbols, embroidered buttons — I want to try them all!

As usual, I did not share everything at the exhibit — only the displays that inspired me the most. There’s much more to see! If you’d like to go, details are below.



The Artistry of Outlander
The Paley Center for Media

Wednesday through Sunday 12 to 5 p.m.
465 North Beverly Drive
Beverly Hills, California

June 8 to August 14, 2016
Admission is FREE and open to the public.

The story behind … Penguin by Hand

An amazing collaboration between quilting and bookmaking.

Source: The story behind… Penguin by Hand.

RTW vs. me-made

Now I can raise my arms without exposing my belly!

Quick and easy peasant blouse

I recently finished a quick and easy peasant blouse out of cotton lawn, No. 2 on my summer top sewing list.

View C.

The pattern promises “easy,” and it really was. I made View C.

I made a muslin (from an old sheet) primarily so I’d know where the bust point was (important for fitting) and to check the overall length. The only changes I ended up making were a full-bust adjustment with the new French darts I tried on the last project (still love them), and to lengthen the bodice and the sleeves an inch each.

The whole project, from muslin to final, took only two weeks, with the sewing of the fashion fabric taking only two days!

(I had high hopes of sewing up the fashion fabric in one day, but alas, I’m just not built for that level of concentration.)

New Look 6179 Front

New Look 6179. It’s difficult to tell here, but the sleeves have quarter-inch elastic in the hems.

The neckline is quarter-inch elastic in a casing, with skinny ties attached to the end of the elastic. The elastic comes nearly all the way to the keyhole front and the fabric ties are plenty long enough, so I think I’ll cut the elastic 4 inches shorter than the guide for the next go around.

New Look 6197 detail

In this closeup of New Look 6197, you can see the keyhole detail and the ties.

This blouse is actually a direct replacement for a very similar knit top that I have. But that originally OK-fitting top has shrunk and shrunk and shrunk in the wash so much that now it’s a crop top!

A HUGE benefit of sewing is making clothes that fit my full bust (without excess fabric at the waist or the hemline rising up in the front) and is long enough.

I’m so pleased with how this classic style turned out, that next up I’ll be making another one from ivory eyelet, bought during the same trip to Fabric Outlet in San Francisco as the cotton lawn.

And since the pattern is already fitted, I can make another in about the same amount of time it would take to find a ready-to-wear version that kind of fits.

Maybe I’ll be sick of the pattern after that, but I’d really like a third version in chambray blue with three-quarter sleeves.

For you sewing enthusiasts, how many times in a row can you make a pattern before you’re tired of it and want to make something different?

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