Costumes on Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan’s hit historical romance Outlander are put through a heavy breakdown process to create an authentic 18th century look.
Nina Ayres, the costume designer for the popular TV drama, has developed a routine to ensure the pieces featured onscreen appear suitably worn down, and she even goes as far as putting the items into a cement mixer, while her other tactics include
dyeing, bleaching, greasing, coating with dirt, and burning.
“Everything has something done to them,” she tells Elle magazine. “And sometimes you’re making things look nicer, as well. You’re destroying it and then trying to cover up what has happened to it and make it newer.
“Even the belts and the shoes – any bit of metal anyone has on them – comes through. We have to do work on everything to make it look slightly aged, because it doesn’t read well on camera if it’s just bright metal.”
Another extreme method Ayers uses is cutting a costume apart, turning it inside out, and then sewing it back together – a common practice during that time.
“Instead of making something look old and worn, we get something that is actually old and worn and chop the cuff offs and remake it,” Ayres shares. “And sometimes the lines are still visible from its previous life and that just adds to the history of the costume. We’re doing exactly what people would have done and then not worrying if it looks like we’ve done that.”
The Emmy winner, who has lent her talents to other period shows like The Crown and Game of Thrones, frequently documents the process of dressing the show’s stars on Twitter, sharing behind the scenes images of fittings with fans.
In a series of posts during the show’s current fourth season, she took followers through the creation of a favourite look of Heughan’s character Jamie, a multi-piece suit and lengthy button up jacket.
“We added layers and layers of darning into it,” Ayres tells the publication of the look. “It takes weeks. It’s hand-stitched. We purposefully ripped the fabric apart and then stitched it back together again to make it look like it’s been repaired and repaired and repaired. It’s all in different threads so there’s a history to all the repairs that have happened to it. Claire (played by Balfe) has repairs on her clothes as well, if you look.”
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