1 – Given the Paris/Versailles setting for part of DIA, I’m guessing you’ll have options to rent costumes that you didn’t for other settings. What is the thought process around that?
Not really. One of the biggest shocks and challenges that hit us when we started was the terrifying realization that there was not a lot out there to rent. First of all it is a somewhat limited stock to begin with (what DID they do with all of the costumes from Marie Antoinette?), but there are fifty billion shows currently shooting in the UK. The Uk is giving really great tax breaks to studios who shoot here, so it is a stampede from Hollywood to the UK. And it used to be that American television wouldn’t touch a period piece, even a few years ago, no one wanted to do one. But now with the success of GOT, Downton Abbey, etc. everyone is vying for the same studio space, crews, costumes, set dressing. It is insane. So you stand in Angels looking at racks of clothing being held for other productions, and cold, icy, fear descends.
No one is going to believe it doesn’t exist, because no one ever knows what we do. Not even the people we work for. How the hell are we going to make it all, because that is what we are going to have to do.
So it was a breathtaking challenge in S1, and a lot of those extras costumes were truly lipstick on a pig. Thank God for plaids and arisaids, careful arranged fur pieces and a lot of scrambling. I think we had 40 extra costumes when we started and have been making more at a breakneck speed.We actually have 160 now. Our biggest extras day so far has been 300. Do the math.
Season 2 has struck terror in my heart since before I agreed to do it, for this very reason. I turned down the show because of it. No television studio is prepared to do Versailles. They don’t know period costumes any more than any other average person on the street, and the elaborate, exacting detail required to do the French Court is beyond the scope of an American television show.
So, I have scratched, whined, kicked and yelled for a year about it. We finally were heard and I presented a kind of insane plane on how to make 1000 costumes, which we are embracing. Can’t go into too much detail yet, because we haven’t pulled it off yet, and there are a lot of hail Mary’s, crossing of fingers and perhaps a few ritual sacrifices before we know if we can pull it off.
We will make all of our principal costumes, because that is what we do. Claire’s costumes need to be Claire’s, and Jamie’s need to be Jamie’s. They need to be costumes made for Outlander, not Pirates Of The Carribean.
2 – Do you develop your sketches/ideas chronologically based on the story, or do you have some idea of potential shooting schedule, and (presuming it’s out of order) design that way? or something else?
I am so incredibly lucky on this show to have the book and to know it so well having read it multiple times over the years. Usually you just have to wait until the scripts come out, and pray you have enough time to make the costumes. There is also a shooting schedule that is SOMEWHAT reliable, which tells you which date scenes shoot. But it often gets changed around, and there you are nagging on doors again, telling people they are not going to ba able to shoot that because the clothes will not be ready. 80% of this job is negotiating, I could work at the UN.
But on this, since I know the story, I have a general idea of what is needed and have been able to build “closets” for our cast. So, I know there is going to be a Gathering, or a wedding, things I would not normally know on a show that is not based on a book.
It is a very complex tapestry that you have to weave. Costumes tell Day Night, when they are on the road, they have to tell character, and you never really know what a script or the requirements of shooting are. So, you may not initially plan for a fur timed coat, or a green plaid dress, but then the scripts come out, or the temperatures drop, and you have to add things at the last minute that were not planned for. There is a lot of scrambling and flying by the seat of your pants.
3 – Do you ever pick DG’s brain about costume?
I have enough brains to deal with. I am grateful that Diana appears to trust me.
4 – Are there any un-explored topics from Ep1-8 of S1? Besides putting on the kilt, that is?
I am sure there are.
5 - Your To Do list had “construct season 2″ as an item … what does that mean/entail?
It means to make or build, we will design, pattern and make, is what we call “construct”.
6 - When do you sleep?
I do on occasion. Not enough. We function mainly on adrenaline. Then when we stop, we crash.
7 - Not sure if this is going to appear next to the relevant question, so I’ll repeat just in case. Regarding your team of makers…when production gets underway do they all come over to work in Scotland? You have mentioned before that you have no control over employing makers from the UK and would love to if you could, but I also remember you saying you’d purchased knitted bits directly from online makers…..I’m confused, because surely buying from them and commissioning someone to make an item amounts to the same thing. Doesn’t it?
We have to employ makers from the UK. To bring in makers from around the world would mean a massive headache in terms of immigration issues, and I believe there are UK restrictions about such things. So we hire a team of makers who come to work ever day on payroll. They are permanent employees. We rarely contract to have things made for us by outside vendors, but do on occasion. For example Dougal’s hats, or Claire and Frank’s sweaters.
Now, I can buy retail items from anywhere. If I was on a contemporary show, I wouldn’t make a pair of shoes, I would go buy them. It is a little trickier on a period piece, because there is not a line of 18th century clothing at Marks and Spencer. But I can buy things here and there, and do. I have purchased knit pieces, jewelry, and definitely fabric. We buy shoes and stockings, things you can’t see on camera, and all sorts of ribbons, trims, buttons, clasps, etc.