There’s a new sheriff in the Outlander costume department!
After Terry Dresbach announced her intention to leave the Starz series after season 4, the producers tapped Scotland native Trisha Biggar to take over the very important task of dressing the good folks of Fraser’s Ridge. Here, the veteran designer and BAFTA recipient — whose credits include the Star Wars franchise and the NBC drama Emerald City — talks about joining the Starz drama in its fifth season and why she changed Bree’s wedding dress from blue to “buttermilk creme” in the premiere episode.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Have you joined a series midway in its run before?
TRISHA BIGGAR: I did take over costumes in season 2 for DaVinci’s Demons. They had done the first season and I did seasons 2 and 3. There was quite a big change in the look of the characters. They wanted that when I took over. This has been slightly different. It’s a continuity of their lives carrying on. I certainly wanted to keep some aspects, some touches from season 4.
Was it scary to take over for Terry Dresbach?
It was interesting to take over! Terry did a fabulous job. Her costumes were beautiful and very diverse over the lives of the characters. I think I’ve done enough. Costumes don’t scare me in that way. It’s obviously challenging because every job is challenging. I’m lucky I come from Scotland so I have a history with a lot of the people who already work here. I wasn’t coming into this job as a stranger. So for me it’s been quite an easy transition in terms of the crew, and also I’ve worked with some of the actors before on other jobs. So that’s nice.
Have you designed for 18th-century Scotland before?
I haven’t! So that’s nice too. It’s great fun.
Do you feel a sense of responsibility to stay true to the tone that’s already been established on a show, or is the story free enough that you can go in different directions?
I think the story is free enough. Lots of time has past. Things evolve, looks change and evolve. The Frasers are in one place for a longer period of time. So there is the possibility of them building a wardrobe. For quite a long time, because of the story, their clothes were quite limited. They did recycle a lot. It was out of necessity and also because that happened in that period — people would cut up their dresses and you would see the same fabric 40 years later in somebody else’s dress. Fabrics were so expensive and traveled the world quite readily. Anything that came into Europe from the Far East made its way to the colonies. There were also a lot of people making their own textiles because of the political problems with the U.K., with Britain.
So what about Claire’s wardrobe this year? Does she have the means to acquire more dresses?
There are quite a lot of people who have moved into Fraser’s Ridge. There are people with lots of diverse skills, and at that point people shared their skills. Claire also has the ability to sew. And Marsali is an expert seamstress. There are lots of possibilities of new things being made.
How did you choose your colors?
I wanted quite natural colors. In Scotland, in terms of our landscape, we have the heathers and the mountains and the mossiness and almost a grayness, sometimes. And browns! It’s nice that in the colonies, it’s lightened. The fabrics are lighter. We are using less wool and more linens and homespun-type fabrics that have more of a lightness to them.
Let’s talk about Bree’s wedding dress!
In the book it’s talked about as being a blue dress. We discussed whether we would go forward with that. Because the wedding is outdoors and we weren’t quite sure what stage the greenery would be at, I felt the blue wouldn’t stand out the way we wanted it to. At that point in time, creams were very fashionable as a base color, and people were really starting to wear cream and white for weddings. So I did her dress in a buttermilk cream and then wanted to introduce touches of Scotland. We embroidered in Scottish thistles — bands around the hem and the bodice. And then we made some three-dimensional thistles to put down the front to fasten the bodice. It was great. It was really nice.
And how do you explain where she got this dress?
She made it! She got the fabric from Aunt Jocasta’s wardrobe. In season 4 when Brianna was at River Run, there was talk of Aunt Jocasta’s closet. Claire did the needlework.
EW has lots of content planned for the fifth season of Outlander. Besides our weekly recaps and postmortem interviews with executive producer Matthew B. Roberts and the stars, we’ll continue to do our weekly recap show for SiriusXM. And you don’t have to tune in live to catch it!
Outlander… On Demand! can be found on the SiriusXM app every Monday starting Feb. 17. Just search the name of the show. And make sure to follow @lynetterice on Twitter for all the latest news from Fraser’s Ridge.
Season 5 of Outlander premieres this Sunday on Starz.