Continuing with my Outlander coverage… And we finally get to see that red dress that was in all those promos!!! Like, holy hell, historical fashion porn! Gimmegimmegimme.
But other things happened in “Not in Scotland Anymore,” too. I guess I’ll talk about some of them? Honestly, content-wise, I think I liked the first episode better… Or at least it was more interesting to me, which should be apparent give my last lengthy post. [Update: After writing this, I realized that actually, surprise, I LOVED this episode and didn’t even realize it??? So, yeah, I take that back. It was just a verrrry different episode. Definitely re-watchable.] But this episode was lovely in that it sparked my interest in historical fashion and the business of costumes today. Also, just in general, I think there was an effort to strike a markedly more upbeat tone in this episode after the despair and tension in the premiere. So there were several sort of lame, sort of silly, sort of funny moments of cultural and travel shenanigans. Like, a little bit literal and on-the-nose. We get it! They’re not in Scotland anymore!!
So, along with my reactions, I’ve collected lots of fun (maybe?) tidbits, pictures, background, and links, that I shall leave here for your perusal. Just, lots of fun.
Although, first, to summarize, my main reactions were this:
- It felt a little over-the-top in terms of how (aristocratic) France was portrayed as just so sexually liberated and outrageous. Like, that point was really hammered in after the dildos, waxed pussies, nipple earrings, etc. Very much on the nose with the whole “not in Scotland” thing.
- I respect the commitment to Jamie’s PTSD. Doesn’t necessarily mean it’s fun to watch, but I am repeatedly appreciative of how Outlander approaches sex in general (which is a big topic and perhaps suited to a separate post).
- Murtagh (as played by Duncan Lacroix) was both a pleasant third wheel and an awesome broski/bff to JMan throughout the entire episode and got to provide some comedic relief, even with simple facial reactions.
- It was a really light-hearted episode, with lots of silliness. It def. grew on me the second time I watched it (yes, I watched it more than once).
- The clothes were so much fun! Also, serious. I can’t even call them rabbit holes, because I went reallllllly far into the background, lots of interviews with the costume designer, museum collections of historical clothes, etc., etc. I couldn’t help but include that here!! Which, in turn, made this my longest post…ever? Anyways. Enjoy, or don’t read. It’s a serious TL;DR situation. But, it also has a shit ton of photos every few sentences, so, if reading a lot is scary, that should help.
Let’s jump in with more detail, however, and check some screenshots, play-by-plays, and reactions!
After a lovely opening over the final credits, in which we see some flawless examples of mid-century, ornate women’s dress (we don’t find out until near the end who the woman in question is and where she wore the dress).
But the story really begins with Jamie in bed, on top of Claire, in flagrante delicto. All seems well, if a little disconnected from reality, and, lo and behold, it isn’t reality! It’s a nightmare! Poor Jamie sees himself no longer riding Claire but mounted atop Jack Randall. Dream Jamie goes full Carrie and stabs him all to hell before waking up.
He confesses to Claire that Jack haunts him, despite the fact that he escaped and Randall is presumed dead. But, as he tells Claire, “He’s alive, in my head. I can’t get him out.” Clare tries to reassure him that it’s her who is with him and Randall is gone. Again, despite the very different circumstances, this echoes how Frank acts toward Claire in 1948.
Anyways, let’s move on to Claire’s first excellent outfit. I thought she looked wonderful in this, and she actually reminded me a bit of Audrey Hepburn in this look.
And, as I have since found out, this was a pretty important costume decision for Outlander’s costume designer Terry Dresbach. I loved reading about her inspiration and rationale for this costume and for all of Claire’s future outfits while in France.
Dresbach explained her approach to Claire’s outfits as necessary to her character and the story, and not completely tied to historical accuracy (though remarkably historical nonetheless). She told Vanity Fair:
“Claire’s from a very specific period in the 1940s, just after World War II, and like so many women of that time, she’s worn trousers, worked in the military, been part of the first generation of women in the workforce, was independent… So how do you maintain that, even the physical movement for her, while [costuming] her in 18th-century Paris, a time with incredibly fussy, beautifully fussy clothes? … People are seeing [Claire’s second-season costumes] now and kind of going, ‘That doesn’t look period correct.’ Well, it’s not, but it’s not supposed to be. Claire is not an 18th-century woman. She’s a woman of the 40s re-interpreting 18th-century fashion to fit her tastes.
I really bought into Dresbach’s reasoning there concerning the whole time-travel nature of Claire’s fashion sense.
Dresbach also explained that this outfit was really serendipitous because her starting point was the late 1940s, which meant she could look at Christian Dior. In the late 1940s, Christian Dior’s “New Look” style—and in particular the “Bar Suit,” pictured below—was a big deal, and thus could be said to have influenced Claire’s style in the ’40s.
“Featuring rounded shoulders, a cinched waist, and very full skirt, the New Look celebrated ultra-femininity and opulence in women’s fashion. After years of military and civilian uniforms, sartorial restrictions and shortages, Dior offered not merely a new look but a new outlook.”¹
As explained above, this celebration of ultra-femininity and opulence harkens to earlier moments of decadent fashion. And, as Dresbach noted in interviews and on her blog, you can definitely see reflections of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century women’s riding suits. From Dresbach’s fascinating behind-the-scenes blog, she further explained:
“So we just put Claire in a recreation of the Bar Suit. I have never had a costume so perfectly define a character and fit into a story so seamlessly before… I didn’t want to make something that echoed the Bar Suit, I wanted to recreate it… It is a copy of someone else’s. I have never done that before, but it worked. It worked, because as I say ad nauseam, it serves the story.”
This all combines into a perfect storm to both allow Claire to seem true to the 1940s styles and still fit within the Parisian fashion landscape of the 1740s. Seriously, how perfect is that?! I agree completely.
If your brain has shut down and you have failed to accompany me on this fashion-history-costume-backstory rabbit hole, I apologize. Back to the recap!
Anyways, Claire wore this look to travel through Paris in search of an apothecary.
She finds one that seemed like it was a labor of love for the set designers, because the detail is meticulous and it looks like just a fantastic little universe unto itself.
It also gave me strong Beauty and the Beast vibes, like both in terms of Belle’s dad, the crazy workshop atmosphere, and the kickass shelves with a rolling ladder. She gets some stuff to help Jamie sleep better, confirms that she is disliked by the Comte St. Germain and gossip has spread about her, and seems to secure a future ally in the shop owner, Master Raymond.
(Also… Connie Verzak’s recaps on the Scotland Now site are amazing and hilarious and I just love ’em. Great captions to her screenshots. I’ve got a few scattered throughout.)
Meanwhile… Jamie and Murtagh, those naughty little exhibitionists, decide to work out some pent up frustration by engaging in some
acrobatic sex sword practice on a well manicured lawn. They’re really just using the physical activity to get in touch with their feelings, like boys do.
Yeah, there’s actually quite a bit of male bonding this episode, too. Murtagh and Jamie = strong male friendship!! But, alas, Murtagh is obviously not happy in France and misses his life in Scotland (even Angus and Rupert—which, yes, I miss them, too!!).
Murtagh gets to ask some of the questions that we want to ask of Jamie and Claire, like, why don’t they just kill Charles, and even his father James if need be, in order to stop the rebellion as planned. Solid question, bro. Ruthless, but solid. Wee Jamie’s morals won’t allow this—shades of Stefan Salvatore, TVD-ers?—, and, also, they wouldn’t have as many wonderful Parisian shenanigans if they simply went full-out assassin on the royal asses.
Naturally, Jamie knew just how to make Murtagh feel better… with some good ol’ fashioned wrestling. Or a hug.
Speaking of Bonny Prince Charles (hereafter BPC), Jamie’s cousin Jared has somehow managed to secure a meeting between BPC and Jamie despite being on some island or otherwise offscreen. And the meeting will take place… drumroll, plz… in a brothel! A brothel!? Très Français!
Bonny Prince Charles is that type of aristocrat who looks and acts like he is the product of several generations of in-breeding and a pampered childhood. Naturally, he is kind of fun to observe but would be hard not to flick in the face (not a euphemism) or something more violent. Murtagh gets to play the third wheel again, this time to Jamie and BPC.
BPC offers this observation, which also, maybe, reflects the show’s attitude this episode: “This is why I admire the French—they’re so wonderfully vulgar. They never allow their exquisite manners to interfere with their baser instincts.” Exquisite manners and vulgarity seem to be recurring themes for how our Scotts see the French, and possibly how we are meant to see them, as well. (Claire, with the added distance and collective human experience of two centuries, is less shocked, but still surprised.)
The brothel sets up the next visual joke or bit as the entertainment at the brothel involves prostitutes pretending to be wives and demonstrating how they need dildos to keep them entertained because their husbands are all out… at brothels… Again, this serves as background entertainment, a kind of extended set-design, and just an excuse to engage in a little historical sexxxxxytime.
Ohh-la-la! Don’t get me wrong, I love a good historical dildo! I don’t follow @whoresofyore for nothin’, my friends! (Great twitter account, btw.) And so I definitely enjoyed this escapade! Plus, these dildos are rentable! I prefer my sex toys well-loved and well-worn; makes me feel connected (via germs or disease) to the world around me!
It’s just humorous after re-watching the episode how many ostentatiously brazen moments there are, which are intended both to remind Dorothy she’s not in Kansas anymore and entertain the viewer. Well, Outlander, color me entertained! All together now… Where are we? NOT IN SCOTLAND! Who are we? SHOCKED ENGLISH VISITORS IN PARIS! What do we want? SEX, SEX, WINE, DILDOS, NUDITY, WAXED PUSSIES, AND MORE SEX!
I almost forgot the Very Important Conversation that happened amid all of the fun! Basically, Jamie dropped some truth bombs on BPC—that the Scottish clans were not ready to rise up behind BPC, no matter what other sycophants had told him—and, after a few tense moments, that level of honesty eventually won him the respect of BPC. Lucky him! BPC then commands Jamie to speak on his behalf to the Minister of Finance, Monsieur DuVernay, in order to raise funds from the French King to support the rebellion. The night was a success. (Except for Murtagh, who needs to get laid.)
So, possibly aroused after the brothel?, Murtagh and Jamie (the ambiguously gay duo this episode), return home to MamaBearClaire, who was rocking a fabulous robe/wrap, which looked to me like Chinoiserie.
Chinoiserie, from ‘chinois’ (the French for Chinese), was a popular eighteenth-century style inspired by art and design from China, Japan and other Asian countries. Porcelain, silk and lacquerware imported from China and Japan were extremely fashionable during this period, and mid-century was the trend’s apex. Obviously, European designers also imitated, copied, evoked, and appropriated what they saw as Oriental design elements to suit their own purposes.
Jamie and Murtagh consider BPC to be a “dangerous blockhead” who won’t see reason due to his inflated sense of self, desire for power, lack of intelligence, and religious beliefs. Murtagh continued to be a comedic light, just from his body language. He just seemed so relatable! I want to hang out with him!
They decide, at MamaBearClaire’s behest, to finagle an invitation to Versailles, in order to continue their machinations to thwart the rebellion! Luckily… Claire has a new potential bestie! Fingers crossed this one won’t get her burned at the stake for a witch! I think these two could really take over the cool table at Versailles.
The historical figure of Marie Louise de La Tour d’Auvergne, or just Louise de la Tour, is played here by the French actress Claire Sermonne. (Side note: pretty sure she had an affair with Louis XV, the French King, and also her cousin. But I also think like all the royal women had affairs with him.) Claire Sermonne as Louise was a lot of fun to watch as she chewed up the scenery! I want her in every episode! Claire just really needs a snarky sexual sidekick to lighten the mood and remind her to take care of her body hair.
Louise de la Tour is, naturally, entertaining Claire while having her leg hair and pubic hair waxed. As one does. And, to (seemingly) continue our tour through French stereotypes, Louise has a pet monkey! Named Collette! have you ever heard anything more French?! I actually think this was true, though, so it’s not like they just made it up for the episode, though I wouldn’t have faulted them had they done that.
And, to make Claire look like the “cool girl” that she is, Louise has some English wallflower staying with her, who is about to be married, and Louise seems to delight in making her squirm with her brazen ways, though Claire tries to bond with her and seems to recall her name, which viewers who haven’t read the book can probably tell was a hint.
Waxing philosophic (pun super-duper intended) mid-wax, Louise drops this wisdom on her guests: “It’s so warm and so comforting being put on, and so painful when it is pulled off. Such is life.” Preach, sister! Let’s be best friends!!!
With an invitation to Versailles and a dressmaker hook-up in hand—plus a freshly waxed “honeypot”!—Claire heads home, victorious.
Claire hopes to entice Jamie with her hairless mound, which is de rigeour in Paris according to Louise, but Jamie, our young hero, is notably perplexed that she rid herself of “such a lovely forrest.” I kid you not. He is a prince. Her seduction seems to be working at first…but of course he flashes back to his nightmare and memories of Jack Randall and freezes up mid-act. Claire says its okay and they try to get some sleep, but it’s obvious that this is going to be an issue that won’t simply be gotten over easily or quickly. Again, I really appreciate that they did this and find it interesting and worthwhile.
Anyways. FINALLY, it’s time to get really dressed up and go see the King at Court!! Fuck yes, red dress!
And here, because Connie Vivant is so hilarious, here’s her epic Clueless/Outlander mash-up. Flawless.
Of course, with a dress (and an entrance) like that, she gets great male reactions. Murtagh gives good face; it’s such an excellent mix of surprise, appreciation, and awkwardness.
So, there is so much you could talk about with this dress! In terms of historical (court) fashions, this seems like a decent mix of accuracy and character, which is in keeping with Dresbach’s approach to costume design. The shape is very historical, though it is not in the usual pattern or brocaded silk. Dresbach talked with Kelly Faircloth about this red dress:
“In my head, she gets to go to a dressmaker, and she has all this money now, and the dressmaker is trying to put all this crap all over the clothes, and she’s going, ‘I don’t want all that. I don’t want all that fuss. I don’t want all those bits and pieces. I don’t want the bows, I don’t want the ribbons, I don’t want the lace.’ When you take all that crap off, you end up with a silhouette that is 18th Century and 20th Century… So, you can take that costume and you can put it in Versailles and it doesn’t quite fit, but then again it does. It’s a bit of a sleight of hand, and a bit of illusion…”
A few historical tidbits… Let’s see… To expand the width of their dresses, women wore hooped petticoats, which would later be referred to as panniers (after the French word “panier” meaning basket, since they resembled baskets fastened around a woman’s waist). This is a pretty specific shape, which would evolve over the decades and centuries, shifting in size (square/rounded) and placement (sides/back). They could be any size, with the largest obviously being worn only by aristocrats for special functions. The panniers could be made from wood, whalebone, and metal or reeds. (All the whalebone needs for fashion actually led to increased French trade with Holland and whale-fishery companies during the early eighteenth-century.)
When the largest were worn, two women could not walk through a doorway at the same time, or sit near one another. They were at their widest mid-century, when they might measure over 1.5m across. In addition to the dilated hips, they were also corseted, which further restricted mobility (but the super stiff edifice of the corset, or inner structure, enabled super deep décolletage). These types of formal dresses were often known as “mantuas” and were open-fronted silk or fine wool gowns with trains and matching petticoats. Soon after, the “sack back” dress worn over a hoop petticoat became increasingly popular and followed a similar style.²
Anyways. Hell. Stop, self, stop. I just got really into all of this! See below for further sources/citations if you want to look shit up yourself!
Naturally, she has a fan, which could either hide her cleavage momentarily (she claims), or more realistically, fan herself because those dresses are HOT and they also enable coquettish flirtation across rooms at court. (Fans were also necessary due in part due to the discomfort occasioned by the tight stays the women wore.) Also, as someone who just bought two fans (yes), they are super awesome and fun and should still be used today. But, also, thank god for air conditioning and not having to solely rely on little hand-held fans (#realtalk).
As Claire and Jamie are good-naturedly bickering about the appropriateness of the dress, there’s a great little bit that epitomizes Murtagh’s third wheel role, where he tries to slowly back away, and says he’ll wait in the carriage, but Claire cuts him off, telling him he can’t get away that easy. It’s just a nice touch that feels consistent with this whole dynamic they’re building among these three.
They arrive at Versailles (with Louise and Mary Hawkins) and, as can expect, it is a feast for the eyes!
They soon run into an old acquaintance of Jamie’s, a fetching and flirtatious little minx named Annalise, who throws serious shade at Claire and perfects her frenemy comments while constantly touching him in a proprietary way.
Claire is all, uh-huh, lovely, who is this bitch with her hands all over my man? But also kind of thinks it’s hilarious because she knew Jamie was a big ol’ virgin before her, so I feel like she is pretty secure and mostly just thinks this chick is laughable (but she still worries enough to send Murtagh with them as escort). Jamie looks like a little boy who got caught breaking a window playing baseball, and Murtagh looks smug that his boiiii J-Man is in trouble with the Mrs.
She then offers to escort Jamie (and Murtagh, natch) to the King’s dressing room, which is an honor and an opportunity to meet him. This dressing room features Louis XV perched atop a porcelain throne/chamber pot in the throes of constipation. Again with the French farce!?
Another scene, another chance for a Murtagh reaction shot (a la Jim from The Office). I mean, it is humorous that the King has all of these advisors trying to help.
One of them even says he should “bear down and prove himself a master of his bowels.” I think I’ll remind myself of that at a later date. But, ever an unintentional political mastermind with his homespun highlander ways, Jamie pertly introduces himself and recommends that the King simply start eating porridge for breakfast every morning to ensure healthy bowel movements. You sly dog, you! That’s some House of Cards shit! Now the King will remember you!
Claire, Louise, and some ladies stand around talking about dick and comparing terminology.
Good opportunities to costume porn gaze. (And note that Claire has found a bigger and badder fan!)
life the conversation, Claire excuses herself to get some air, and Louise sends the Minister of Finance out to meet her (per Claire’s request). Of course, he assumes he is to meet her for a tryst. (High heels made their appearance for both men and women during the reign of Louis XIV and continued under Louis XV, in particular.)
After being rebuffed by Claire, and blithely tossed over a railing and into a pond by Jamie, he proves himself to be miraculously jovial and forgiving, despite their inauspicious meeting.
As the Minister is trying to dry his wig at a fire, they somehow manage to become friends? Idk, this happened quite quickly. Apparently the dunk in the water sobered him up and basically says that he owes them. Again, thinks seem to be going well for our political duo/trio!
They finally see the King, fully dressed, accompanied by his mistress of the moment, who is supposed to be Marie Anne de Mailly-Nesle (the youngest of the five de Nesle sisters, four of whom would become mistresses to Louis XV at various times). This is the other big dress moment.
This is from the book, and Dresboch’s discussion of making and fashioning these bad boys was pretty great. She talked (to Vanity Fair) about how Kimberly Smart (the actress in question) had to deal with numerous nipple fittings, “I took photos throughout the process and I have one of this poor woman with three pairs of hands on her breasts as we tried to figure out the best placement of the swans. I took the clay and molded it to her to figure out the best part for the piercing to go through… [but also,] that gown is very ornate, very couture, as would be appropriate for the king’s mistress. That dress would have cost a fortune to make and the detailing on it is really quite exquisite.”
And, wait for it… another befuddled Murtagh facial reaction shot!! Her nipples are supposedly pierced and they are swan-like piercings that wind around the nipples.
Hilarious shot. He looks like he’s died and gone to heaven. He actually starts to leave their group to trail after her, until Jamie stops him. Murtagh, usually so dour and taciturn, is happy for the first time
ever in France. He looks adorbs! I want him to be happy.
Then, alack, they spot the Duke of Sandringham (from last season) and, to make matters worse, he is accompanied by Alexander Randall, his new assistant, and younger brother to Black Jack!! I remember I liked the actor who plays Sandringham from last season, and I continue to find his snobby and superficial affectation charming to watch. (He remonstrates: “If you must cough on someone, find a servant! Was that a bit harsh?”)
As if seeing Sandringham and learning of his even closer tie to the Randall family weren’t enough, Claire also learns that Jack is aliiiiiive!!! And the polite Alexander Randall unknowingly compounds the issue by assuring Claire that he will tell his brother Jack that he has met her in Paris!
As the fireworks display goes off, Claire debates whether or not, or how, to tell Jamie that his worst fears have been confirmed and Black Jack Randall is still alive.
¹ Charleston, Beth Duncuff. Based on original work by Harold Koda. “Christian Dior (1905–1957).” In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/dior/hd_dior.htm (October 2004)
² M. Augustin Challamel. Translated from the French by Mrs. Cashel Hoey and Mr. John Lillie. The History of Fashion in France: Or, The Dress of Women from the Gallo-Roman Period to the Present Time. Chapter XVII: Reign of Louis XV (1715-1774). London: Sampson Low, Marston, Searle, and Rivington, 1882. Available to read via Google Books.
² You should also peruse the essays, photos, and collections available online at the Victoria and Albert Museum website. They have a lot of historical background on dress, art, and style, as well.
² The Met Museum also had some background information essays and images of historical clothing and trends, as well.
One last shot of her dress… because we should all want to look like her, ASAP.
“Je fais mon plus grand soin du soin de me parer, Rien ne me flatte plus qu’une mode nouvelle.” — Destouches, “L’Homme Singulier,” 1764
Translation: “My chiefest concern is the care of my attire; Nothing pleases me more than a new fashion.”