Day 23 of Outlander Starz‘s offerings is a look at one of Claire’s amazing gowns for Season 2.

I am not a costume or fashion history expert. So, once again, I did a little research into the 18th century. Like my research for the Paris Brothel post, I found it to be quite fascinating. Everything you read here is based on that bit of research and my own assumptions regarding this vibrant and stunning costume by Terry Dresbach for the always lovely Caitriona Balfe.

Outlander Season 2; Costume Designer, Terry Dresbach

First of all, let’s talk about the color palette. (Remember, I’m making this up as I go along.) The dress looks to be aubergine, or eggplant. The jacket and matching handbag are both a satiny indigo blue with raspberry embroidery (at least in this lighting). You can see a bit of aubergine peeking out from the jacket sleeves which makes me wonder if we’re seeing the sleeves of the dress or added material because the jacket and gown are part of an ensemble. If the aubergine is part of the dress, I’d sure like to watch Claire get those jacket sleeves over the gown sleeves. I have enough trouble with my own sleeves, without ruffles.

According to my research, I believe Claire is wearing what’s called a Brunswick, which is a matching two-piece gown and jacket popular in the mid-eighteenth century. The hip-length jacket, typically tailored using elegant fabrics, included a hood, three-quarter length sleeves and a high neck closure, though Claire appears to be wearing hers open. (Perhaps to add a bit of sex appeal?)

Two characteristics of a Brunswick are not evident in the picture above. 1) A tighter sleeve, below the flounces around the elbow, would normally extend down to the wrist, and 2) The jacket and petticoat would be the matching pieces in this ensemble, but Claire’s overskirt is not designed such that her petticoat is visible. I don’t know if this is a modified design or if these features were optional within the Brunswick description. Terry indicates she’ll write a post for this ensemble after the episode airs, so keep an eye out for that.

The flounces on Claire’s sleeves appear to be part of the jacket, but many women in the 18th century, and even in the 19th, wore engageantes – detachable ruffles made of lace, linen and sometimes cotton (kind of like a 1970s dicky but with a much better name).

Brunswick designs originated in France but were based on German habits – meaning apparel, not the habit of Germans wearing matching clothing. (That’s a joke, by the way.) The informal traveling garb also trended in England and across the Atlantic in America. Claire looks to be walking away from the carriage in the background, so perhaps she’s at the end of a trip – whether across town or through the countryside, we won’t know until we know.

Following are paintings of 18th century ladies wearing traditional Brunswick. As you will see, none are wearing anything as bright as Claire’s ensemble. Madame de Pompadour preferred pastel colors, as in the François Boucher painting below, which includes an excellent example of engageantes.

Madame de Pompadour (1759); Artist, François Boucher (1707-1787); Oil on canvas
Madame de Pompadour (1759); Artist, François Boucher (1703-1770); Oil on canvas: On display at The Wallace Collection in London, England

Given Madame de Pompadour’s social influence as King Louis XV’s maîtresse-en-titre, I’m guessing she had an enduring effect on fashion as well.

1 Batoni Lady Mary Fox
Portrait of Lady Mary Fox (1767); Artist, Pompeo Girolamo Batoni (1708-1787); Oil on canvas

I see two dogs but no petticoats peeking out in either of these paintings. Perhaps that tells us something.

Portrait of Girl holding Spaniel (mid-18th c); Artist, Alexander Roslin (1718-1793); Oil on canvas

This next jacket does not appear to include a hood, but I believe some hoods may have been detachable.

2 Marie Adelaide de Savoie
Portrait of a lady said to be Marie Adelaide de Savoie, Duchesse de Bourgogne; Artist, Jean-Baptiste Santerre (1651-1717); Oil on canvas

I include this painting because the sleeves are more in common with Claire’s, though the jacket is not hip-length.

Mrs Cadoux c.1770 British School 18th century 1700-1799 Bequeathed by Miss Mary Burgess Hudson 1931
Portrait of Eleanor Frances Dixie (c. 1753); Artist, Henry Pickering (1740-1771); Oil on canvas

Comparing Claire’s costumes from Season 2 with other gowns . . .

Outlander S2 Day 22 Costumes
Outlander Season 2: Costume Designer, Terry Dresbach
Season 2 Claire Collage
Outlander Season – Claire: Costume Designer, Terry Dresbach

. . . we definitely see she’s been given her own style with a bold color palette and less frills. She’s a 20th century woman wearing 18th century gowns with a modern edge. What does she care what other women are wearing, when she knows she looks better?

If you’re interested in reading more about the history of 18th century fashion, you might want to check out this articles:

The Age of the Baroque and Enlightenment 1600-1800: Fashion

History of Costume: European Fashion Through the Ages

Costume Cocktail: Engageantes

This next link is for the guide to an exhibition held in the Grand Trianon in 2011 and includes several wonderful photographs in addition to descriptions of each designer’s inspiration.

The 18th Century Back in Fashion – Château de Versailles

The last link is just for fun – a slideshow of contemporary apparel inspired by the Age of Enlightenment.

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