Fans of the Outlander series have been anxiously awaiting for the Tonner Doll recreations of the protagonists Claire and Jamie dressed in their gorgeous Terry Dresbach costumes. The first doll in the series was presented as the souvenir doll in this year’s Metrodolls luncheon, appropriately named “A Novel Romance”.
This is the Garden Encounter Claire doll. It’s from a scene in the fifth episode of the second season of the series, when Claire and Jamie attend a horse auction in Versailles with king Louis XIV of France. I am a huge fan of the series and it’s costume designer, Terry Dresbach, who keeps on producing one after another of gorgeous costumes for the series protagonists and especially Claire, portrayed by actress Caitriona Balfe.
Terry Dresbach wrote in her blog the story of discovering the fabric:
“What the hell was this?? What could I do with it. It was amazing, outrageous and so over the top, I wasn’t sure it could be a dress. It was an extraordinary woven fabric. But I was pretty sure I was going to buy it and figure out later what to do with it. But there was 12 yards, and we need 15. I could pick up one of the colors and make a petticoat, but that still wasn’t quite enough. While it was spread across the table and I kept saying to Ron, “it’s incredible, right, is it too much??”, and the poor man has no way to answer, so he just agrees. A customer walks by and stops, “that is amazing fabric, have you ever seen a show called Outlander? That looks like a fabric they would use!” I said, “yes as a matter of fact, I’m the Costume Designer on Outlander.” She was somewhat flabbergasted, and then said, “Do you know the guys who runs it? He did my other favourite show, Battlestar Gallactica.” “You mean this guy?” I asked, pointing to Ron. It was too much, I thought she might faint (kidding).
I bought the fabric, obviously. I sat with it for a few weeks and finally decided that Claire would wear it. It felt like a 1940s chintz and fit into my overall scheme. Or it would be a riff on these fabrics from the mid 18th century”.
From Access Hollywood:
"It's a great dress. I adore it. That's Caitriona's favorite gown," Dresbach said of the gorgeous costume.
"It's really spectacular. That fabric is actually woven. Those flowers are woven and that was a fabric I found at Britex Fabrics in San Francisco, my favorite store, so I always plug them. And I had no idea what I was going to do with it when I saw it because it's an outrageous, outrageous fabric. … I had that fabric before I had that idea of making Claire's costumes have a 1940s feel to them, so that then when I circled back to make this costume I knew that this fabric was perfect because it is almost -- for lack of a better description -- it almost looks like curtain fabric from the late '40s with those big flowers on it, so it was a very out-of-the-box choice, but really spectacular. I mean, she just looks amazing in this costume," Dresbach said.
Claire's outfit is given an additional pop of color with elegant gloves, which Dresbach said can be described as "a real butter yellow."
"Real butter is actually this sort of marigold color that you see a lot of in the 18th century French paintings. Every costume that I do for Claire is trying to weave in elements of both the 18th century and the 20th century so that you have a sense that she could have had that fabric, or she was standing in a dressmakers at some point going, 'I want that, and I want that, but put it together this way,' so that we end up with a kind of look that she has that's so distinctive."
First let’s talk about the doll. She does remind me of Caitriona Balfe as Claire but her jaw s a bit too pronounced, a thing that often happens with Tonner dolls. She is beautiful and has a hint of that otherworldly beauty that Balfe has. Can’t wait to see the Red Dress version.
And what about the dress? Hmmmm. Let’s start from the top. The hat colour is so wrong. The original hat is not dark brown but has a more natural sisal colouring to it. It also curves downwards and not upwards. It is also doubled with draped fabric underneath as one can see in a photograph of the outfit displayed at Saks 5th Avenue.
As much as I can see on the badly lit promo shots, the colouring and design of the dress do try to recreate the human sized costume...BUT! The pattern of the woven flowers is difficult to emulate but it’s close enough, albeit with fewer flowers than the original one, obviously for cost cutting. The pleats and draping of the skirt at the back of the doll dress leave a lot to be desired. Not to mention the unsightly back fastening, which is also inappropriate for the period and is nowhere to be seen on the original - adult dresses of the period always fastened at the front.
The seams of the sleeves cut the flower pattern, something not happening on the original outfit, where they fall precisely between the pattern. The overall shape of the dress will probably need a lot of attention and fuss to come close to its inspiration. This does not bode well for the red dress, which has an even more expansive and draped/pleated skirt. And these are not cheap dolls mind you. It’s unfortunate that they only got the yellow “dishwashing” gloves right.
UPDATE: Tonner Doll published proper photos of the doll on their Instagram. The skirt looks a bit better regarding the pattern density but all my other observations still stand. In one of the two photo collages, you can see the shoes peeking from beneath the skirt.
That back closure is so wrong...but they seem to have fixed the curve of the hat...
...even though it looks again wrong in the close up.