Tonner Doll Winter 2018 release - Outlander Claire Fraser in the iconic Red Dress

After quite a lot of time and retailers publishing information before them, Tonner Doll finally releases the first official photos and information about Outlander line’s second and much anticipated doll, Claire Fraser in the famous red dress. Alongside her, the first couple of Mary Astor dolls (it is almost a year since they were previewed in Toyfair) will be also available to buy from their website, if you haven’t already preordered them from dealers. Claire has not even appeared on the Tonner Doll website. Their ultra limited editions mean they could be sold out already at dealers though. They will ship in late February 2018.

 Claire Fraser - T17OTDD01 - $235.00

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Claire stands 16” tall, is made of vinyl and hard plastic and has 15 points of articulation.  Highlighting her blue eyes, her deep rich brown rooted saran hair is styled to accent her period gown. Made of a deep ruby-red taffeta the separate bodice of the dress is trimmed with tiny satin ribbons crisscrossed over the rib cage and cuff of the three-quarter sleeve.  Her drop-dead skirt is fashioned of the same taffeta as the bodice. Deep pleats add detail interest and richness to the full skirt.  Of course she needs something to hold the skirt up, so a tulle cage is included. Under all that are nude pantyhose (a nod to the modern) and costume accurate satin shoes with buckled straps to hold them in place. Her “ruby” and “diamond” rhinestone earrings finish off the outfit. Claire comes with an acrylic based stand.  Limited Edition of 300

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Sooooo, here she is. She looks better than the first Claire doll. I love the look of the dress and how they managed to convey the same impression that the actress in the actual costume conveyed when first appeared in the corresponding episode. I’m glad I preordered her... but. There are some things that look weird or feel unnecessary. 

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First of all. The shape of the décolletage is wrong. The original costume was designed with a very low neckline, as was the norm in that period, but Terry Dresbach, Outlander’s amazing costume designer wanted Claire without a corset, so that she could show more flesh, as described in the book. So she took a typical bodice of the era and deconstructed it, to make Claire more provocative, in an era where provocative was de riguere, especially in the court of Louis XV. 

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The doll, on the contrary, is not provocative at all. Her breasts are completely hidden by the dress, even if you lower the front a bit. From the Tonner description above, it looks like the dress is two separate pieces, the bodice and the skirt. I wonder if that is the case in reality as well, but from the photos it looks like one piece - a real dress. I know it would be easier to put on as separate pieces, but it would not look right when the actress moved. Also, the bodice looks like it incorporates the front panel of the skirt, something that is not happening in the real costume. 

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Now the skirt, apart from the non-separate front panel, also has different pleats. Terry Dresbach mentioned in an interview that she loves cartridge pleats, even though they are not very period appropriate, and that is what you see on this dress too. But the doll outfit has knife pleating. It is actually more correct for the period but not for this particular costume. It helps wth the volume and overall feel but it does not look right, despite the photographer’s effort to make the doll look like Claire in the publicity photo of her and Jamie going up the stairs.  I wonder how the back looks, cause the real one is this:

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The back in the real dress has fastening (even though adult dresses of the period had front fastening) so that the dress can have the extra low décolletage sans corset look. It works. And below you can see the cartridge pleats in close up.

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The doll description by Tonner mentions nude pantyhose as a node to modern times. Really? The whole dress design is a nod to modern times (inspired by Dior gowns and Gruau sketches of the late 40s) with Claire supervising its creation in the series. I’m pretty sure she did not have pantyhose with her - they did not even have any in her proper time period! Thankfully they got the shoes right, which are an amalgamation of Louis XV and modern era styles, thanks to Claire (and Terry Dresbach of course). They might have missed a buckle and strap or two but the feel is there.

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Most of the other details are spot on. The crisscrossed bodice, the ribbons at the finishing of her sleeves, the volume, all look really good. Dresbach said that the actual costume took 15 yards of duchess satin to produce. I wonder how much fabric this doll needed. The use of taffeta is probably due to practical and production reasons but the fabric in the photos looks quite thin to mimic duchess satin, which is particularly luxurious and heavy.

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The earrings, her only jewellery in the episode, look very close to the real thing. Pity she does not have the gorgeous Stag fan Claire uses throughout the ball. The hair has the proper volume and shape but could use some hairspray to keep it together - the photographed doll already has flyaways. Her face looks better in this release, more like Caitriona Balfe, the actress playing Claire, then the first doll.

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I will do a proper review of the actual doll when she arrives , which will probably be sometime in March.

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Doll photos courtesy of Tonner Doll, costume photos from Terry Dresbach’s blog

Tonner Doll presents its first Outlander doll for Metrdolls “A Novel Romance” luncheon

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”.  

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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. 

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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”.

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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."

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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.

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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.

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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.

Sketch by Terry Dresbach for Outlander  

Sketch by Terry Dresbach for Outlander  

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. 

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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.

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That back closure is so wrong...but they seem to have fixed the curve of the hat...

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...even though it looks again wrong in the close up.  

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