Outlander’s Red Dress Debate Continues To Cause A Stir

Posted by April 15, 2017 7 Comments

We ran a piece earlier today about the release of Simplicity’s latest tv-show themed pattern, namely “The Red Dress” from STARZ series Outlander. It started making the rounds on Twitter, and then the show’s costume designer Terry Dresbach jumped into the fray.  The debate here is whether or not the costume designer (or even the show itself) should or should not have been credited on a mass produced pattern inspired by the show.

Actress Caitriona Balfe as Claire in the scandalous red dress from the show
Actress Caitriona Balfe as Claire in the scandalous red dress from the show, designed and created by Terry Dresbach and her team for the series “Outlander”.
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The Simplicity “Misses 18th Century Costume” pattern designed and created by American Duchess.

There have been many responses to BC’s original story, like this post from Joe Kucharski, Senior Costume Designer at Walt Disney Imagineering:

Or this conversation by Heather & Jessica, founders of a fashion comedy blog (that also centers on gossip), and they both used to write for Television Without Pity (which we’re still sad at its recent shuttering):

Which brought Terry back into fray, where she commented on the position of (herself at least) costume designers re: cosplayers and those who want to pay homage and tribute to existing pieces:

Outlander the series has (as far as we can tell at this point) nothing to do with Simplicity’s “inspired” line of patterns based on garments featured in the show.  The Simplicity patterns themselves were created and developed by Lauren Stowell of American Duchess, who reached out to me following the publishing of the previous article on this subject.

I think it’s important to note that it’s not an official pattern. Nowhere on the pattern or in any of Simplicity’s advertising, etc., does it mention anything about Outlander. I can’t control what Simplicity does, but I make sure that I credit Terry and the show whenever we post about the patterns. Fashion designs can’t be copyrighted or trademarked. I based the pattern on extant garments and 18th century paintings, but Simplicity required the pop culture reference, so we did the gown in red with the split center front seam. The similarities end there and I purposefully steered the project away from the TV show dress and towards historical pattern shapes and silhouette because of this. I had no control over the photo shoot styling either.

Terry has since tweeted that she is going to be deleting any behind the scenes photos and completed Outlander garments from her blog, which is a complete and utter shame.  Her thoughts and openness with fans of the series, historical costuming, and sewing in general with her process and inspiration have been fabulous.  But as they are her designs and images, it’s also completely understandable.

Terry ended a long thread with this pull quote:

American Duchesses’s website has a blog post from 2016 that discusses Simplicities approaching her about an Outlander inspired line of patterns:

Last year Simplicity contacted me to do a promotion. I pitched them the idea of doing some historical patterns and they said they were working on a whole new Cosplay category, and that they’d like to include something inspired by “Outlander.”

Simplicity does have some licensed patterns, such as some of their Marvel and DC costume patterns. So perhaps it’s just a point of not wanting have to pay for licensing, since Starz likely has fewer resources to go after Simplicity than Disney would. As it’s pointed out, costume designers rarely get the credit they deserve – even in the best of cases, however what’s legally right versus what is a respectable thing to do (especially by a company that claims to have great respect for designers), is the debate to be hand.

What do you think? When a pattern is directly inspired by a source character or show, should it and/or the designer get the credit, or should it be open season?

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