We’re continuing our series of articles dedicated to the costumes of a popular TV show “Outlander”. Today, we’ll talk about the male outfits from Season 1. These are the costumes of the following characters: Dougal MacKenzie, Colum McKenzie, Murtagh Fraser, Ned Gowan, Angus Mhor and Rupert MacKenzie, Ian Murray, Taran MacQuarrie, and Hugh Munro. Many of their stage outfits are rather historically accurate and look just perfect. So, let’s take a closer look at the details of these fine Scottish garments.
This material is based on the video from a YouTube channel “Costume CO”. A dress historian and material culturist Brenna Barks also helped to create this analysis.
Murtagh wears the same Outlander tartan as Jaime Fraser. But he sings to a different tune and he shows this through his costume.
His costume is functional and no-nonsense, but it looks like it would be terrible to the touch. His jacket is a heavy-duty woolen tweed that's finished at the center front and cuffs with cord that's been whip-stitched on like he did it himself, and it's fastened with toggles that might be made of wood or bone or leather, and the hem of the coat has a frayed rough edge.
Murtagh wears a pirate-style leather vest over his jacket (instead of under, which was customary). He wears it unfastened with the buckles hanging but, because of the bulk of the coat, it looks like he would have trouble doing it up.
Leather was rarely used in the 18th century.
Brenna Barks says, “That's why oilcloth was such a big deal for great coats, etc., and it ignores that the lanolin in the woolen garments they were wearing has a natural moisture-wicking tendency. They didn't start doing leather jackets until the process was industrialized. It's definitely a late-19th- (maybe) to 20th-century thing. But it's something I see in pretty much all the Hollywood movies and TV series set in the 17th and 18th centuries… I am resigned now to simply sighing and carrying on enjoying the program”.
Murtagh wears a gray wool bonnet. We see these soft felt tams on many of the Highlanders on “Outlander” in Season 1.
Brenna states, “This is the one aspect of Highlander dress that is irrefutable. People may argue about kilts versus trews. They may argue about tartan. But the tams are everywhere. And Terry Dresbach has them everywhere”.
This 18th-century illustration “The Craigy Bield” by Scottish painter David Allan depicts variations of the blue bonnet worn by Highlanders. Beginning in the late 15th century, the blue bonnet was knitted in one piece from thick wool dyed with blue or gray plant dyes, like woad, and felted to produce a water-resistant finish.
Angus is such a great character, but his costume is rather flat. He's got a brown kilt, he's got a brown coat, brown baldric, brown belt. The whole thing looks too monochromatic.
His coat looks a bit lighter in this exterior scene but, quite honestly, the only saving grace is his blue bonnet.
Though, Brenna Barks stated, “Angus and Rupert's kilts looking more than a little weather-beaten is absolutely accurate”.
This gathering costume is essentially the same, except that it's been cleaned up a bit and they've given him a freshly pressed cravat and a brooch.
Rupert's costume suffers the same issues as Angus’. And, as the two of them are often the comic relief, it would have been good to see something that differentiated them more.
Rupert's clothing, just like Angus’, all sort of blends together when they aren't in broad daylight.
Brenna says that the monochrome look is actually a very modern aesthetic. Minimalism wasn't a thing in Western Europe until after the French Revolution.
Also, both characters knot their plaids rather than wearing brooches.
In this studio shot, we see Dougal wearing trews with a McKenzie tartan plaid worn over his left shoulder. The plaid is fastened to his frock coat with an annular broach.
On the left, is the McKenzie tartan from The Celtic Croft, and on the right, is Gordon Kirkbright’s original design.
Here are two examples of McKenzie tartans from Lochcarron of Scotland. On the left, is the ancient McKenzie medium-weight tartan, and on the right, is the weathered McKenzie medium-weight tartan. Hunting and weathered tartans are often more muted.
Because he's wearing trews, Dougal’s collarless frock coat hangs to just above his knee. The wool fabric is similar to Jamie's, with a very faint tartan pattern. The cuffs are quite large and rounded. And the pockets and cuffs have silver buttons and bound buttonholes.
According to The V&A, where this 1730s coat is, the cuffs seen here were known variously as an “open cuff” or “open sleeve”. It would have extended well past the elbow in the deep, curved shape, fashionable at the time.
Dougal wears a gray bonnet (like Murtagh and Rupert) and knitwork cuffs just under his coat. Brenna Barks has stated that the knits are far too chunky for the time. Also, she did question what would men have done to keep the drop from entering those oversized cuffs? And it's also possible that Terry Dresbach had to come up with some way of keeping the actors from freezing to death.
Here's Dougal without his coat. A Scottish man at that time would never take off his coat unless he was doing manual labor. But in this case, it might be largely to show the characters theatricality in the scene.
Dougal is one of the sharpest dressed man in the room during the gathering. His coat is just gorgeous, as well as the way his plaid is wrapped up. By the size of the cuffs, it looked like Dougal would have had his coat for some time because it's in excellent condition, like he only takes it out for special occasions.
And Brenna Barks adds that Dougal's large cuffs is a sign of prosperity thing. If you're doing hard labor, you can't have your cuffs getting in the way. If you're a lawyer, like Ned, or a laird or a brother to the laird, you can have fancy, ostentatious cuffs.
Here's a studio shot of the costume, so you can get a better idea of what it looks like up close. The coat looks like a near black or midnight blue color in silk velvet.
Here's a close-up of the silver metallic trim detail. It's kind of like rows of long flat sequins, and he also has these gorgeous rhinestone buttons. The waistcoat is made from this gorgeous brocade with silver buttons. The whole look is finished off with this white cravat and silver brooch.
Of course, the piece de resistance is this McKenzie broach. The Latin inscription on the brooch reads, “Luceo Non Uro”, which means “I shine, not burn”.
Here is the first look we see of Colum McKenzie.
According to show runner Ron Moore, “Actor Gary Lewis wore special socks that could later be manipulated in the Visual Effects Department to appear bowed. Lewis also wore shoes with wedges in them and practiced the peculiar gait with which Colum walks, to better simulate his deformity”.
The baldric and sword and dirk are largely for show, since Colum suffers terribly from his affliction.
Here's a close-up of Colum’s coat and waistcoat. As laird of Castle Leoch, Colum’s clothes are richer and more opulent than the other Highlanders but still more modest than aristocracy. Both the coat and waistcoat have antique brass buttons, the ones on the waistcoat just slightly smaller, as was historically accurate.
In this shot, Colum wears the Outlander plaid with a penannular brooch. According to historians, the penannular brooch was not worn in this period. None have been found that date later than the very early Middle Ages.
Here's a more formal look for Colum. His costume that he wears for the gathering. As you can see, the coat is shorter because he's wearing the belted plaid.
Here's a studio shot of the costume. Colum’s kilt at the gathering is made from the McKenzie tartan fabric that was specially created for this series.
Brenna Barks says that while Colum’s gathering jacket would have been made of a finer fabric instead of tweed, since Harris Tweed wasn't around in 1740, it doesn't detract from the accuracy of the costume because it reads correctly during this scene.
Here are a few more details of the costume. Pictured on the left, is a sporran, which is a pouch that performs the function of pockets, and a silver annular brooch is fastened to the sporran that's worn on Colum’s belt. And on the right, the jacket is trimmed with metallic mesh trim.
Colum wears this linen robe with a fur collar in Episode 10 in his private chambers.
Here's a close-up of the fur shawl collar.
Ian, like his wife Jenny, wears clothes woven in home-spun textiles and they're dyed with natural colors. His outfit is still quite good. The bound buttonhole detail on his coat is lovely and, like Jamie Fraser’s coat, appears to be for decoration only.
This costume of Hugh Munro is Terry Dresbach’s favorite costume in Season 1. She says that it was “One of my favorite characters in the book, I couldn't wait to do his costume. This is the kind of costume you can be totally free with, because no one is looking, no one cares about the beggar. It was and is a source of design joy”.
Terry said, “Hugh Munro. Damn, I love this costume. Look at those Beggars Badges, the textures, the layers, the pure craft of it all! Ladies and Gentlemen – Hugh Munro”.
Terry Dresbach loved costuming Ned Gowan, saying, “Oh how much did I love this costume!!!!!! Ned Gowan is one of my favorite characters in the book, and this costume was so much fun to do! Bill Paterson is perfection. Such a lovely, lovely man”.
Here's a good look at Ned's velvet coat, waistcoat, and cravat. His costume is very simple and no-nonsense, although, with plenty of texture and contrast. And there is a great amount of distress that's been done to his costume.
Terry Dresbach says, “Our aging and dyeing team did a fabulous job on this!”
Here's a simple British wool coat, just slightly later in the 18th century, that's from The Met. The notes on this costume state that the British sensibility was less ostentatious than the French. And that certainly is the case with Ned Gowan’s costume.
Here's a great head-to-toe shot of Ned on the left. You can see that his frock coat has rather large cuffs that indicate his affluence. Also, we’re not certain if he's wearing trews or breeches. And, finally, while it looks like he's wearing knee-high boots, those are actually leather gaiters worn over the top of his boots. He’s also wearing a two-tier tartan cloak.
On the right, there is a painting titled “A Man Wearing a Blue Cloak” by Venetian painter Luca Carlevarijs from the beginning of the 18th century. Terry Dresbach might have been inspired by this painting but, of course, we can't know for certain.
Here's a close-up of his cloak and the tartan wool that the cloak is made from.
Ned is one of the few principal characters in Season 1 that wears a wool felt tricorn or a three-pointed hat.
During the 18th century, hats of this general style were referred to as “cocked hats” and not tricorns.
Here's an example of a wool felt Italian tricorn hat from the mid 18th century that's on display at The Met. This hat is trimmed with gold & black ribbon cockade, much fancier than Ned's black braid.
One of the best man's costumes from Season 1 is Taran MacQuarrie’s. He's wearing trews and a Culloden-style short coat with a waistcoat with a light stand-up collar and plaid. And from the looks of it, his trews are cut on the bias which would give the pants a bit of stretch.
And the interesting thing about his sash, unlike almost everyone else, is that his plaid is a Harris Tweed and not a tartan fabric.
The best part, though, is his coat, which appears to be slashed. It looks like they took some navy wool and slashed it and then they laid it over top of some burgundy wool and then felted the whole thing. The coat is cut short, which, as we mentioned earlier, is usually worn with the belted plaid. And the coat and buttonholes are bound with leather and finished off with these beautiful pewter-looking buttons.
And then the whole look is capped off with these knee-high leather boots.
He also has a very nice embossed silver brooch on his plaid.