About Those Culottes…by Cynthia Gentit
Costume choices on this show fascinate me. Last season we saw Claire return to the 1700s in her (in)famous “Batsuit.” Last episode (“own the Rabbit Hole) it was Bree and Rogers turn.
While Claire returned in a sturdy Batsuit, Bree seemed to think a flimsy open in the front “Batcape” would suffice. Practical Roger, swathed in four layers, apparently was going with a “Hulksuit” for his return.
Poor Fee, she looks so cold. Maybe she should have hulked up her outfit as well….but I digress.
Recently Sassenach Sister Crystal Fann wrote a blog post in which she described Rogers humorously altered pants as “culottes.” Some readers took exception to that saying that they were period correct, and they were right…but they still looked like culottes, as did the 18th century pants (they’re called slops if you’re being proper btw.)
Others have described his headgear as a “poop emoji hat” and I can’t say they’re wrong either but there’s also a lot to love in Rogers costume so let’s break it down, layer by hulky layer shall we?
Layer 4 – Rogers overcoat and poop emoji hat:
I’m not sure where the hat came from – other than the back of Rogers closet – but when last seen at Miss Bairds it had a jaunty pompom on top. So glad Roger took that off for his trip back, otherwise all those dock workers would have beaten his wimpy butt before he ever laid eyes on bad boy Bonnet.
The coat appeared during Roger & Bree’s “first date” at Fort William all the way back in season 2. Roger, our intrepid historian, has reworked his 1900s duds to fit a wee bit better in the 1700s.
First, he shortened the coat, for a couple of reasons. You see, back in the day, a gentleman wore his coat long – like this luscious favorite of mine, Jamie’s French stag coat (le sigh…) but an ordinary workman wore his coat short to allow for movement while working. Just take a look at the workmen behind Roger, they’re all in short coats.
Shortening the coat allowed Roger to use the extra material to add those fashionable sleeve cuffs. He also removed the toggle buttons, loops and the hood. Frankly, I would have left the hood on and ditched the hat if I were Roger but then Bree had a hood and never used it (insert eye roll here…) so maybe our boy was right. By the way, did anyone see Baby from Dirty Dancing “I carried a watermelon” when Roger picked up that barrel? No?, well maybe I’m just bent that way, cause I did….
This picture gives a good close up on the rough edges of the hood which our boy has hand stitched shut and this leads into…
Layer 3- the corduroy suit:
We saw the corduroy suit earlier this season when Roger called Bree to deliver the good news (and not deliver the bad news) about Jamie and Claire, apparently it’s one of his Oxford work suits. Some people have criticized the costume designers for putting such a handsome biscuit in something so frumpy but this girl was around in 1970 and these corduroy suits were THE BOMB – and if they had leather elbow patches, well, that upped the cool factor exponentially.
To alter his jacket for the 1700s Roger removed the fold over collar and lapels, hemming them roughly by hand and adding some period looking wood (or leather?) buttons. Apparently he also cuffed the sleeves but you cannot see that in the picture.
On the bottom he took the matching corduroy pants from the suit and shortened them to make “slops” and accessorized his new look with a leather sporran, and the dress stockings and shoes from his Highland Festival outfit. Which brings us to layer 2…
Layer 2 – The Highland Festival Jacket:
I have to say, of all the clothing adaptations we see in this costume, I think this one may be my favorite. Festival jacket to waistcoat. To see this beautiful jacket torn apart tears me apart too – it’s both horrifying and genius at the same time.
The sleeves are mercilessly ripped off and crudely sewn up, the lapels are either removed or narrowed significantly and (I think) the buttons are removed or changed out for plain ones – but the real genius is on the flip side.
Waistcoats have a different fabric on the back than the front, usually a lighter weight satin or silk so Roger removed the entire back of the jacket to reveal the grey jacket lining, giving the illusion of a different fabric back. You can tell this because the raw seam is on the wrong side for a waistcoat but the correct side for a jacket lining. I’m sure Roger thought few if any would ever see the seam and no one would question it if they did. Add a belt, buckle and sporran and bob’s your uncle, instant fake waistcoat. And, if I had any doubts about how Roger will fare in the 1700s, his “make do with what you’ve got” ingenuity eliminates them.
We’ve now arrived at layer 1 – Rogers’s shirt and stock:
Here, Roger goes hippy with a lace up shirt which were very popular in the late 60s, early 70s, so no doubt it’s either weekend wear Roger already had in his closet or something he picked up in a local shop. The stock is crudely fashioned from a check dress shirt we saw Roger wearing when he came to visit Bree for Christmas in season 2 and also whilst looking for Brianna in Inverness.
If you look closely in the Miss Baird picture you can just see the pompom on the top of Rogers hat before he went through. I have to say the stock was the only thing that struck me as odd in this ensemble, usually the stock matches the shirt and that plaid really stands out but I guess we’re supposed to see that this was a last minute adaptation and Roger worked with what he had with him at the time. As if I needed another reason to love Roger….
And that brings us to layer zero – bet you didn’t think I was going there….well I am, because I have to mention the shocking loss of Rogers fuzzy little Ewok beard. Some were shocked by this but that too is period appropriate. Gentlemen and men in general did not wear beards at this time for practical reasons because well, there was a lot of livestock in this era – and I don’t mean the four legged kind. Fleas and lice were a huge problem and men didn’t wash their hair any more often than they washed their bodies so (ewwww) you can imagine the smell. Um, no, you probably can’t, but trust me, it had to be horrendous. And that’s all I’m going to say about layer zero because this isn’t that kind of blog post, you’re all going to have to wait for the handfasting for the rest of that layer!
I hope you’ve enjoyed the breakdown of Rogers hulksuit and have a greater appreciation for the thought and work that went into Rogers costume as well as what it says about Roger as a character. I know I do.