Dressed to kill: Game of Thrones costume designer on clothing the Seven Kingdoms
All the rage
Game of Thrones may have the air of a period piece, but the fashion — structured volume, strategic cutouts, and texture, texture, texture (hi, Jon Snow!) — is as forward as it gets. Ahead of the eighth and final season of the HBO hit, we talked to longtime costume designer Michele Clapton and got the inside scoop on the show’s most memorable looks.
Daenerys Targaryen’s aqua dress (season 2)
“This is quite early in Daenerys’ [Emilia Clarke] journey,” Clapton says. But the story behind the look is enough to fill a George R.R. Martin novel. “The print was inspired by a beautiful ornate gate that [production designer] Gemma Jackson had chosen.” The wardrobe team hand-printed metallic paint onto washed paper silk, then had the dress’ pattern pieces sunray pleated. Finally, the show's armorer, — of course they have an armorer! — “etched the same pattern onto brass to create the belt and shoulder pieces.”
Daenerys’ Meereen dress (season 4)
Turns out, less material doesn’t mean less work. “This was one of the most difficult dresses to make,” says Clapton of the dress that made it clear to Jorah (Iain Glen) that Daenerys had just slept with Daario (Michiel Huisman). “It had to look effortless, yet the structure to do this with so little coverage has to be so precisely cut. It also had to give Emilia the support and confidence to wear it.”
Jon Snow’s cloak (season 5)
So many untold stories under Jonny’s cloak! “The press got it wrong when they said it was made out of an IKEA rug — that was Samwell [Tarly]’s,” says Clapton. Also, Snow’s piece was so heavy, the costume team carried it up the hills. Finally, there was some serious technology hidden underneath. “We found these amazing vests that actors would wear under their costumes,” says Clapton.
“We could pump [in] hot water in winter and icy cold water in summer to make them more comfortable.”
Sansa Stark’s wedding dress (season 5)
Consider Sansa’s (Sophie Turner) wedding ensemble a dress-as-family-crest. “The fastening clasps were in memory of her mother, the fur capelet was a nod to her father and brothers, and the texture was reminiscent of the simple cloths used by the people of Winterfell,” says Clapton. It also pulled double duty in an unintended way. “To the horror of the set dressers, her dress acted as a large broom and completely cleared the path of the carefully laid fresh fake snow. They had to reset the path each take.”
Cersei Lannister’s funnel dress (season 3)
Funnel dresses are the GoT version of the power suit: It’s what the ladies don when they want to make their presence felt.
“At this time in Cersei’s (Lena Headey) story arc, she was feeling threatened by Margaery, and she started to try and emphasize her Lannister power,” says Clapton. Hence, the heavy red fabric, armored accents, and statement necklace. All of it was vetted by Headey.
“She has great taste and an innate understanding of her character’s journey.”
Margaery Tyrell’s wedding dress (season 4)
Who knew a wedding dress could be so sinister? “The rose is Margaery’s family sigil, and I wanted a briar rose that [seemed] to climb the dress and crown, where it symbolically would start to strangle its Baratheon host,” says Clapton. The roses were hand-rolled, and though the bias-cut gown seems soft and simple, it, much like Margaery (Natalie Dormer), was tougher than it looked.
“It was supported by a structure to hold the dress and the weight of the roses.”
Ellaria Sand’s chain mail (season 4)
Someone didn’t get the memo about proper wedding attire. The skin-baring outfit Ellaria (Indira Varma) wore to Margaery and Joffrey’s union “was designed to exude power, pride, and awareness of her sexuality,” says Clapton, who was inspired by Indian paintings and illustrations from the Kama Sutra for the look. As for the headdress, Clapton’s team created the slinky chain ornament to be “a beautiful piece of jewelry to visually set her apart.”
Cersei’s black ensembles (season 6)
This is a dramatic example of a character’s clothing telegraphing her emotional state. “I wanted her to wear black as a sign of her deep mourning for her children and father,” says Clapton. “The style of her dresses are [like] armor. She is untouchable — she no longer has to use her sexuality to procure what she wants.” It’s a far cry from Cersei’s softer looks earlier in the series. “She has to some extent become androgynous. She finally has what she always wanted, but was it worth it?”
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