According to costume designer Michele Clapton, the clothes have just as important a role to play in the upcoming episodes of the fantasy series as White Walkers and dragons. Clapton, who dressed the first five seasons of the show before exiting, then returning in time to deliver Cersei’s militarized makeover last year, says there’s a feeling of finality in the way the characters are clothed that mirrors the show’s storytelling.
“It’s a foretelling of things,” Clapton told Uproxx. “It’s the coming to the end.”
With the show wrapping up, the designer was keen to represent visually each character’s physical and psychological journey – a journey that’s always been echoed in their clothes. Here’s a breakdown of the clothes of four major characters – Daenerys Targaryen, Cersei Lannister, Jon Snow, and Sansa Stark – might foreshadow.
Compared to Cersei, Sansa, and Daenerys, Jon Snow hasn’t had quite as exciting a journey, at least when it comes to fashion. The guy may have been brought back from the brink of death but his wardrobe hasn’t been as lucky. Born a bastard in the North, Jon donned dark browns and blues with heavy furs and little embellishment.
When he joined the Night’s Watch, his mandatory uniform didn’t stray too far from his original dress code. Last season, after leading men into battle and reclaiming Winterfell, Jon began to favor a look reminiscent of his “father” – one highlighted by copious amounts of fur, warlike practicality, and a statement-making cape. That cape will become the centerpiece of the character’s story come season seven.
Clapton hints that Jon ditches his lord-like outfit for something paired down when he ventures north of the wall this season.
“He really embraces this Northern, over-the-Wall style, the Wildling style, and the reason he embraces it is because it’s practical,” Clapton explains. “Kit [Harington] was delighted that he didn’t have the big heavy cape. This was agile and he could fight and move and I think it was a really interesting process just to take him out into this new look.”
When he isn’t fighting White Walkers, Jon will be interacting with players just as dangerous as the Ice King. It’s why Clapton insisted on emphasizing the character’s dress, or lack thereof.
“We had a lot of discussions about does the cape give him presence or is it better to not have that presence? What are we trying to say?” Clapton says. “There are times when we removed it because we wanted him to be more vulnerable. Especially I think, when he saw Dany, and he went to see her for the first time in her chamber. We decided to remove it, but then when he went to see Cersei, we put it on.”
For Jon, a man of two worlds with allegiances to two different peoples, the idea that his costume reflect his dual responsibilities became important when trying to visually tell the story of the character.
“That’s a big heavy cape and yes, it is him as Ned, but he’s actually not Ned,” Clapton says. “It was quite interesting to see him transition to another look because it took on another part of his journey. Suddenly people understood him in that role; the way that he can appeal to not just the Northerners, but the way he’s brought that whole group with the Wildlings and everyone together, I thought was really important.”
When we first met Daenerys Targaryen she was under the punishing thumb of her brother and being sold to a Dothraki warlord in order to secure his bid for the Iron Throne. She was a pawn, another good to be exchanged by men in power and her clothing reflected that. Sheer shifts, thin gowns that exposed her physique, and white colors all alluded to her innocence and powerlessness . As she graduated to khaleesi and then queen, so did her garb. From Dothraki leathers and pants to fluid gauzy gowns in light blues, Dany has aligned herself with her people through the clothing she wears.
Last year, the Mother of Dragons ended the season by returning to a more structured look. She set sail for Westeros in gowns with severe necklines, rigid bodices, and dark colors. For season seven, Clapton wanted to portray the Queen of Mereen as the conqueror she is. Gone is the child bride, the mourning widow, and the Mhysa of the Yunkai – Dany’s setting foot on the shores of her homeland and preparing to reclaim her birthright which means she needs an outfit that reflects her position of power.
“She’s this figurehead of her army,” Clapton says. “I wanted her to be able to stand in front of the Unsullied and be their leader.”
That meant stiff shoulders, reds creeping in at the hem, and a heavy chain crossing the front of her uniform. The chain itself represents Dany’s intentions. “She can’t have a crown, she hasn’t conquered yet,” Clapton explains. “But I loved this [idea] of this chain of intent.”
Season seven marks a homecoming in more ways than one for Dany. A few photos of the character shared earlier this year show her sporting a maroon cape, a nod to her house colors and to her brother, Viserys, who modeled a similar look. It’s an odd choice considering the last time the pair were together, Dany watched as her husband gruesomely gifted her brother the crown he’d been coveting.
“I think it’s quite interesting that we finally see her embracing her brother’s ambition,” Clapton says. “What does that say? You’re seeing the beginning of something. We’re not at the end yet and I think it’s very important at this moment that we start seeing who she is.”
Cersei Lannister’s transformation at the end of last season wrapped up a finale that paid homage to the badass women of Game of Thrones – and her new look was the pièce de résistance. Clapton hadn’t dressed much of season six and when she got the call to revolutionize the loveliest Lannister, she had just a few weeks to conceptualize and execute the costume.
That costume — and, of course, the massacre at the Sept, the setting sail of an armada, and the naming of a new King in the North — stuck with viewers. A woman known for her beauty, her pride, and her opulence had suddenly shed the golds of her house color, shorn her flowing locks, and donned a shell of mourning.
When we first met Cersei she favored a Southern style of dress that was all about elaborate up-dos, grand sleeves, bold colors, and hints of skin. She used her clothes to enhance her sexuality and her sexuality to control those around her. When last season ended, after suffering through the loss of her children and that harrowing walk of shame, Cersei’s essence and her clothing, had changed. Dark, heavy fabrics, intricate stitching, military epaulettes, and a simple crown became her armor. Those details became even more important when Clapton returned to the character for season seven.
“She’s still in mourning,” Clapton says of why Cersei opted for a broken-down tiara. “She’s lost all her children. It was a high price to pay for this crown.”
Clapton chose an unassuming silhouette for Cersei’s gowns, adding on layers of bead work and accessories to indicate the character’s fragile psyche.
“She uses this beading [as] this sense of power but it’s all quite brittle and it’s all an adornment. It’s not part of the dress,” Clapton explains. “She has a collar and she has these shoulder pieces, but they’re separate from the dress. Everything’s removable and I thought it was really important that her dress, the simple dress underneath is really uncluttered. She’s in mourning. She puts these things on to show strength but there’s a brittleness in that strength.”
No Game of Thrones character has suffered quite like Sansa Stark. As a young woman educated in the ways of cruelty by power-hungry people using her status and body to make grabs for the throne, Sansa’s rarely been in control of her own fate on the show and those hard lessons internalized throughout the series have been replicated in her outward appearance.
Sansa, as a well-bred lady of the North, used fashion as a way to express herself. Surrounded by family she didn’t understand in a place she longed to escape, embroidery and needlework were her swordplay, rose appliques and intricate hems her shield. She adapted in King’s Landing, donning Southern gowns and revealing necklines in order earn and maintain her place of privilege then, later, to disguise her hatred for those keeping her in a gilded cage.
During the last two seasons, her mask took the form of dark hair, severe, full-length gowns, and oversized accessorizes. That gothic-inspired style of dress continues in season seven and hints at the character’s own plans for power.
“I wanted a real strength,” Clapton says. “I think that she’s embraced everything that’s happened to her.”
The designer chose to adorn Sansa with a heavy belt that wraps around her neck and goes to her waistline, covering a double-breasted dress.
“It’s almost like ‘no one will ever get to me again,’” Clapton says. “There’s an armor to her. There’s feathers again from her time in the Eyrie. There’s a circular necklace, which I think is really important with a needlepoint. And there’s an element in the dress of her mother, the pattern is almost like fishes swimming. It’s this binding against her vulnerability. It’s full of symbolism.”
Few shows have been examined as closely as Game of Thrones, and for good reason. Every element that makes it on the screen, from the simple stitching in a hem to the color of a cape and the length of a gown, holds meaning. As characters scheme, betray, fight, and kill for power and control of the Seven Kingdoms, their style of dress plays a key role in their maneuverings.
A pair of pants worn under a shift could mean the difference between fight or flight. A heavy cape could signify a king, or the absence of one. A beaded epaulette might show strength but it could also illustrate a broken woman grieving the death of her children. The devil is in the details and while they aren’t as flashy as a dragon spitting fire or ominous as a pair of ice blue eyes, the costumes have their own story to tell. Those looking for clues as to what’s coming next should start paying attention.