Courtesy of HBO
Five new excerpts from Michele Clapton’s costuming book reveal the inspiration behind the fierce and fashionable women of Westeros.
In the closing moments of the final season of Game of Thrones, Emmy-winning costume designer Michele Clapton had her most triumphant moment. I don’t mean the brief on-camera cameo where her hands can be seen busily getting the Queen in the North ready for her coronation—I mean the final Sansa look itself. Sophie Turner’s stunning gown, crown, and cape tell the full sartorial story of Sansa’s journey from frightened girl to formidable monarch. Eagle-eyed fans have sussed out some of that—but in an exclusive new excerpt from Insight Editions’ upcoming book Game of Thrones: The Costumes, Clapton outlines more of the little influences viewers had missed. Including, oh yes, a nod to Sansa’s most controversial mentor: Littlefinger.
But Sansa isn’t the only woman of Westeros who put a good deal of thought into her fashion. Vanity Fair has a first look at Clapton’s insights into Cersei, Brienne, and Arya as well. You can preorder the book here; it will be out on November 11. Read on to find out how Robb Stark, the direwolf Lady, and many more made their fashion mark on Sansa’s big day.
As a nimble seamstress and fashion sponge, Sansa long gave Clapton an excuse to have fun mixing and matching Northern and Southern styles. It’s easy, too, to see how Sansa, who uses style as one of her most powerful weapons, could be a stand-in for Clapton herself. (The costumer has been known to wear a piece of jewelry that looks awfully similar to Sansa’s signature necklace.) So it’s no wonder Clapton went all out for Sansa’s final and most dramatic entrance.
It’s easy to spot the Catelyn Tully influence on the dress, with the fish scale sleeves and a silhouette that matches the Stark matriarch’s preferred shape. Clapton herself also revealed back in May that the fabric on the dress is the same used in Margaery Tyrell’s wedding gown—only dyed a more somber gray. But fans may have missed the feathers trailing down one side, which are meant to call back to the Queen in the North’s other big fashion moment: Dark Sansa. They also might have missed the beaded direwolf head among the feathers—which, according to Clapton, is meant to “represent Lady, Sansa’s direwolf.”
There’s no missing the cascade of red weirwood leaves down one panel of Sansa’s gown—but the breastplate itself is fashioned to look like the branches of the tree “growing upward to show hope for the future of the North.” The cape, too, was padded at the neck and shoulders to give Sansa an imposing silhouette, “similar to her late father’s”—but lined with softer rabbit fur in homage to the simpler capes her brothers (and Theon) all wore when they were young boys at Winterfell.
The most surprising influence in that coronation cape may come from Sansa’s sister, Arya. The adventurous Stark girl was never deeply interested in fashion; if she was sponging anything up, it was fighting styles. But in the final season of the show, Clapton gave Arya a very dashing Winterfell look, including an intricate, asymmetrical cloak.
For her coronation day, Sansa has created her own asymmetrical cape, “out of respect for her sister.”
But not every fashion influence on Sansa is a benign one. Clapton says Sansa’s bodice is made of metal because it represents protection. Even now, Clapton says, “Sansa continues to armor herself.” That surely is a lesson she picked up, in part, from Cersei, who traded softer gowns for her own armor-influenced look toward the end of Game of Thrones. (“I should wear the armor,” Cersei told her husband, Robert Baratheon, in Season 1, “and you the gown.”) Like Sansa, Cersei picked up style influences from her male family members. Her own coronation gown was an homage to her father, Tywin Lannister, while this Season 7 gown has rounded shoulders that are meant to echo the armor of her brother, Jaime Lannister, and fabric that’s intended to give off the impression of chain mail, reinforcing “the idea of Cersei girding for war.”
Cersei wasn’t the only person on Game of Thrones who taught Sansa to arm herself. Believe it or not, Clapton even found room on Sansa’s coronation gown to give a stylistic nod to Littlefinger. “She still wears her needle necklace, which I attached to the metal corset the same way that Littleﬁnger would hook his dagger onto the ﬁne chain belt he wore. Although Sansa despised Littleﬁnger, she learned a great deal from him,” the designer says.
Clapton previously told Vanity Fair she’s perhaps proudest of Littlefinger’s very subtle fashion evolution, and the character remains a very popular one among Game of Thrones cosplayers.
Perhaps the most touching and overlooked reference in Sansa’s Queen in the North look can be found in her crown. The two direwolves, of course, scream House Stark, but their position is intended as an homage to Sansa’s brother Robb Stark, the young King in the North. “The design of the crown,” Clapton writes, “resembles a clasp that he wore when he was killed at the Red Wedding.” In effect, Sansa’s crown says, “the North remembers.”
There’s at least one more woman of Westeros whom Clapton gave a very meaningful final look: Brienne of Tarth. The costume designer rightly observes that unlike, say, King Joffrey, who redecorated the throne room himself, King Bran was unlikely to exert any stylistic influence on the newly made captain of his Kingsguard. And so this shiny new armor was something Clapton believed Brienne would have designed for herself. It’s based on her old armor, and includes a brilliant deep blue color, which is the signature shade of this lady knight from the Sapphire Isles. Clapton added a three-eyed raven sigil to the breastplate, and brass discs on the skirt meant to invoke a single raven’s eye.
But it’s worth remembering that the original inspiration for Brienne’s former armor was Jaime Lannister, who gave her a gift back in Season 4.
“Jaime gives Brienne her equivalent of an amazing dress and a pair of shoes,” Gwendoline Christie said in a behind-the-scenes interview from Season 4. “He gives her a sensational suit of armor and a sword, he’s given her couture.” You can’t blame Brienne for wanting to hold on to that piece of Jaime Lannister, at least.