WARNING CONTAINS SPOILERS: Plot references up to Season 5 Episode 1. I’m sure more episodes will have aired by the time this goes up, but thought it best to keep it at episode 1 just in case people weren’t up to speed!
After the 10 longest months of my life, I’m so happy to be able to say that Game of Thrones is back on our screens. Fans worldwide have been holding their breath, waiting to hear more about Tyrion and learn what was going to happen next along the wall after last season’s epic battle (they could have just read the book, but y’know…)
Episode one did not disappoint. It was a slow start to the season with slightly diminished portions of nudity, drama and gore compared to the meaty climactic ending of season four. But as many of us had hoped, the first episode helped us catch up with all the exciting plot lines that had been put on hold for almost a year – and thank the gods; Tyrion is alive and well and living in a box!
Unfortunately, but also fortunately, episodes one through four were leaked.
This happens to all good things eventually, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Bjork’s latest album Vulnicura and so on, and is kind of a sign of it’s success. I say unfortunately, because it is after all a work of art that has taken time and love to create and be enjoyed as a weekly unfolding story. Someone probably lost their job over it, or is about to be sued for big bucks, which is definitely another unfortunate side effect of the leak. Also, as a dedicated fan with ties to the show I would like to pretend that everyone enjoys it legitimately.
But I did say fortunately too, because as that same dedicated fan – what kind of person would I be if I said I hadn’t binge-watched all four leaked episodes already? (Don’t worry, I won’t talk about anything other than episode one here… It is kind of all out there in book format already though. Spoiler alert.)
One thing that stands out to me dramatically in episode one, being a costume enthusiast, is how much the costumes have developed from the very start of season one up to this point. They have been consistently magnificent thanks to the amazing artist Michele Clapton and her team.
Well researched and styled, each outfit seems to slot into a somehow relatable but completely fictional chronological and geographical location whilst reflecting each character’s personality and origins. This is not only breathtakingly beautiful to watch on screen, but it also helps us remember which characters come form where and whose side they are on. Very clever.
The development I’m referring to however that struck me at the start of season five, is of the costumes belonging to specific characters that have gradually changed to reflect the growth or deterioration of the individual.
For example, Daenerys Targaryen begins her journey in Season One as a meek little princess ruled by her older brother, about to be sold off like a horse in exchange for an army. At first glance she seems pretty powerless, in that we see her totally naked minutes after meeting her and being talked down to by her A-hole brother. When she does get her clothes back on, she wears a gauzy dress in soft dusky pink. Very virginal and little girly just like her hair, which flows gently over her shoulders without much styling in a Botticelli Birth of Venus kind of way.
At her wedding, she adds to this look by wearing some gauntlet-esque armbands typical of the race of people (the Dothraki) she is married into. It is only after she fully accepts her new husband and his people as her own, that she completely adopts the Dothraki fashions. The Dothraki clothing is much more practical; easy to wear whilst riding horses and being on the road for a long time, as this is how they spend much of their life. The clothes are also reminiscent of medieval leather armor, as they are a race of warriors.
Not only is this costume change representative of the acceptance of her new life, but it also illustrates her newfound strength. She dresses more like a warrior as she gains more control over her life and fights back against her brother.
After she loses her first husband and gains three dragons, her wardrobe consists mainly of blue fabrics, keyhole necklines, animal tooth jewelry or decorative body armor dependent on the trends of the city she is currently in (or trying to invade.)
As she moves across the continents (which are of course all fictitious but not dissimilar to real world geography) her outfits change from Eastern desert ravaged warrior-princess, to sumptuous Roman aristocrat and then an ancient Grecian divinity. Her clothes change and climb a ladder of power and social stature, as does she, until we see her now in Season Five; a self proclaimed queen ruling her conquered city. Much like the Gods of Ancient Greece, Queen Daenerys wears swags of cream fabric (the city of Mereen seems to favor the halter/neck wrap look which she has adopted in most scenes.) This reflects her power, or at least her own point of view on her current power, but the color could also suggest a note of child-like naivety.
Does she really have the strength of her dragons?
Can she really rein in the people of this city and march them to the Iron Throne?
I hope so!
Sansa Stark, the poor troubled child of the North is growing into a young woman. She is starting to dress as such, and her tones are beginning to reflect the dark things she has seen on her path from Winterfell. She began as a bratty pre-teen living in the North, a land of dark earthy colors, and perpetual grey-skied weather. She wore her hair just like her mother and the other women of Winterfell, feminine but straight-forward and simple.
On moving South to Kingslanding, home of the royals, good weather, wealth, politics and corruption, the character opts for much richer colors and fabrics befitting of a soon to be queen. She even changes her hair and is even told “You wear your hair like a real Southern girl now!”
Comparing this fickle young girl to the Sansa we have seen in the first episode of this season is like looking at to completely different characters. Now she has dyed her hair dark brunette and wears all black everything. This could be because she is in mourning, for her family. She witnessed the cold-blooded murder of her aunt Lysa by shifty husband Little Finger (can we actually trust him yet?) at the end of last season, and of course she should be seen to be upset – especially if she wants to make people believe it was an accident. But also, Sansa has never until this point been allowed to mourn the deaths of her other much closer family members. Under the eyes of the late King Joffrey and Queen Mother Cersei, Sansa had to appear indifferent to the murder of her ‘traitor’ family members, whom she had in actuality loved and deeply missed, for her own safety. But away in the Eyrie with her aunt Lysa, Sansa was safe to express her grief.
This shift into darker colors also symbolizes Sansa’s maturity; moving away from lighter tones from her idyllic childhood and something into something more becoming of a woman who has endured much pain and is no longer going to take anyone’s bullshit.
Margaery’s clothing has been commented on numerous times by, of course, queen bitch Cersei Lannister. But, although her comments have all been quite cutting, she has had some points.
Margaery has always opted for dresses that show a lot of skin, which Cersei has slyly slut-shamed her for. This is because she comes from Highgarden, a place with a much warmer climate and is therefore just used to wearing more ventilated (albeit slightly more revealing) clothing than the women of Kingslanding.
Kingslanding’s women as we know, wear much heavier fabrics (though not as heavy as the furs and leathers of the Northern folk) in deep rich colours. Margaery however prefers light summery shades and floral embroidery.
Her brother Loras is also a fan of floral designs, earning himself the nickname “Knight of Flowers” and placing himself as another resident of the summery Highgarden.
Even Margaery’s grandmother Olenna wears similar light and breezy fabrics in the same colors, the difference here however is that she covers almost ever inch of her skin with them. This could be because Olenna is much older and feels that she would not ‘pull off’ the same youthful and revealing trends as her granddaughter (although I think Dame Diana Rigg has DEFINITELY still got it, so this can’t be the reason!) Or it could be that Magaery has a game plan that involves enticing young yet powerful men by displaying her beautiful skin, whilst also trying to look innocent and naïve with her soft curls and girly fashion sense.
On the day of the fateful Purple Wedding in season 4, Margaery intertwines the fashions of two houses and looks a lot more like a queen than the girlish princess she had been previously. She still wears a very deep neckline and bare arms, whilst adding more queen-like, ornate gold accessories featuring the vines of her own garden themed house sigil, and the antlers of the stag of house Baratheon (which we all know wasn’t Joffrey’s actual house anyway.)
This is a big step in her career, which must be her main reason for wearing black to mourn both Joffrey and Tywin’s deaths. I mean, she can’t have actually been in love with the king – who could love that? What would she possibly want out of a link to the Lannister family other than being not a queen, but the queen?
Even at Tywin’s funeral, Margaery chooses a low cut neckline and bare arms. Of course, she is wearing black, but the amount of skin on show is bound to rile up the disapproving Cersei. Deliberate? Quite possibly.
Probably the most interesting insight of clothing developing with time and character, is probably gleaned from the glimpse of Cersei’s childhood we get at the start of Episode 1.
Child Cersei has virtually the same wardrobe as her adult counterpart. Low V-necklines, gathered draping cuffs, tightly fitting bodices and floor length skirts feature in both past and present. The color palette do
esn’t seem to vary much either, opulent golds and reds seem to have been Cersei’s lifelong favorites. This is most likely due to the especially wealthy family to which she belongs. The look of a queen has always been an attainable luxury for her that she chose to indulge in early, as she has been the same spoiled brat with power issues her entire life. Even her hairstyle has remained fairly constant, a signature look which is the way many women choose to wear their hair in Kingslanding.
The one thing that does seem to have changed, though only a little, is Cersei’s hair. Being a queen, or the queen mother, there are always plenty of people around to make sure that you look your best for your public. Handmaidens would pamper and preen before any outing. A woman of Cersei’s social standing is probably never seen out of her own chamber without layers of silks, gold jewelry (like that chunky necklace which appears to be an outfit staple for her) and a perfectly styled ‘do’ with not one hair out of place.
This is why it’s almost a little odd that at her father’s funeral in episode 1, Cersei’s normally perfect curls are starting to unravel at the ends slightly. Is this a sign of things to come? She has certainly has become more unhinged as the important men in her life have slowly died off. Now that she is inching into obscurity, further and further from the power she lusts after so much, maybe her penis envy is starting to get the better of her.
|There’s that necklace again.|
After noticing all these little developments, I started spotting other characters that show similar signs of costume changes that reflect nicely upon their position with the Game of Thrones.
Being only part way through the books, I am aware of how some plot lines develop although I am not completely up to speed – but the costumes are only described to a certain degree and leave a lot to the imagination.
The televised series has added a new layer of wordless storytelling that could never quite be conveyed in a way as thorough and yet so subtle, as the art of the costumes seen on screen.