Game of Thrones costume designer explains why Sansa’s coronation gown is awesome

Image: Game of Thrones/HBO
Image: Game of Thrones/HBO /

A lot of things had to go right on Game of Thrones for it to get as big as it did, from the acting to the writing to the special effects. One aspect of the show that always stood out as top notch was the costumes. Between Daenerys, Cersei, Margaery and Sansa, there were a ton of eye-popping outfits on the show.

Many of them were designed by Michele Clapton, who worked on the show from beginning to end. Speaking to BBC, she remembered Daenerys’ costumes as being a highlight, “because there was so much texture and workmanship involved.”

That said, if she had to choose one outfit to hold up as an example of everything about the costuming on the show, it would be the gown that Sansa Stark wore in the series finale during her coronation as Queen in the North. “Sansa’s final costume was a celebration of almost every craft in the building, from armoury to leather to embroidery to printing so that was a culmination of everyone’s hard work,” Clapton told BBC. “It was great because on [screen] they were my hands dressing it, which somehow seemed really poignant at the end of that epic nine years of my life I spent on the show.”

Game of Thrones costume designer talks making outfits for The Crown

Again, Clapton spent a decade on Game of Thrones, so she got a ton of experience designing al kinds of costumes. “I learned so much doing that show and it actually created careers for so many people who had nine years to develop and hone their skills and learn.”

That said, she’s also worked on lots of other shows and movies, including elaborate period pieces like The Crown on Netflix. The demands of a show like that are a little different than on a fantasy series like Thrones.  “[O]n The Crown with the Queen, we all think we know her story, we’ve got so much reference to look at. If you didn’t get the wedding dress or the coronation dress right, then no-one is going to believe anything else you do,” Clapton said.

"Usually if it’s a historical piece I’ll research quite extensively and I’ll know the boundaries of the period then after that it’s about drama and storytelling. After you’ve followed the rules of any period to some extent you can actually then have fun and play around within it a bit more because it’s a drama not a documentary at the end of the day."

Clapton is also big on encouraging young people to break into the costuming industry. “There are so many varied careers in a costume department, from embroidery to model making,” she said.
“Not everyone has to be a designer. For every film I do, I maybe have 80 crew, so there’s 80 jobs of people doing incredibly interesting and valuable crafts.” She also endorses cosplay as an avenue to get familiar with design and craft.

Considering how important the work Clapton and her colleagues do, especially on a show with elaborate costumes like Game of Thrones, you’d think that costumers would be honored on par with actors and writing and special effects technicians. But Clapton thinks they have a ways to go. “I think we’re very much the poor relations as far as the hierarchy in filmmaking goes,” she said. “Maybe that comes from it being a woman’s department.”

"And we’re probably not as well paid as some of the other heads of department, which I find shocking. So I’m a big, big advocate for it being more appreciated. But I think it’s beginning to be rectified."

You can currently see Clapton as a judge on the BBC Three series Stitch, Please!, where young aspiring costumers create outfits and then model them on the runway. And of course, she has more movies and TV shows coming up.

See Game of Thrones alum Liam Cunningham (Davos Seaworth) get jacked at the gym. dark. Next

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