Since HBO's Game of Thrones first aired eight years ago, the way a character dressed-in Lannister red or Tyrell blue or by donning a wolf, lion, or dragon-was crucial to understanding their background and ever-shifting alliances. The women of Westeros are experts in the art of costume signalling, expressing political views and personal relationships in their hairstyles, dresses, and especially their jewelry. This critical visual subtext is the masterful work of costume designer Michele Clapton, who has won three Emmy Awards for his work on Game of Thrones.
With the series finale on Sunday, T&C took a close look at three women who have dominated the show’s sartorial sensibilities: Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey), Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke), and Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner). After all, the Iron Throne may be the most coveted seat in the land, but you've got to have the right crown to go with it.
Warning: Spoilers ahead!
Cersei Lannister’s Crown
Despite her demise in the series' penultimate episode, it is worth beginning with Cersei’s crown, which she wore while facing off with Daenerys and plotting to keep her seat on the Iron Throne. Like her general appearance, which has evolved from hyper-feminine (long hair and flowing dresses in Season One) to tough (a war-time costume with a cropped coiffure, structured gowns, and plenty of shoulder pads), the final crown Cersei selects to represent her ruling is intricate and brutal, a suitable metaphor for her political strategy.
What the experts say:
“I’m fascinated by Cersei’s crown. It’s not jeweled or ornamental, but still somehow has a feminine look. It’s meant to indicate power, not to decorate. The twisted vine motif recalls a wreath of flowers that might be worn by a woodland sprite. But, of course, Cersei’s version is dark, twisted, and lifeless-like her.” -Frank Everett, Vice President, Sales Director for Sotheby's Jewelry Department
“Cersei’s crown is a reflection of the Iron Throne, created of a similar material with a halo of spikes. The central piece is an abstracted lion, harkening back to the Lannister sigil. The crown is brutal in form and recalls a crown of thorns, mocking her quest for power and representing the pain that comes with it.” -Lee Siegelson, Siegelson, New York
Daenerys Targaryen’s Broach
The Mother of Dragons has had no shortage of great jewelry moments, and unsurprisingly she opts for a dragon motif whenever possible. Though she toned it down while living in the anti-Targaryen North-her beloved pets circling above the landscape were quite enough to make the Northerners wary-as the season draws to a close, Daenerys returns to her favorite accessory. After all, as she is has proven time and time again, a queen will wear (and do) whatever she wants.
What the experts say:
“I think of a fantastical version of Madeleine Albright and her book, Read My Pins. Jewelry has often been used to evoke political messaging, and even in this fictional, barbaric world, this holds true. Daenerys is deeply connected to dragons, so it makes sense that her jewelry evokes that imagery. Beyond that, the side-chain she often wears with it is rooted in a sort of regal sash, transforming the military regalia and heraldic ornaments of royal families into something much more fierce and hardened.” -Levi Higgs, Archivist and Social Media Manager for David Webb New York
“All of the costumes have taken a darker, colder, and more armor-like direction in this final season of battles, and the jewelry reflects those changes. Missandei and Greyworm also wear brooches composed of three dragons in a circle. This connection to her own three-dragon necklace is a visual representation of her close personal relationship with these characters. This is notably different than the Hand of the Queen brooch worn by Tyrion that bears no dragons, and is a political rather than a personal relationship.” -Lee Siegelson
Sansa Stark’s Needle Necklace
Sansa has long fashioned her clothes and hair after the women she admired, beginning with her adoration of Cersei and then sliding over to Marjory Tyrell as she became familiar with the true nature of the Lannisters and their power. Finally at home in Winterfell, Sansa idolizes no woman (and certainly no man).She has worn several versions of this necklace over the last few seasons. Whether or not the “needle” dangling from the dramatic lariat can actually be used as a weapon is unclear, but the message it sends is perfectly transparent: Do not cross her.
What the experts say:
“Sansa’s necklace highlights her new status as the Lady of Winterfell (as well as her growth from her old nickname, “little bird,” to a grown woman), but it also symbolizes the turmoil she went through. She has been metaphorically “chained” to so many men throughout the series that now she wears her chains not only to remind herself of where she has been, but to let everyone else know that she is now the master of her own fate. It is an outward expression of the protection her experience and knowledge now provide her.” -Rina Morris, MUSE Showroom
“From a historical perspective, Sansa's chain is worn almost like a chatelaine, fixed at the waist. The chatelaine was a waist chain worn by Victorian women that was attached to various tools for sewing and other feminine uses. Sansa’s chain has been cleverly and subtle changed to a needle-a weapon. The needle is also a subtle nod to the importance of her relationship with her sister Arya, who used the word as a nickname for her sword." -Lee Siegelson
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