Decoding the style evolution of every key Game of Thrones character

Daenerys Targaryen wearing a key necklace symbolising her new-found strength in series 5
Daenerys Targaryen wearing a key necklace symbolising her new-found strength in series 5

As the eighth and final series of the television epic Game of Thrones approaches, its remaining (not yet slaughtered) characters have been on some incredible journeys. But throughout, a subplot has been delivered via the art of character dress, and British costume designer Michele Clapton has created a fictional world so visually rich that fans and fashion designers alike have become obsessed with it.

In any given scene a costume can serve to signal whether a character is weak or powerful, what their current social status is, and where the hell in the Seven Kingdoms they have found themselves at this point in time. Certain fabrics can ‘only be found’ in certain regions, other stitching techniques are ‘native’ to some tribes. Clapton has thought of everything in this world, and employs embroiderers, jewellers, seamstresses and armourers to make it all happen, ensuring that every last detail is worthy of you pausing to appreciate it in HD. Even the embroideries hold stories - look out for Lannister lions attacking Dire wolves, or trapped birds, if you enjoy a bit of style symbolism.

Now that we’ve seen (almost) everything that the GoT costume department has to throw at us, shall we take a look back at how each of the remaining leading ladies’ styles has evolved alongside their personalities?

Daenerys Targaryen

Daenerys, played by Emilia Clarke, arrived on our screens as a timid slave to her brother, wearing flimsy hemp crop tops from her native Essos. Her character transformation has been arguably the greatest in the series- and so has her wardrobe. As she travelled the Seven Kingdoms, she’s picked up new dresses as quickly as she has new titles.  

Then and now - Daenerys Targaryen in the final series of Game of Thrones, left, versus one of her Dothraki outfits from the earlier series.

Joining the Dothraki tribe, she became a warrior Khaleesi wearing draped plissé goddess gowns and statement torque necklaces in the hot southern climate. As Mother of Dragons, the look evolved further to include more structured bodices, scaled fabrics and dragonstone jewellery. By series seven, she was in control of an empire and ready for war, wearing dark, sharply tailored suits covered in dragon scales, with huge jewellery, nodding to her reputation as ‘breaker of chains’.

Finding her style strength in season 5

“[Michele] needed to toughen up Daenerys for season 5, so she wanted some jewellery that she described as tougher, more rebellious and something special,” Eliza Higginbottom, jewellery designer for the show, told The Telegraph of the first choker she created for Daenerys. “The main dragon neck sculpture is revealing a lot about her and what’s going on in her inner world - she’s really fragile but also bold. The costumes relate to the character so closely.”

For the finish, we see this queen of The South going beyond the wall in The North, donning decadent white furs as she takes on the White Walkers and fights for the Iron Throne.

In series 8

Sansa Stark

The original princess of Winterfell, Sansa (played by Sophie Turner), has gone from sweet girl, to strong, scorned woman, via one forced marriage to the sadistic Joffrey Baratheon in King's Landing and another to the violent sociopath Ramsay Bolton. Her clothes have echoed her situations and surroundings - when part of the Stark family she wore Northern clothes and furs, as a Lannister it was all about embroideries, and as an enslaved Bolton her clothes were mostly dark and completely covered up.

Sansa Stark armoured up in the final series of Game of Thrones versus one of her earlier, Pre-Raphaelite looks

Hers are possibly the clothes most worthy of pressing the pause button for to get a closer look. As Michele Carragher, the show’s principal costume embroiderer, explains; “A character’s backstory, traits, and personal journey within the script will all go towards influencing my design.” Carragher cites Sansa’s first wedding gown as one of the most telling pieces of clothing on the show.

Sansa in series three, at her wedding to Joffrey Baratheon

“Sansa was a pure innocent girl forced into a loveless marriage to one of the members of the [rival] Lannister family, so for her wedding dress Michele [Clapton] wanted a confined restricted bodice shape, with bare vulnerable arms,” she explains. “She also wanted an embroidered band that would tell Sansa’s life story to that point.  I started at the back waist with sigil like the Stark Direwolves and Tully fish entwined, representing Sansa’s parentage. Then as we move to the side, the Lannister lion is tangling with the Direwolf and emerging on top, representing Sansa’s being seduced and then controlled by members of the house of Lannister.”

Sansa during her marriage to Ramsay Bolton

Having escaped both marriages, Sansa is now in the position, heading into season eight, to live life on her terms and dress however she wants. Might she be about to sample the styles of Khaleesi now, if the posters of her wearing scales are anything to go by?

Cersei Lannister

Cersei (played by Lena Headey) first appeared Rapunzel-like on our screens with long wavy blonde hair and rich embroidered corseted gowns. She looked like a fairytale princess, but as her story developed, the poisonous side to her character began to show, until she was officially, undeniably, a tyrant. From incest to mass murder, she’s done it all and got the hardened, armour-like clothing now to prove it.

Cersei Lannister in series 8 of Game of Thrones

“One of the first costumes that I embroidered for Cersei was her Blue Bird dress, which references her intention of [seeking] power under a unthreatening feminine look as well as the twittering and scheming she is involved with,” Carragher says. By series seven, we saw her in “sharp, fierce and strong designs by Michele Clapton, where I have been able to echo the splendour of the costume’s sculptured shapes with lustrous embellishment.”

Cersei Lannister in series 5

As a key contender for the title of Queen of the Seven Kingdoms, her look will only get fiercer in the final series. The long locks are replaced by a blunt crop, the embroideries on her gowns have been swapped for plated shoulders. She looks, frankly, quite terrifying.

May the best dressed woman win.