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Look of the Week: Game of Thrones' battle-ready style
Welcome back to Look of the Week, celebrating the best in TV and film sartorial excellence, past and present across sci-fi, horror, fantasy, and other genre classics!
Nothing ruins an outfit quite like blood, sweat, and tears, and the next Game of Thrones episode is likely to include all three, even with winter climate. “The Battle of Winterfell” is upon us, which means a lot of leather, metal, and fur — not that most have been sporting attire outside of this category in the first two episodes of the final season. Costume designer Michele Clapton has crafted beautiful gowns, capes and a whole lot of armor over the eight seasons. The latter is now taking center stage once again as the fight arrives at the gates of the Stark ancestral home.Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) has been dressed as a knight for the majority of her time on Game of Thrones, but Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) makes it official in “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms.” A new outfit isn't required to match this new title; she is still wearing the suit of armor Jaime gifted her back in Season 4, which is more than fit for a Ser. It is King’s Landing-crafted armor at its finest; the no-frills design not only matches Brienne’s desire to serve rather than stand out but, as Clapton noted a few years ago, “Jaime, I don't think has a great deal of imagination. So we didn't think he would come up with anything particularly fanciful.” Unlike Cersei (Lena Headey), he is not all about branding the clothes he wears with symbolic images. His sister has never fought in an actual battle, but the gold-armored corset she wore during the Battle of the Blackwater is one of the most memorable pieces of hardware on Game of Thrones. Cersei knows image is everything; this projects a vision of strength while reminding everyone of the Lannister wealth.
Instead, Brienne has gained a Stark-like cape — which is needed for the climate — and when she stands up to make a bold statement, she does so carrying a sword that was forged from Ned’s (Sean Bean). Jaime gave Brienne Oathkeeper in the episode of the same name in Season 4 when he also gifted her the armor she has been wearing ever since. Her task was to protect Ned’s daughters, and Jaime thought it made sense for her to carry a weapon that came from his. One thing Game of Thrones is very good at is weapon and costume callbacks linking the past to the present.Tradition dictates that women can’t be knights, but Brienne isn’t simply playing dress-up. She has acted with honor and courage since her introduction. Tormund (Kristofer Hivju) is up in arms about this, saying “I’m no king, but if I were, I’d knight you 10 times over.” He is indignant, not because he wants to sleep with her (which he does), but because this kind of tradition is BS. Jaime takes his sword Widow's Wail — the twin to Brienne's Oathkeeper — knighting Brienne in the home of Ned Stark. They didn’t need to make it official for Brienne to be a good leader in battle, as she has already proved herself time and time again, but this symbolic gesture is the validation she deserves. (Also, Brienne’s teary smile, along with the expressions of respect and pride on the faces of these men, is the look of the week.)
Brienne isn’t the only one taking her words seriously, as Lady Lyanna Mormont (Bella Ramsey) tells her cousin Ser Jorah (Iain Glen), “I pledged to fight for the North, and I will fight.” She hasn’t put on her best fighting gear just so she can go hide in the crypt. Lady Mormont might be small, but she has shown on numerous occasions that she is willing to stand up for herself, her family and the North. It doesn’t matter if her opponents are weak-willed men or the dead; Lady Mormont is here to slay.Nevertheless, it is concerning how much everyone is banking on the crypts being safe. The crypts are stacked with potential fighters for the other team and someone like Lady Mormont could come in handy. She gets her name from Jon Snow’s (Kit Harington) actual mother, but there is a lot of Arya (Maisie Williams) in the young ruler of House Mormont when it comes to her desire to fight and the battle-ready clothing she wears.
Armor isn't the only attire that portrays a fighter's aesthetic. Sansa (Sophie Turner), is not going to be out on the front lines, but her determination and consistency when it comes to protecting their home and its legacy are noteworthy. Sansa’s journey from pampered teen to a woman in charge has been one of the most dynamic on Game of Thrones. She has gone through a number of style changes from mimicking the powerful women around her, including Cersei and Margaery (Natalie Dormer), to channeling her mother. Experimenting with a goth phase is an adolescent rite of passage, even in Westeros. Dark Sansa was a brief period at the end of Season 4, which is when she first wore power jewelry (that didn’t double as a poison concealing device) and Clapton describes this as "the moment Sansa grew up."Since then she has reclaimed the wolf, transforming a dress into a Stark statement and gifting her half-brother (actually her cousin) a cape like Ned’s. Her sister dresses like their father, but in the final season, Sansa is shifting away from clothes inspired by others and wearing pieces unique to her. This is most evident in “A Knight of Seven Kingdoms” when she has a private chat with Daenerys (Emilia Clarke). Daenerys has adapted to the colder climate, but her costumes are very much still Targaryen infused. Same goes for Missandei (Nathalie Emmanuel) and Grey Worm (Jacob Anderson), who still wear the three-headed dragon merch — even though there are now only two. Daenerys is offering what could be interpreted as an olive branch to Sansa, but this scene is also a flex from both women. Yes, they share common ground but Sansa is not the naive young girl she was and Daenerys needs to assert her power. The trust issues are understandable and Sansa is always looking out for the North, as they go into this fight and contemplating what will happen if they win. The woven leather across her chest is a sartorial spin that is all her; it is a sign of her strength and a form of protection.
And if a fashion designer wants to envision what this could look like as a contemporary garment fit for 2019, then I will be the first to add my name to that particular pre-order list. Game of Thrones inspired looks are hard to pull off outside of Westeros, but this one has ready-to-wear potential. Yes, there have already been clothing tie-ins from brands such as Adidas, but an Alexander McQueen line or a vegan leather alternative from Stella McCartney that filters down to a more affordable brand should be next.
It is unlikely that all those mentioned in this Look of the Week will survive the forthcoming battle, but at least they will go out in style.