Say what you will about HBO’s Game of Thrones and its final season, but you can’t deny that Michele Clapton and her costume design team did an amazing job. Having won a BAFTA and an Emmy Award for her costume designs (the latter she won for Game of Thrones in 2012), it’s no surprise that plenty of her styles have been memorable in the eight years the show has been running.
What I like most about Clapton’s work is that each costume helps tell a story. From the way Sansa dresses reflects her own struggle with her identity, to Daenerys’ costumes subtly alluding to her dragonlord heritage, to the way Margaery’s wedding gowns reflect what Margaery would have thought to wear to please her husbands and infuriate Cersei, Clapton helps tell a different story that doesn’t require any words spoken.
While the verdict on whether Game of Thrones’ final season was the best or worst thing to grace HBO, we can all agree that Clapton’s designs were amazing and stands a chance at this year’s Emmys. But in every episode, which outfit stood out for us? Here’s our picks for the best costumes of every episode.
Episode 1 – “Winterfell” – Cersei’s Gown
Having worn all-black ensembles for most of the previous season for mourning the deaths of her children, it appears that Cersei is back to showing off House Lannister pride by donning gold fabric bodice, armor, and metalwork when welcoming The Second Sons, an army of skilled sell-swords paid to join her side against Daenerys Targaryen and her allies. Cersei always wore black dresses in the previous season, which made them very forgettable, but this one balanced the black of her mourning with the regal gold befitting the Queen of the Seven Kingdoms.
You may have noticed that after Cersei blew up the Sept of Baelor along with her most powerful enemies in Season 6, her outfits took a different turn and high necklines became her signature look. According to Clapton, this is because Cersei felt she was now untouchable and no longer needed to use her sexuality and sex to manipulate others. In Season 2, she once considered seducing Stannis Baratheon should he succeed in taking over King’s Landing; now, she feels she no longer needs to bend to the desires of men as she has become a ruler in her own right. This is still true in Season 8, though she finds she still needs it to keep allies like Euron Greyjoy in check.
But what I like about this dress is that it tells a story about Cersei’s inner turmoil. Tatiana Melendez, a costume consultant for the Costume CO YouTube channel, pointed out that the dress reminds you of a skeleton. The spine-like texture of the bodice suggests that Cersei is dying and rotting on the inside. According to Clapton, it also highlights that Cersei is now a cold-blooded queen with a dark soul because of what she had to do to get where she is.
If you’re interested in dressing up like a queen, here’s a link to one costume seller.
Episode 2 – “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms” – Daenerys’ Red War Council Gown
One thing that’s interesting to note is Daenerys’ costumes in this season. She starts with an iconic white and red fur coat (that would have made our pick for episode one, but sadly was already seen in the previous season. Still, you can get this costume at XCOOS for $336) and shifts between light and dark colors before the end of the season when she is wearing the black and red colors of House Targaryen, another way of showing she has “become the dragon” she was meant to be. In the second episode, she exchanges her white for a darker gray one.
According to Clapton, this is Daenerys trying to discover her own style after being influenced by the culture around her. Like Sansa’s style as hostage to Lady of Winterfell, Daenerys wore Dothraki clothes while married to Khal Drogo, wore Qarth clothes in Qarth, and assimilated herself in the Free Cities by dressing as they would.
Episode 3 – “The Long Night” – We Can’t Really Tell
We really tried to decide on a best dressed for this episode, but the fact that we just couldn’t see the detail for a lot of scenes in this episode makes it unfair if we pick out someone based on glimpses of their armor or whatever we could see here. Instead, we’ll give it to Melisandre’s death scene as she gracefully walks to her death, finally allowed to die now that the Night King can no longer hurt the living.
Episode 4 – “The Last of the Starks” – Varys’ Robe
With only three episodes to go, there were a lot of contenders for this episode’s best dressed. But ladies and their armor-laden gowns need to step aside for Lord Varys and his robe during the parlay meeting between Daenerys and Cersei (or rather, the meeting where Tyrion and Qyburn speak for their queens).
With Cersei only starting to wear House Lannister colors in the last two episodes after four seasons of black gowns, Sansa and Arya wearing dark colors, Daenerys sticking to her red and neutrals, and the men wearing their average neutral armor, there’s not a lot of color going around in the final season. So, it’s a breath of fresh air to see Varys sporting a new look.
Underneath that nice color, though, Varys’ robe is a sign of things to come. Having worn black and dark colors to show his allegiance to Daenerys and House Targaryen, the color shift is a sign that her recent decisions have lost her his belief. From Season 3’s episode “The Ladder,” Varys makes it clear that he serves the Realm and the interests of the people who are often ignored and suffer the most under the wars of Great and Noble Houses fighting for power. One could say that it’s a subtle sign of Varys no longer supporting Daenerys as he once did.
Varys’ costume graced the cover of Entertainment Weekly, showing off the intricate detail in a better lighting. Prior to their arrival in King’s Landing, in episode one, we actually see a glimpse of the robe while Varys is with Davos Seaworth. It’s mostly covered by a black tunic and, looking back at Varys’ choice of costume, it’s effective foreshadowing pointing towards Varys’ eventual betrayal when he tries to rally Jon Snow into taking over and becoming King of the Seven Kingdoms in his own right.
Episode 5 – “The Bells” – Daenerys’ Riding Coat
This is the costume Daenerys wears into battle and is the last thing she wears up to her death in the next and final episode. While this isn’t the first time Daenerys’ costume marries House Targaryen’s colors into one outfit, it is a fitting outfit considering that she has given up the innocent and pure white colors and has finally, in Olenna Tyrell’s words, became the dragon she was meant to be.
Everything about this outfit screams Targaryen. Given that it’s the first time a Targaryen has set food in King’s Landing since her father’s death and even longer since a Targaryen riding a dragon has been there, she is proudly showing her allegiance to her house.
Episode 6 – “The Iron Throne” – Sansa’s Coronation Dress
Arguably our top choice for this season’s best costume, Sansa’s coronation dress is full of hidden meanings nodding back to the journey she took leaving home and coming back. In an Instagram post, Clapton explains her design choices.
Sansa’s dress was made with the same fabric as her “Dark Sansa” dress (the dress Sansa wore after she showed she was learning how to play the game of thrones) and Margaery Tyrell’s wedding dress, whom Sansa idolized and who tried to help Sansa escape the Lannisters’ control. Her bodice resembles the weirwood trees associated with the North, while her sleeves resemble the fur of the direwolf on the Stark sigil.
To make this final moment even more meaningful, the hands we see helping Sansa get dressed into her final costume is actually Clapton herself. While Clapton’s inspiration for the dress comes from Sansa’s own journey, we see how her designs alludes to the real-life Queen Elizabeth I’s coronation. But each element of the dress was thought through, making it the best costume of the finale.
These are our top picks for Season 8’s best dressed. Do you agree with our picks? Let us know which costume should have been a part of this list.