Game of Thrones’ Costume Designer Dishes on Dressing the Kate Middleton of Westeros

Margaery Tyrell
Game of Thrones costume designer tells all about the fashions and styles of Westeros.  Macall B. Polay/HBO

If you just can't wait for the new season of HBO's hit Game of Thrones to premiere on April 17, take a (virtual) trip to Westeros thanks to Us Weekly's friends at Vanity Fair! 

You'd think the dramatic fashion world of Game Of Thrones would be purely fantasy based. From intricately embroidered cloaks to painstakingly detailed armor, the looks of the Starks, Lannisters, and Targaryens aren't ones we're used to seeing every day. But Game of Thrones costume designer Michele Clapton, who has a background in the fashion industry, explains that her experience with modern design has invaded the world of Westeros. “I look at contemporary fashion and art,” she says. “It’s a two way street.” Unlike designers who work for shows with a contemporary setting, Clapton has the challenge of creating all-new, original looks for every character. Not only that, but the clothing of Game Of Thrones needs to reflect the diverse culture and extreme climates of George R.R. Martin's fictional Seven Kingdoms. Jon Snow wouldn't last a day north of the Wall sporting the skimpy outfits favored by the Tyrell family of sunny Dorne. Clapton explains, in very modern terms, how she manages so many different styles: "I sometimes see each city as [a] collection. I used to work in fashion many years ago. I'm glad I don't now, but it is, of course, an influence still."

Emilia Clarke as Daenerys Targaryen Game of Thrones
Macall B. Polay/HBO

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Speaking of that skimpy Dornish fashion, Margaery Tyrell (Natalie Dormer), the would-be queen of Westeros, has emerged as the most iconically fashionable character on Game Of Thrones. She's basically Kate Middleton with a bare midriff. Clapton said the outfit she put the most energy into this season was Margaery's wedding gown for her upcoming nuptials to the sadistic King Joffrey. The gown and her wedding hair (glimpsed in the Season 4 trailers) cut a very dramatic silhouette. Clapton describes the painstaking labor that went into achieving the look, "I’m pretty pleased with Margaery's dress . . . it took weeks . . . months even, with all the roses and embroidery, and the bias cut was hard to achieve with the cutaway elements that are essential for her style . . . I wanted it to be pretty, but on closer inspection, strong and to tell the story of her ambition . . . the crowns particularly tell this." 

Weeks and months? Surely that's more than Duchess Kate or Lady Diana's dresses ever required.

This won't be the first time Lady Margaery has turned heads. In addition to her everyday plunging necklines, the character wore a particularly controversial dress early on in Season 2. The controversy sprung up around a very modern influence that, to some viewers, looked out of place in a pseudo-medieval setting.

"Margaery's funnel dress was obviously an homage to the wonderful Alexander McQueen's costume for Bjork. It just felt right that this young ambitious girl would be experimenting with shapes, honing her style skills which we now see her employing to great effect. It was a risk and divided the audience."

But it's not just that McQueen and other modern designers have worked their influence on Game Of Thrones, Clapton's signature designs have started to work their way onto the runway. Some of the influence is subtle, like the leathery Dothraki look of Derek Lam's fall 2013 collection, or the more regal design of Valentino's spring 2014 line. But some connections are a little more firm. The Helmut Lang fall 2012 collection is explicitly based on the world of Game Of Thrones.

Helmut Lang Fall 2012 Fashion Show Game of Thrones
A model walks the runway at the Helmut Lang Fall 2012 fashion show during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week at St John's Center Studio on February 10, 2012 in New York City. JP Yim/WireImage

In response to seeing her influence on the runway, Clapton said, “Of course it was flattering to be referenced, but that's what fashion does, and then it moves on. I did try to borrow a dress for the Emmys from the designers mentioned, but they said no. Thanks a lot!”

When asked which actor she would most want to see cast in Game Of Thrones, Clapton's answer was a little unexpected. Which modern fashion icon is Clapton itching to dress? “In my dreams, Joaquin Phoenix.” I guess those high-waisted pants in Her were more on trend than we thought. Clapton is up for a Costume Designers Guild Award in the outstanding period/fantasy television series category. 

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