Clapton prefers to stay behind the scenes, conceptualising and constructing the elaborate clothing worn by the actors who have turned characters.
Michele Clapton made a single cameo in the eight years she spent working on one of the most epic television series of all time. The costume designer for Game of Thrones played a Septa dresser, or a female clergy member of the Faith of the Seven. “I loved it for about five minutes, and then I got really bored being on set,” she says. “I couldn’t be an actress!”
Clapton prefers to stay behind the scenes, conceptualising and constructing the elaborate clothing worn by the actors who have turned characters like Sansa Stark and Jon Snow into household names. She and her team are responsible for transforming Daenerys Targaryen to Khaleesi, Mother of Dragons and Arya Stark from an innocent young girl to a revenge-seeking warrior. With the final season of Game of Thrones premiering in New York City this evening, Clapton is reflecting on the fantastical world that she helped to create.
“I continue to use costume design and details to express each character’s state of mind,” Clapton says. “I love this sense of storytelling. It’s very subliminal, but when fans rewatch episodes, they often spot clues that they may have missed the first time ’round.” Sansa Stark’s season seven costumes, for example, denoted a new self-awareness. “I love how she ended up in the belt wrapped around her. The precision of each buckle, the symmetry, the stitching on the cloth. . .” says Clapton. “It was supposed to represent the idea that no one will lay hands on her again, that she will leave nothing to chance.”
While some of the key characters have gone through major evolutions, others have remained largely the same in their appearance. Take Jon Snow—his fuzzy cape has become a GoT character in and of itself, generating hilarious memes in the Twittersphere and inspiring cosplay among superfans. Recently, the actor Kit Harington had a laugh about the cape on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert. “It weighs a ton, [and] it smells awful,” he said, adding that he thinks “they added weight to it every year just because the costume designer, Michele [Clapton], hates actors, obviously. And I think they just wanted to tire us out by the end so we never, ever wanted to do the show again.”
Clapton isn’t having it. “In early seasons his cape was lighter and reflected his lesser status within the family. Later, I made it heavier as it helped give him a necessary stature,” she says. Also: “Some supporting artists had to wear equally heavy costumes or armor through the rain and snow without a personal dresser to help out.”
Harington’s displeasure with the fuzzy, debatably smelly cloak aside, Clapton’s experience designing the Game of Thrones costumes has been rewarding. “It seems the costumes on GoT have been a big influence on some fashion collections over the years. Many have acknowledged our work, and this is very flattering.” Her one regret? Not getting the British designer Giles Deacon, whose partner happens to be the actress Gwendoline Christie, otherwise known as Brienne of Tarth, to design something. For Deacon and GoT fans who like that idea, there’s always the prequel.