Game of Threads: The Bells

Daenerys Dress Season 8 805 King's Landing Bells

Michele Clapton has never shied away from giving us heavy symbolism during important moments for the characters. Sometimes it’s visually very obvious like Sansa’s “Eyrie” dress, Margaery’s wedding gown, or Cersei’s “Tywin” homage when she takes her crown. Sometimes it’s subtler like a dagger woven into a textile, or the deeper meaning of a particular color. Clapton, in my opinion, really shines in those subtleties. They are more like a secret for the character as well as the actor, more personal, more meaningful. So often in the series, we see very surface adornments of allegiances to great houses, kings, queens, and so on, but once we really take a deeper look at the fabrics and embroidery, we can see the secrets that tell the stories of so many of the leading characters.

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Daenerys Targaryen The Bells

Take Daenerys’ riding coat that she wears this episode. At first glance, it looks like a black leather version of the red coat she wore to last episode’s feast. That enough would be impactful, as it can be argued that smoothed, black leather has often signified a call to action (Cersei taking the Iron Throne, Sansa’s Winterfell armor, the uniforms of the Unsullied, and just about everything Tywin wore,) and this was absolutely a call to action for Dany. It’s also the most aerodynamic riding coat she’s had yet.

When you look closer, however, the leather is embossed with large dragon scales that look as if they are beginning to close in around her body. Dany has often implemented a scaled motif into her outfits by way of embroidery and embellishment. This is meaningful to her, and extremely beautiful, but beading is delicate and merely a decoration. It’s not integral to the overall structure of a garment. Having the scales embossed into the actual fabric shows what Dany has been all along: a Targaryen, a dragon, capable of terrible destruction. The scales are part of the DNA of the coat, and by extension, a part of her own DNA. It’s no coincidence that she’d be wearing something like this when she tragically falls victim to her bloodline. 

But again, it’s something that only Dany knows. It’s for her, and not anyone else. Contrast it to the white fur coat that she wears upon arriving in Winterfell back in the season premiere. The garment is declarative and sends a message (whether you subscribe to the “savior” idea behind the color, or the “Queen of Meereen” symbolism), but it isn’t her, especially in the fabrication. She’s never had to pile on fur for warmth because she’s never needed to keep warm, and her trying to dress for the North in her own way has only furthered her isolation from the people of Westeros. Her hair is also being worn in a less crown-like way than she used to, and has been slowly evolving into a more reptilian style, really tying her visually and emotionally to Drogon and her two fallen children. This whole look is a walking embodiment of her and her ancestors: leathered dragon scales flying through the air, raining fire over the lands below.

It can also be noted that the textile of red cape she wears ties her directly to Cersei. It has a very velvet-like quality to it (though I believe it’s sueded leather), which looks like it could have been cut from the same fabric as Cersei’s dress this episode.

Daenerys Dany Targaryen Dragonstone Throne Season 8 805 2

This coat, of course, is preceded by the red ensemble she also wore last week. Once again, she’s making a case to Jon and testing his loyalty and his love. She also wears it in the Dragonstone throne room addressing Tyrion. It’s become her formal, authoritative outfit and this time the deep red alludes to the fact that she’s out for blood.

Cersei also becomes another version of herself by the time she meets her end. Yes, it’s the same red velvet dress that she wore in the last episode, but with a few key, meaningful differences: she isn’t wearing any of the armored elements and, most notably, she is without her crown for the entire episode.

Photo courtesy of Helen Sloan/HBO.

Cersei Jaime Lannister The Bells

Her metal epaulettes and extra chains are removed, leaving only her gold Lannister necklace, which makes her an embodiment of her house: red and gold. No silver crown or full-body black, which is almost visually marked as an end to that era of her life the minute she leaves the Mountain (who is in his silver and black armor) and flees for her life. The shape of the dress and elements in the detail are tied with her rule over the past two seasons, but in the end, she’s no longer the cold, calculated queen that she fought so hard and so ruthlessly to be. While velvet is a weighty, royal fabric, it’s also soft to the touch, and will carry any marks and bruises it’s subjected to forever.

Cersei’s clinging to the only two things she has left: Jaime and their unborn child, their love and legacy, golden lions on a cloth of red. As the walls of “everything she holds dear” come crashing down around her, Cersei is seen stripped of her power, literally and figuratively, leaving her crushed and buried by the very symbol of that power.

Stray thoughts:

Photo courtesy of HBO.

The Golden Company definitely has some interesting armor to discuss, but I’m going to save that for the mass armor article I’m planning once the series has concluded…but feel free to sound off in the comments!

24 responses

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    1. I immediately loved Dany’s new outfit when she’s riding Drogon, even though we only saw a glimpse of it.
      Her outfit that she wears when she’s on her throne in dragonstone is also exceptional. I loved her pose when she had one arm stretched out, That whole look and pose gave me a very Targaryen/dragon queen feeling for some reason.

      Thanks for your thoughts about the costumes, I love reading them!

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    2. By the Seven, that ombre blood red on Dany’s leather coat…! How sad you could not notice it in the actual episode, but whoa, that photo.

      She is literally dripping blood. I dunno how you failed to mention that, but look at it. The bottom is distressed and red. Perfect.

      Love it, love it.

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    3. *Ahem* and now I have got over the coat excitement slightly, I think the wig lets it down a bit. It just looks too much. I don’t think there’s a woman alive with that much hair. I would know, I elicit groans of dismay from any hairdresser who has the misfortune of taming my extremely thick hair.

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    4. Emily,

      great eye, it’s amazing, it matches the effect on Drogon’s wings where the skin gets thinner at the edges. You can see on the head photo for the “writing on the wall” article on the front page here.

      http://watchersonthewall.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/Daenerys-Dany-Targaryen-Kings-Landing-Red-Keep-Drogon-Season-8-805-The-Bells-1024×576.jpg

      She is literally becoming Drogon.

      ETA I love these articles focusing on the details and the series on the costumes has been fantastic, can’t wait to see the analysis of the armor

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    5. ShameShameShame: She is literally becoming Drogon.

      Yes indeed. The dragon named for her husband the Khal, who promised to burn the steel men, tear down their stone houses, and rape their women.

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    6. Loved the post! Dany’s dragon riding outfit is beautiful and I thought your observations of what details are for her vs. the ones she shows the world was interesting. When she is on Drogon fighting she is alone. Well, her and Drogon, but sill alone. And the aerodynamic quality of outfit really fits how we saw her flying Drogon through all sorts of maneuvers in this episode, not just point A to B.

      The transition for Cersei from semi-armored queen to mother through her costume is fascinating. Your comments about velvet are wonderful.

      Looking forward to the uniforms and armor post and the one for the very last episode!

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    7. I love these articles. The costumes are absolutely stunning this year.

      Emily,
      I noticed it in the photos, too. It is perfect…and disturbing. That riding coat describes her journey in this episode

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    8. ShameShameShame: She is literally becoming Drogon.

      You mean “figuratively becoming Drogon”. Then again, “literally” has literally come to mean its exact opposite lately.

      Emily: She is literally dripping blood.

      Same here. Apologies for not being current with contemporary English!

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    9. Daenerys’ retinue of tailors and seamstresses survive every calamity that Dany encounters , and stay absolutely invisible.

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    10. Loved your assessment of Cersei’s costume. I noticed the vulnerability to it, too, and I think you interpreted the details perfectly.

      And Dany’s leather “Mad Queen” riding coat is just badass and perhaps my favorite costume to date.

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    11. zandru,

      Thing is, it feels like she is not only becoming Drogon “figuratively”, as in by exterior looks only, it feels like she is morphing into a dragon being fully, including character traits and whatnot in addition to clothing. That would be a literal transformation. :p

      Either way, that riding outfit was truly phenomenal. I initially thought the fabric was highly refective, yet all silver for some reason. It looked in the episode as if Drogon’s dark scales, fires and explosions nearby were all reflecting on the dress. Little did I know it is colored precisely like Drogon, with red on the edges.

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    12. Thank you for these posts! It has really enhanced my enjoyment of the episodes to read about the details and symbolism. Michele Clapton is amazing!

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    13. My first thought when seeing her coat was that it was stained with blood, like she had walked through a river of blood. Didn’t Tyrion mention something about Dani wanting to avoid walking through a river of blood when referencing the siege of kings Landing?

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    14. Thank you so much, Hogan!!! I absolutely love the costuming and love your analyses. I’ll miss them when they’re gone. 🙁

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    15. Great read. The amount of detail this show adds to even the costumes is really incredible. It’s hard to take it all in with all of the dialogue and action going on at any given moment.

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    16. zandru: You mean “figuratively becoming Drogon”. Then again, “literally” has literally come to mean its exact opposite lately.

      Same here. Apologies for not being current with contemporary English!

      Allow me to rephrase then. It looks as if someone actually dipped the tatty hem of that coat in the blood of her victims and she’s about to drip on the floor.

      I suspect you understood that from the original message, though.

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    17. Emily:
      By the Seven, that ombre blood red on Dany’s leather coat…! How sad you could not notice it in the actual episode, but whoa, that photo.

      Wow I freeze-framed a shot of Drogon from above and that ombré detail really does match the wings beautifully!

      I did find the color stunning in the episode- the back side that we saw as they sat atop the wall waiting for the bells. Could be my tv settings but I thought below the waistline as well as the shoulders (seemed like more than the cape?) was a rich purplish red – just hauntingly beautiful the way it matched Drogon’s back/tail.

      The dragon scales are a fascinating touch, love the way they are described in this article – will keep that “closing in around her body” in mind on a rewatch – like the credits’ moving tiles showing the change.

      And Cersei… I knew I found her dress much more flattering, now I realize it’s just the removal of the metal shoulders.

      Thanks for the great write-up and photos!

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    18. Emily:
      *Ahem* and now I have got over the coat excitement slightly, I think the wig lets it down a bit. It just looks too much. I don’t think there’s a woman alive with that much hair. I would know, I elicit groans of dismay from any hairdresser who has the misfortune of taming my extremely thick hair.

      Made me look…I would love to see how those braids could be created 🤔
      Gave me an idea…they should have had a pre-battle prep scene (like Winds of Winter) of Dany getting braided up …anticipation/suspense building and an opportunity to show her mental state simmering.
      And contrasting with Cersei…a little more Lena Headey 🙂

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    19. Thank you, Hogan. I reaĺly love these “costume” posts, celebrating the genious of Michelle Clapton. Too bad there hasn’t been much costume/fashion stuff this season. I’m looking forward to your armour piece!

      That said, I cannot believe you missed Dany’s riding coat being figuratively drenched in blood. One of the boldest statements Michelle Clapton ever made.

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