Welcome back to Game of Threads! For those that are new to this, Game of Threads is a weekly (I’m hoping) recap of the beautiful costuming in the Game of Thrones franchise, focusing now on House of the Dragon. As a fashion designer, costumer, and fantasy enthusiast, I’ll be giving my two cents on what the characters wore and why designer Jany Temime might have chosen those particular styles for them to wear.
When I started covering the costumes back in Season 7 of Thrones, I had already had years of understanding designer Michele Claption’s ideas for the citizens of Westeros, Essos, and beyond. Starting at ground level with a new costumer seemed a little daunting in terms of world-building, especially in a world we all know so well. At the same time, it would be not only redundant, but “historically” inaccurate for the Westerosi styles to be similar for almost 200 years. However, knowing Temime has done some gorgeous work on the latter six Harry Potter films, world-building seems like it won’t be a problem.
The luxury of having a smaller cast contained to a concentrated area gives a bit more freedom to explore different styles within the characters. For as stunning as Clapton’s work was on Thrones, as the universe expanded, she almost had to make a uniform for each character every season to remind casual watchers of the show who they were and where they were. I was optimistic that in HotD, we wouldn’t be seeing Rhaenyra, Alicent, and others wearing the same style dress all season long, and I wasn’t disappointed. We’ve already had major character arcs via clothing in Episode 1 alone.
Rhaenyra Targaryen takes on the most visual evolution throughout the episode. She makes her first appearance, returning from riding in a black riding coat that is strikingly similar in silhouette to that of Daenerys Targaryen. This serves as a visual tie-in to her iconic future relative and establishes the through line for the audience. It’s less so part of the evolution, than it is for the visual impact and familiar connection. The muted gold dress that she wears next, however, creates a sense of importance, but also innocence. She lives in a world more or less unburdened by people’s expectations of her ruling, so the lighter colors signal a more carefree outlook. But the muted red creeping along the collar and in the piping, and the blood red jewel adornment signifies her suppressed ambition within her family, whether she fully grasps it yet or not.
Interestingly, Temime chose to use gold regalia instead of the silver and steel that became iconic to Daenerys’ ruling uniform. Overall, it gives the characters a bit more warmth, but also shows the establishment of the Targaryens at this point in time. Daenerys would later need to build up her own steel armor to reclaim these days of her ancestors. I am loving the use of jewelry in this series so far. Michele Clapton really only deployed jewels on occasions where they needed to make an impact. I can count on one hand the amount of times one of the major characters in Thrones wore earrings, but here it seems much more realistic that royals and nobles would be adorned.
Rhaenyra wears her hair in an unfussy manner, practical for riding and cup bearing and whatever else she does to pass the time. It seems that the Targaryens won’t use the Westerosi hot rollers for another 180-some-odd years.
Rhaenyra’s closest friend Alicent Hightower similarly begins the season in an innocent fashion. Michele Clapton often described the color blue as a symbol for hope. Daenerys Targaryen and Margaery Tyrell both spent all of Season 3 of Thrones wearing shades of blue in their newfound positions of potential power. But Alicent’s dress most strikingly resembles the dress that Sansa Stark wore when we were introduced to her in Season 1 of Thrones. Both her and Sansa are trying to play by the rules and navigate court as young noblewomen, before their lives get blown up by the powers that be. The blue and white silhouette is soft and juvenile, which at the episode’s end, is visually stripped away. As an aside, it’s interesting to note that hairstyles from the Reach don’t really change throughout the history of Westeros, as Alicent’s is very similar to how members of House Tyrell and House Tarly wore theirs in Thrones.
The connection between Rhaenyra and Alicent is also evident in the book that they are reading. The illumination coloring in the text is exactly the same as the ones they are wearing, signaling their intertwining stories.
Another visual tie-in is between Prince Daemon Targaryen and Rhaenyra. Daemon is introduced wearing silver and black. The cooler tones create a sense of being an outsider within his family, but the subtle gold in the hardware on his doublet connects him to Rhaenyra. To further their connection, he swaps her gold necklace for one of Valyrian Steel with dark red gems, intermingling their colored motifs.
At the tourney, King Viserys cuts an impressive figure in full, saturated Targaryen splendor. Eagle-eyed watchers online were quick to point out the gorgeous embroidery of the legendary Balerion the Dread. However in the wide shots, your eye immediately goes to Alicent, who is wearing a shade of blue so light, it’s almost white. That, coupled with where she is seated in relation to the king, is perhaps a curious foreshadowing. The crisscross on her bodice is notably similar to the motif of the Kingsguard armor, which lets us know that she is stronger and smarter than what she gives off.
Rhaenyra arrives late in a bright red dress with a collar that evokes dragon wings. The bright color is an ironic choice given the bloody events that take place in the following moments, and is symbolic for this turning point in her trajectory. The design of the dress feels almost too mature for someone of her age, but the point is to show how quickly her life is about to change, and the responsibilities that she will now have to take on. She looks, in every right, like a person of power. Her hair is also worn in a lofty crown-halo bun, which will be called back to during her final scene. She is also wearing the Valyrian Steel necklace the Daemon gave her, coupled with gold earrings, showing an imbalance within her future family dynamic.
Daemon’s armor in these scenes is almost comical. If we thought Loras Tyrell’s armor was poncy, he has nothing on Daemon’s helm. Temime said in an interview with Tatler Asia that she wanted his armor to be sexy, and I’d agree that it is. It’s also important for his character to be seen in this way- almost in a sartorial dick swinging contest with his brother King Viserys. It seems that for official business, he removes the wings from his helm, or else he has a duplicate for more practical purposes, like dismembering petty criminals. Because of the lighting, it’s hard to tell if his city watch armor is the same as his tourney armor, or if like his helm, his more ostentatious pieces are reserved for showmanship.
Jumping ahead for a minute, Daemon continues this dick swinging when he is summoned by Viserys to answer for his assholery, he is wearing a deep red under his black doublet, fully becoming their house sigil as he goes toe-to-toe with his brother.
After Queen Aemma dies via C-section, everyone goes into their mourning blacks. Here is where the ties to the later costuming in Thrones is most evident, though maybe that’s also because for the last few seasons, the main cast wore almost exclusively black. The bold Targaryen shoulder is a forever through line. This is a visual turning point for many of the characters, but especially for Rhaenyra and Alicent.
Both girls have visits with Viserys following the funeral. Alicent, at the behest of her father Otto, is sent to comfort the King, and she arrives in a slightly more mature dress than the silhouettes we’ve seen her in throughout the rest of the episode, one that apparently belonged to her mother. Her shoulders are exposed and her hair is worn up to appear more alluring, and her jewelry and dress have accents of green, which foreshadows things to come. Viserys is dressed in a white night robe, which is a visual reversal of power. He is mourning and in a weekend position, as Alicent is in darker colors and is beginning to understand how to take agency within her position at court. (I added this selfie from actress Emily Carey’s Instagram to better show the green color of the dress, which I thought was black on first watch).
Rhaenyra and Viserys speak under the skull of Balerion. Both are wearing full Targaryen costume as a nod to the succession of power within the family. Both are also dressed as if they are suited up for protection and defense, as Viserys informs Rhaenyra of the threat in the North. This is intercut with scenes of Alicent dressing Rhaenyra for her heir naming ceremony. Alicent is once again wearing her “Kingsguard” dress which can be interpreted as both a confidant “Queensguard” to Rhaenyra, or, judging by her expressions, a suiting up for possible courtly battles to come.
Rhaenyra is wearing the same deep red that she wore when she inadvertently rose in the ranks after her mother and brother died. She wears a gold cloak, no doubt a tie to her Uncle Daemon’s own gold cloak, as their stories will continue to intertwine. She is wearing perhaps the most intricate costuming we’ve ever seen in the world of GoT. Dragons are embroidered and beaded in motifs all over, and the jewelry is heavy and full of importance. So much so that the neck piece that is placed over the cloak has the sigils of all the great houses of Westeros in each link. Look closely on the front and you’ll see Tully, Lannister, and Arryn, and on the back, Stark and Martell.
Temime described her inspiration as coming from looking at Moroccan brides and jewelry she bought in marketplaces. I think this works to bring this era in history to an almost Byzantine-esque moment in fashion. Everything has a sense of historical significance, and I’m here for it, and here for the evolution over the coming season.
I’m excited to see more from House Velaryon. I didn’t focus on them this time because they’re sidelined a bit for now, but I do love how Rhaenys styles her hair in an almost crown-like way. It’s her way of wearing the crown that she was denied. Corlys also clearly sets himself apart in how he dresses, as compared to the other men of the small council. No doubt we’ll see more eclectic fabrics and adornments from the various places he’s traveled. Both Corlys and Rhaenys always seem to compliment each other in color and style, as well, showing how strong their union is.
Aemma’s costumes are all in a muted red/purple which is the color you would get if you combined the Targaryen red with the Arryn blue. Viserys also wears a softer black-purple before ascending to the throne and taking on a full black and red uniform.
Otto is, to me, being dressed almost like Thomas Boleyn, which isn’t surprising since there are shades of Thomas and Anne in his relationship with Alicent.
I’m really loving how all of the extras in the background are dressing in such different ways from one another. It really helps to convey the believability of the world.