A Game of Clothes

A sartorial examination of the differences between the first season of Game of Thrones, and the first novel in the A Song of Ice and Fire series

Confession that will shock absolutely nobody that knows me: I am a huge fantasy nerd. When I heard four and a half years ago that HBO was adapting George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series, I became so excited about the idea of a weekly cable fantasy show, despite never having actually read the books. I tracked down the first four titles in the series, finishing them in record time to become well-versed enough in this fictional universe by the time the pilot episode of Game of Thrones premiered.

When turning x-thousand pages of text into a TV show, there are going to be some changes. Having had these books occupy my headspace before the show aired, I had very clear ideas of how things should look—specifically, the clothes. Martin describes a lot of elaborate doublets and gowns covered in jewels, which brought to my mind Elizabethan fashions. The show’s costume designer Michele Clapton made a conscious decision to mix influences and silhouettes in way that didn’t exist in the books. The showrunners wanted to make a world that was rooted in reality, so different eras were combined in such a way as to create something completely unique. But it wasn’t enough for me to just watch these costumes on the screen—oh, no. As an obsessed fan that loves overanalyzing clothes, I had to pull out my books and figure out what a few differences in costume choices can mean for these characters.

“They dressed [Danaerys] in the wisps that Magister Ilyrio had brought up, and then the gown, a deep plum silk to bring out the violet in her eyes. The girls slid the gilded sandals onto her feet, while the old woman fixed a tiara in her hair, and slid golden bracelets encrusted with amethysts on her wrists. Last of all came the collar, a heavy golden torc emblazoned with ancient Vallyrian glyphs.”

Martin’s costume descriptions are typically pretty brief, so an outsider to the fandom would be forgiven for assuming he isn’t a stickler to detail. (They would be proven wrong by his extensive depictions of meals alone—squirrel stew, anyone?). One thing he does manage to include, however, is references to jewels. Most of these are absent in the TV version, probably because the show spent all their budget on weapons and fake bloods, leaving little for realistic looking baubles. (Seriously, whoever had stock in Fake Blood Enterprises Inc. would be loaded off this show alone.) With little to go on regarding the silhouette, Clapton went with a style she called “Grecian,” evident by the cut and draping. I’m mostly impressed that she was able to find a way to make a dress out of wisps. While plum it ain’t, Danaerys looks like she could float away in a fog.

“Sansa was dressed beautifully that day, in a green gown that brought out the auburn of her hair, and she knew they were looking at her and smiling.”

Sansa wears this dress for most of the show’s first season. The coarseness of the fabric and details on the neck tend to be typical dress of the North of the Westeros (where she is from) compared to the South (the new home to which she is trying to adapt). Her season one wardrobe is, to me, a huge missed opportunity—Sansa is one of the few characters who cares about her clothes a lot, so her lack of costume changes, especially during major events, probably wouldn’t fly with the character. A High Lord’s daughter would absolutely have the money to get a few new fancy duds. In other words: way to cheat us out of some costume porn, TV show.

You’ll notice that Sansa’s sister Arya is also wearing her casual dress, pretty much the only dress she ever wears in the show beyond the pilot. Arya’s clothing is rarely described in the first book, as she’s usually dirty and dressed like a boy. Yet in this dress, her neck detailing is messier and more haphazard than her sister’s, and she has cut off her dress’s elaborate dagged sleeves, making it easier to run around and wield a sword. The girl’s priorities are clear.

“[Ser Loras’s] plate was intricately fashioned and enameled as a bouquet of a thousand different flowers, and his snow-white stallion was draped in a blanket of red and white roses. After each victory, Ser Loras would remove his helm and ride slowly around the fence, and finally pluck a single white rose from his blanket and toss it to some fair maid in the crowd.”

This interpretation was not what I was expecting, though I say that not as a criticism. The flower motifs are still there, but they’re way more elaborate than I had imagined, especially that helmet. When I watched this episode, I had to know: did real knights wear armour this elaborate and crazy for tournaments? Research tells me that yep, they absolutely did.

“The queen wore a high collared black silk gown, with a hundred red rubies sewn into her bodice, covering her from neck to bosom. They were cut in the shape of teardrops, as if the queen were weeping blood.”

The show made a conscious decision not to have black be the colour of mourning in Westeros, despite it being so in the books. My theory is that they didn’t want to confuse viewers with the Night’s Watch, a military order that are only allowed to wear black. Sadly, the viewer got cheated out of seeing bloody teardrop rubies (which, not to be morbid, but DREAM FUNERAL ATTIRE).

Clapton has described Cersei’s gowns as kimono-inspired, with a medieval cut, creating a sartorial fusion unique to this character. She is usually the only one who has her sleeves slashed in a way so that her arms are visible. The necklace here is interesting, because it’s almost a Jazz Age-inspired piece, and wouldn’t look out of place on a flapper.

“By the time he was dressed, his squire had laid out his armour, such that it was. Tyrion owned a fine suit of heavy plate, expertly crafted to fit his misshapen body. Alas, it was safe at Casterly Rock, and he was not. He had to make do with some oddments from Lord Lefford’s wagons: mail hauberk and coif, a dead knight’s gorget, lobstered greaves and gauntlets and pointed steel boots. Some of it was ornate, some plain; not a bit of it matched, or fit as it should. His breastplate was meant for a bigger man; for his oversize head, they found a huge bucket-shaped greathelm topped with a foot long triangular spike.”

It doesn’t really make sense that Tywin Lannister would have had Tyrion’s suit of armour with him on the battlefield, since he had no way to know that Tyrion was going to meet him there, and that Tyrion would actually be forced to fight in any battles, but I’m willing to suspend my belief a little bit there. (Even though come on. Am I the only one paying attention?) My guess is that they couldn’t find a way to make realistic, obviously mismatching armour work in a way that wouldn’t suck for the actor to wear. Let’s just pretend that Tywin Lannister was a Boy Scout back in his younger days and taught to “always be prepared,” keeping a spare suit of armour in his travel bag.

“Lord Eddard stood on the High Septon’s pulpit outside the doors of the sept, supported between two of the gold cloaks. He was dressed in a rich grey velvet doublet with a white wolf sewn in the front in beads, and a grey wool cloak trimmed with fur, but he was thinner than Arya had ever seen him before…Clustered around the doors of the sept, in front of the raised marble pulpit, were a knot of knights and high lords. Joffrey was prominent among them, his raiment all crimson, silk and satin patterned with dancing stags and roaring lions, a gold crown on his head. His queen mother stood beside him in a black mourning gown slashed with crimson, a veil of black diamonds in her hair…”

They don’t bother dressing Ned Stark in any finery in the show; this outfit is the one he gets arrested in. What Joffrey is wearing interests me more. What the TV adaptation lacks in coat-stags, it makes up for in his cloak/doublet hybrid. The costume designers finally throw us a bone, as Cersei is also wearing what I like to call her “I’m a Lannister, bitches” dress.

Sansa is in her southern gown. The silk is finer than her other dress, and the wrap style cut with the huge dagged sleeves is one that is only seen in south of The Neck or in King’s Landing. Her hair is also now worn in the southern style, which is reminiscent of Roman hairstyles. However, unlike other instances when she wears this dress, they have added a metal belt to the ensemble. Metal belts tend to be worn by Cersei (she also has one here). Clapton has said she likes to put her in them because they remind her of armour.

“Dany braised [Khal Drogo’s] hair and slid the silver rings onto his mustache and hung his bells one by one. So many bells, gold and silver and bronze. Bells so his enemies would hear him coming and grow weak with fear. She dressed him in horsehair leggings and high boots, buckling a belt heavy with gold and silver medallions about his waist. Over his scarred chest she slipped a painted vest, old and faded, the one Drogo had loved best. For herself she chose loose sandsilk trousers, sandals that laced halfway up her legs, and a vest like Drogo’s.”

Dany dresses in the Dothraki style in the books to show solidarity with her dead husband—they’re a matching pair. In the show, she’s dressed in another Grecian-inspired gown similar to the one that she wears on her wedding day, which brings us full circle. Her choice of a gown also makes her look more like a queen, and less like a Khaleesi (the title referring to the wife of the khal, which is—oh, go watch the show already). But what I find most compelling is the way her dress evokes Botticelli’s “The Birth of Venus” in the closing shot, with Danaerys naked in the ashes of the pyre and the dragons hanging in strategic places. It’s a lovely visual treat that reminds the viewers that sometimes watching a filmed adaptation can be worth it. Even if there is a sorry lack of rubies.

illustration // Emily Taylor

There’s Something About Millicent

Cherie Burns follows the life and fashion of Standard Oil heiress and muse to many, Millicent Rogers

As a child, Millicent Rogers probably had no idea how much influence she would have on fashion and style in the early 20th century. She was rather sickly, known for being shy, and spent most of her time reading books and trying to avoid falling ill—a rather mundane beginning for the glamorous flapper and woman-about-town that Rogers would later become. She seems to have lived the American Dream: her family was new money (her grandfather was a grocery clerk turned whaler turned American industrialist) and Rogers herself was an heiress it-girl, an American archetype as eternal as the cowboy. She came to represent quintessential American style before people even knew what that was, mixing high-fashion and traditional garments from around the world and wearing denim long before it was considered fashionable to do so. She would have looked right at home in a Ralph Lauren ad from the ’70s.

Cherie Burns’s book is a fairly standard biography—there are randomly dispersed facts chronicling the miniscule details of various parties, mansions, tours of Europe, mentions in Vogue, and all of her lovers and husbands (though all this information is not always presented in an organized fashion). And of course, the book covers all of the designers she wore and influenced–Schiaparelli, Charles James, and Rudolph Valentino, to name a few.

One of the more fascinating parts of the book is about Rogers’s war years, when she hosted events for the USO and other relief groups. At one point she worked for the State Department, which was chronicled in the pages of Vogue, like so much of her life. Rogers had no shortage of love affairs in Washington—while she was there she met both Roald Dahl and Ian Fleming. She was really into Brits in uniform at the time. She worked incredibly hard during the war, and her connections and creativity served her well, but because she was an heiress she didn’t get paid (even though she actually didn’t have as much money as people thought).

I was intrigued by Rogers’s decision to move to Taos, New Mexico in the later part of her life, and her involvement in the Native community there. At the end of the ’40s, Rogers was introduced to the American southwest by artist friends and became obsessed with the place, particularly the sartorial culture of the Pueblo Indians. She quickly established herself as what may be called a Native rights advocate, and introduced their traditional jewelry and fashions to the outside world. In 1947 she left her palatial mansions on the coast to lead a simpler life closer to the Pueblo. She died in New Mexico in 1950, when her poor health finally caught up with her.

For me, Searching for Beauty raised a lot of interesting questions about fashion and appropriation, though that is not the book’s intent or something it addresses explicitly. Rogers was well known for appropriating the native dress of many of the countries and places she visited, starting with her European sojourn in her late teens/early twenties and ending with the Pueblo Indians. Rogers was a study in contradictions on this point—on the one hand, she often bought these items from the people who wore them, and understood their significance (she was known for going to the ceremonies of the Taos in proper ceremonial dress), but then she had them sent to European designers like Schiaparelli to be copied. The Millicent Rogers museum, which is made up of Rogers’s fantastic collection of Native American jewelry, art, and textiles, is known for preserving these artifacts. Still, she was one of the first people known to make appropriating clothes from other cultures fashionable, and I couldn’t help but think that Rogers, without intending to, contributed to the mainstreaming of First Nations dress. Did she have a hand in young white people wearing headdresses and major fast fashion corporations making offensive “Navajo” underwear? No one seems to have written a really great book about this, though the internet provides a couple of good options for those who want to know more: Native Appropriations and a Native fashion magazine, Native Max.

photography // Brianne Burnell

Silent Movie

Megan Wornette rocks a look a mime would love

What inspired this outfit?
Well, I’ve been looking for an excuse to wear this beret for a while now, and this is pretty much the perfect dress for it. It wasn’t a particularly cerebral decision.

Tell me about one of the items you are wearing.
This dress is the first thing I bought from Target last month! $25! And it breaks like all the fat lady rules – peplums, stripes, body con – so of course I love it. SUCK IT FAT LADY RULES.

What is the best book to read in this outfit?
The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern.

What style icon would wear this outfit?
If Marcel Marceau were a lady, he’d be all over it.

outfit credits // dress by Mossimo, beret vintage, sunglasses from Smart Set, shoes by Aetrex, earrings unknown but probably somewhere like Zellers cuz that’s how I roll.

Japanese? Yes Please!

The best of Tokyo Autumn/Winter 2013/14 Fashion Week

Tokyo Fashion Week took place the same week as our fashion week here in Toronto (TWINSIES) last month. Here in Canada, the weather was still appropriately chilly enough to keep us in the spirit of the Fall/Winter collections that were being shown, though the story in Tokyo was a bit different with the sakura trees in full, pink bloom.

Tokyo fashion is known for a lot of things, most notably for not being boring, and I have to say, in this regard the collections did not disappoint. Streetwear tends to reign supreme, and you can always expect to see a lot of playing with pattern, colour, and proportion. Most importantly, Japanese designs are always fun.


First of all, how could you not like this collection based on the name alone? Japanese brands always have the most delightful names (there is a store in Shibuya called Nude Trump, which is probably my favourite). MR. GENTLEMAN is the brainchild of two Tokyo veteran designers, Takeshi Osumi from menswear brand PHENOMENON and Yuichi Yoshii, who is known for organizing the VERSUS TOKYO shows.

The look at MR. GENTLEMAN is classic English prep with a twist. The preppy look is pretty popular in Asia, but because it doesn’t have the same cultural connotations as it does in the West, Asian designers tend to have a lot more fun with it. In this collection the tweed shorts are paired with matching boutonnieres on the jackets, and dress shirts have boxy, high collars.
You’ll find the full collection here.


Pronounced “Facet-asm,” Facetasm has become one of the more well known Tokyo fashion brands since its debut in 2007. Facetasm is classic Japanese streetwear through and through. The A/W 2013 collection is pretty futuristic looking, but some of the skirts almost look like pleated kimono. This kind of haphazard layering is very Japanese. I’m pretty sure I could never pull it off, but here it looks amazing.

Leather and shearling manskirts make up the menswear side—this is not the only collection that seemed to have them. I officially call a trend! Facetasm’s certainly look like they’ll keep your junk warm and cozy (feel free to use this in your marketing copy, Facetasm).
The full collection can be viewed on Style.com.

Gut’s Dynamite Cabarets

See what I mean about the names? I don’t think I would want to go to a gut’s dynamite cabaret though. Sounds messy. Gut’s Dynamite Cabarets is notorious for its drag queen following. It’s definitely a fun, edgy show, and A/W does not disappoint: love all the fur and patterns. I think some of those coats might even be warm enough to survive a Canadian winter. I am also in lusting for the tights in this show (LEOPARD PRINT!). Japan has the best patterned tights ever, and this will not be the only show in which you see them. I even know where to buy them, but unfortunately I am neither short nor thin. Someone please buy some and make me insanely jealous.
See the full collection at Women’s Wear Daily.


Dresscamp really played with pattern and structure, and this collection has some really amazing detailing that only becomes apparent up close (this dress, for example, whose skirt is actually made up of small, laser cut and edged pieces of fabric). Leopard print is also heavily featured. For women, flower inspiration is evident (a bit weird for a winter collection, but I guess that’s probably the time of year when you need to look like a plant the most). In menswear, the military, both past and present, seems to be heavy influences.
See the full collection at Fashioninsing.


Mercibeaucoup’s fall 2013 collection is for the free spirit in all of us who doesn’t believe in tight pants, or tops, or really feeling constrained by their clothing at all. This free spirit is also obsessed with soccer. This is an extremely Japanese collection, with a typically Japanese sensibility towards both prep and streetwear. And while it’s not really my personal style, I definitely want this graphic, oversized sweater in my closet.

See the full collection at Style.com.


Anrealage definitely falls under the spectrum of classic and pretty, but regardless I absolutely love this collection (especially the dresses that are inspired by kimono). Also love? The wigs made out of paper. This is also one of the few collections where the models are wearing a heel. It’s a very low heel too. I’m not sure why (maybe it’s because everyone has to walk and commute so much), but flats or platforms rule the Tokyo streets more than heels do, and that’s been reflected in pretty much all the fall collections. See the full collection at Fashionising.

Jotaro Saito

Jotaro Saito is one of Japan’s youngest kimono designers (he launched his first collection at 27), and he comes from a long line of traditional Japanese fashion artists. His grandfather was a dye artist, and his father is also a kimono designer. Jotaro Saito takes a different, more modern approach to kimono design, however. Saito aims to design “kimono as fashion matched with modern space.” His kimono definitely are cut and patterned in a much sleeker, more modern style (and definitely with a bit more leg showing). I particularly love the patchwork look on the women’s kimono, and the braided belts on the men’s.

See the full collection here.


Pretty much all of the jackets in this collection are perfect and I want all of them on me right now, but especially the blazer-y one. No wait, especially this sheer, cape-y one. And the flower peplums! So much good tailoring at Araisara. I mean…great? Too busy coveting to care.

See the full collection at Fashionising.

motonari ono

Motonari ono’s fall/winter collection is also completely killing it on the coat and blazer front. While it is largely warmer in Japan than in North America in the winter, but I’m still not sure why we’re seeing so many tailored shorts with bare legs looks across a lot of the collections. At motonari ono, they’re small and floral, and wouldn’t look out of place on a Mori Girl (albeit a very high fashion one).

See the full collection here.

Christian Dada

It’s like The Crow decided to give up revenging and became a fashion designer. This is a compliment, because there are GIANT BLACK WINGS ON THE SHOES. HOW IS THAT NOT THE BEST THING EVER? This collection does not give a fuck about looking pretty, and you’ve got to love that.

See the full collection at Fashionising.