Poor Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner). She is only a young teenager and yet like most characters in Game of Thrones she has been forced to grow up far too fast. This ongoing character development is echoed in her clothes by series costume designer Michele Clapton.
We first meet Sansa in season 1 of Game of Thrones at her home in Winterfell. Her clothes are simple. The knotted decoration around the neckline of her dresses and the harsher fabrics echo the rough terrain of the North. She chooses shades of grey and blue, matching the murky colours of her environment. The dress she wears for the party held in honor of King Robert’s visit is subtly decorated with small leaves, referencing forests which cover the North. Sansa is the daughter of a powerful Lord, and fits her role well. She is feminine, beautiful, and loves stories of knights and kings and castles. Her gowns are classically cut with princess seams and billowing sleeves. With her party dress she wears a white undershirt. The fabric is soft and fine with thin stripes. The fineness of the fabric indicates Sansa’s status, while the softness reflects her femininity.
Sansa’s wardrobe adapts as she spends more time in King’s Landing. By the end of season 1 and through most of season 2 she wears gowns in the style fashionable for the South. King’s Landing is the centre of civilization and residence of the King. It is more colourful than Winterfell, life is more structured and polished. Thus Sansa’s wardrobe becomes refined to match her surroundings. Her dresses are made from light silks and linen wool blends in pale pastel shades, both to accommodate the warmer climate and to express her position and fragility. Her clothes also reflect her position within the broader power struggle. By season 2 Sansa is basically a prisoner, stuck in a place she hates and engaged to a cruel psychopath. She is helpless, being pushed around like a pawn on a chessboard. Her delicate ensembles symbolise this vulnerability.
At the end of season 2 and through season 3 another change has taken place. Sansa’s dresses return to their previous style in season 1. While still in the fashionable cut of King’s Landing, colours are darker and fabrics heavier, almost like mid-weight upholstery. After all her trials and tribulations, she is now using clothes to metaphorically shield herself. She is wrapped in a barrier to the outside world, her only means of protection. These heavier clothes also reflect her inner might. She has persevered through considerable pain in her engagement to sadistic King Joffrey.
The deep shades of green and purple which dominate Sansa’s clothes recall the dark and wild landscape of the North, particularly the fabric of her scale-like dress which resembles armour. Furthermore the sigil of her mother’s house, the house of Tully, is a fish, an animal which is covered in scales. Perhaps this fabric is also a subtle reference to her heritage, as well as the strength of her mother?
Finally we have Sansa’s striking wedding dress seen at the end of season 3 for her marriage to Tyrion Lannister. Of all the men in Westeros, Tyrion is probably one of the best; in the grand scheme of things Sansa could have done a lot worse. However, no matter how good a person he is, Tyrion is a Lannister, a member of the family that destroyed her life. To marry him and become a Lannister is Sansa’s worst nightmare. And her marriage to a dwarf with a reputation for drinking and whoring is the final blow which destroys all of her romantic childhood dreams.
Sansa’s wedding dress is made of an enormous amount of lush, gold fabric, displaying her wealth and importance as the (supposed) heir to Winterfell. The gown is very structured, with padding underneath creating a wide-hipped silhouette echoing the rigid political system she finds herself trapped in. It is interesting to note that unusually Sansa’s dress is sleeveless so her arms are exposed, bare and vulnerable. Yet the structure of the dress, along with the heavy fabric, also serves as a shield, once again placing a barrier between her body and the rest of the world. The touch of metal, seen at her hips, further strengthens this imagery of armour.
Sansa’s costumes are an amalgam of her location, her role in society, her personality, and the cruel fate she has suffered. Her character has matured significantly over the past three seasons of Game of Thrones.
By Katy Werlin
Katy is a fashion and textile historian currently based in New York City. She specializes in the interplay of politics, philosophy, dress, and design in eighteenth-century Europe and the history of ballet costumes. She is also a lifelong fan of movies and their costumes. One time she got to try on a stole once worn by Marlene Dietrich and it was amazing. She writes about fashion history on her blog, The Fashion Historian.
NOTE: This analysis was based solely on the television show with no reference to the Game of Thrones series of books.
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