Game of Thrones (2011)

Becoming The Mother of Dragons: Daenerys' Costume Evolution

Like most of the Game of Thrones characters, Daenerys Targaryen has undergone mental, physical, and geographical changes that have manifested in their iconic costumes over time. Daenerys’ wardrobe, however, experienced one of the most dramatic transformations chronicling her turn from a helpless pawn into conqueror and Mother of Dragons which will be discussed in this breakdown.

Thus, in an intricate world like Game of Thrones, costume designer Michele Clapton understood this, leaving viewers with unforgettable, character-driven visuals. As in how Sansa Stark’s looks always familiarized us with the influential individuals within her narrow world, and Cersei Lannister’s family pride and emotional experiences always informed hers. Daenerys’ attire is determined by the geography and cultural expression of those around her and the flexibility to maneuver giant dragons. Plus, her evolution as a ruler and having to increasingly deal with weighing the benefits of being righteous versus being feared.

For The Offering

But as we know, her journey began under the tight control of her brother, Viserys, used as a tool, and essentially a slave, to ensure his Dothraki army to fight for the Iron Throne. Unknowing and scared, her Grecian gowns are shades of ashen lavender and pink and made of diaphanous silk, reflecting her fragility. The dress she wears with her intended husband is translucent and scantly structured, placing her conspicuously on display as a body to be bartered, exactly what Viserys intended. Starting so vulnerable, Daenerys does not stay this way long and slowly adapts into her Khaleesi role. She transitions into practical Dothraki-style woven cloths and coarse fabrics to imply her growing strength and comfort.

Khaleesi of Qarth

Once Drogo passes, her fortitude is exemplified in her ability to rise from the ashes with her dragons and band a small group of followers to seek refuge in the city of Qarth in hopes to gain an army to take back the Iron Throne. Here, she sheds her robust Dothraki clothes for light empire dresses worn by the women who inhabit the city. Daenerys uses their attire to gain trust and authority, though the metal collars and belts suggest she is aware of her vulnerability. Nevertheless, by the end of Season 2, Daenerys’ might is evident as she retakes her dragons and conquers Qarth in a hugging ensemble of molded pieced together leather.

Additionally, it is decorated with a wide band of fine mauve fabric running down the front to mark her high status. At the same time, the dress resembles the Dothraki style to reaffirm her identity as Khaleesi. This Qarth wardrobe moment is also essential in that it carries through the rest of the series. The reason being she decides to wear a coat style favored by the men in Qarth over the diaphanous gown, with her Dothraki trousers and boots underneath. Doing so projected her strength, vulnerability, and psyche. Hunted all her life, Daenerys understands the need to run and escape at any time and must know how to navigate this reality and to be queen.

The Liberation of Slavers Bay

By Season 3, her journey begins in Astapor and Slaver’s Bay, eventually ending in Meereen, where we see Daenerys go through a blue phase. Gathering her Unsullied army, Dany dresses in Dothraki khakis and boots under blue dresses alongside a dragon-like texture, complete with a distinct dragon claw necklace. The dress is replicated several times in seasons three and four. Game of Thrones designer Clapton explains why blue was chosen for Daenerys at this point in her journey: “Blue was the color of royalty in Khal Drogo’s khalasar. It was the color of the expensive dye which they adorned themselves with, more so on special occasions such as Drogo’s wedding. […] Thus, while in Season 3, Daenerys no longer wears a Dothraki-style “cut” to her outfit, she switched to blue colors as a symbol of her authority as a Khaleesi and in memory of Drogo.”Additionally, Dany begins introducing metal collars to her attire to show homage to the slaves she has freed.

Daario Naharis and Meereen

Dany’s attire slightly changes once she meets Daario Naharis, where Entertainment Weekly notes the cutout dress was a way to tell the smitten Jorah that she had slept with Daario. Her most revealing look on the show also marked the turning point in her wardrobe, particularly to a queenlier look for the first time and color choice. Her time ruling in Meereen placed her in a slew of white, cream, and dove gray dresses and continued Missandei’s cross-neck halter style, which was the region’s fashion.

Clapton is quoted saying, “Now she’s got this sense of power and also a sense of immortality. […] “I wanted to give this rather untouchable [quality] to her. The idea behind the white and pale gray is the sense of removal, a removal from reality.” 

Furthermore, V-necks and gowns fastened at the top become a regular detail in Dany’s clothing for an attractive, appealing, and controlled appearance. At this same time in the show, her dragons are getting bigger, and so is her dragon jewelry; it assumes Dany’s growing pride in her identity and power.

After being captured in her delicate gray gown, she escapes and emerges into a pragmatic palette of khaki-colored leather with a double pearl ring on a cord around her neck. This ring is subject to contentious debate since we see it tossed as a breadcrumb for Jorah and Daario in the Dothraki Sea, but the show does not show who gives it back to her. It should also be noted, during this time, Clapton left the show to work on another show, and April Ferry took over up until the season’s penultimate episode.

The Winds of Winter

Now back to the show’s original designer, Clapton came back to deliver one of Dany’s most spectacular costume moments: departing to Westeros in a massive fleet as her dragons fly above.

We then see Dany arrive in Dragonstone, her family’s old stronghold, and her style transitions into those of the major female leaders, Cercei and Sansa. The materials are darker and warlike to go with her defining deep V with a strap.

Embracing House Targaryen

Once with her newfound allies from House Tyrell, Greyjoy, and others, Dany is seen finally embracing her Targaryen house colors—red and charcoal—announcing her heritage more concretely. We begin to see it creeping into the embroidery on her dresses, and the strong shoulders and angles mirror that of her brother Viserys, as well as the dragon chain she starts wearing across her torso. Clapton notes the chain operates as a stand-in for a crown, exemplifying her assumed power.

Saving Jon Snow

Seeing Daenerys in winter clothing for the first time, her unforgettable white striped fur coat. Romantic, beautiful, striking, and angel-like, it perfectly embodies her selfless act and love for Jon. We see another rendition of this coat, later on, only this time streaked with red, and one other time more crimson the closer she gets to the throne. The strong shape also emphasized her narrow waist, not to overwhelm her small frame yet still look powerful.

The Iron Throne

Lastly, Dany’s series finale outfit, where she delivered her reckoning to King’s Landing, saw her dressed in her most stringent and military-like outfit.

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