Elizabeth Joy Glass grew up on the east coast in Pennsylvania surrounded by early American history. A childhood full of fantasy, sci-fi and historical media, inspired her to start sewing and cosplaying. After high school, Elizabeth decided to move across the country to study fashion and costume design at The Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising. While in school she worked on several AFI thesis films in the costume department. Elizabeth ultimately graduated with a B.A. in Digital Cinema and decided to pursue a career in video production and screenwriting, but she still holds a love for costume design and its history.
Today it’s easy to ignore a call, especially with cell phones letting us know an unknown number is a spam call or one that simply isn’t in our contacts. However, what if you answered believing you knew the caller, but the voice on the other end is one you don’t know, but it knows you. It knows exactly who you are.
By the 1990s, slasher films had become predictable with a clear formula that at times was almost comical. Because of this, Wes Craven wanted to once again shake up the genre he had helped create and found his inspiration in the Scream screenplay by Kevin Williamson.
Teens who try to out smart their killers with their knowledge of horror films like Halloween and Friday the 13th was a tongue in cheek reframing of horror that intrigued Craven and set the perfect stage for our new horror icon, Ghost Face.
While today, Ghost Face is one of the most recognizable slasher villains of all time, with ghost face masks and black robes so easily accessible and a Halloween staple. However, he almost looked very, very different.
Taking inspiration from Edvard Munch’spainting “The Scream”, Craven and costume designer Cynthia Bergstrom wanted a very drawn melting look to Ghost face. Cynthia immediately imagined Ghost Face to be black to contrast the mask and create a grim reaper look for him. However, Craven wanted not just a ghost faced mask but a whole ghost with the killer wearing white robes. While Cynthia respected Craven’s vision and created the robes in white she was not convinced this was the right look.
“We put a friend of mine, who’s a big guy, about 6-foot-2, in the white costume, and he basically looked like a giant Casper the Ghost. And Wes still liked it. And Marianne [Maddalena, the producer] and I are just kind of like looking at each other going, ‘How can we get him away from the white?’ It wasn’t until a couple of weeks before we started shooting that we really nailed the costume.”
– Cynthia Bergstrom, Nylon
And nailed it they did when the director of photography, Mark Irwin, stumbled upon the perfect fabric for the robe,
“He said, ‘I can light it in a way where we get that spark and that glint, almost like the glint of the light hitting a knife,’ and that was it, Wes was sold,”
– Cynthia Bergstrom, Nylon
While the robes were being sorted out to look much more sinister, getting Ghost Face’s famous mask presented some issues, especially with the legal department.
It all started when producer Marianne Maddalena simply stumbled upon the mask while scouting locations. The home was abandoned, but someone had hung the mask on a post at the house. When she showed Craven, he loved it wanted it for the film. However, it turned out the mask’s design was protected by intellectual property laws meaning they would have to get it licensed from its producer, the Fun World company. The mask was initially named “The Peanut-Eyed Ghost,” designed by Brigitte Sleiertin around 1992 for the company “fantastic faces” line. While needing to get a license for the mask was not ideal, the they went to Fun World with a deal for the right to use it. However Fun World wanted much more than they were offering, the deal fell through.
Now needing to make their own mask, Craven enlisted Greg Nicotero and Howard Berger of KNB Effectscompany, to create a version of the mask that he liked and didn’t violate Fun Worlds’ intellectual property.
Nicotero and Berger came up with dozens of horrifying designs but ultimately settled on the one inspired by the peanut mask the most. The mask was made and ready for shooting when Fun World came back with a much more reasonable deal. With Craven’s dream mask cleared for the movie, the peanut mask became the Ghost face mask we all know, love, and fear today.
Sleep is the one place many of us find solace and rest at the end of each day. We’re comforted by the fact that for a few hours, we can leave our cares behind and be unbothered by it and drift into our dreams. Even with the prospect of nightmares tearing us from our rest once awake, we know there is no true threat to our lives, or is there? In this week’s Designing Fear, we are talking about the Freddy Krueger costume.
In the early 80’s the popularity of slasher films and their crazed, masked, killers skyrocketed with many studios trying to recreate the success of Halloween and Friday the 13th. However, writer and director Wes Craven wanted to create a new kind of killer for his next slasher film, one that reminded him of the monster movies and straight-up monsters he’d grown up with.
Inspired by the true story of a young Cambodian refugee who had died in his sleep Inspired by the true story of a young Cambodian refugee who had died in his sleep following a string of nightmares, Craven decided that a killer who haunted the dreams of their victims was the perfect concept for his new film A NightmareOn Elm Street. So with some inspiration from the news and the name of his childhood bully, Craven’s new villain was imagined into existence as Freddy Krueger.
While now a pop culture icon that has inspired many other monsters in movies and tv, Freddy Krueger, played by Robert Englund, was drastically different looking from his slasher contemporaries of Micheal Myers and Jason Voorhees when he first hit the screen in 1982. This was because Craven wanted a new kind of slasher villain. One that didn’t hide their emotions behind a mask but was still terrifying to look at. So Craven enlisted the skills of special effects make-up artist David B. Miller to create the otherworldly burned visage of Krueger. While Miller and Craven worked through many different concepts for Krueger’s look, they ultimately found inspiration in an unusual place.
While the inspiration may have been unusual, the result is terrifying to the audience because it causes you to wonder is he real or just a nightmare? With Krueger’s deliciously disgusting prosthetics baked and ready, it was time to decide what he would wear. Dana Lyman was the costume designer on the film, but Freddy’s hat was heavily influenced by an encounter from Cravens childhood.
“The hat was the kind worn by men when I was a kid, and there was a particular man who scared me when I was little. He was a drunk that came down the sidewalk and woke me up when I was sleeping. I went to the window wondering what the hell was there. He just did a mind-fuck on me. He just basically somehow knew I was up there, and he looked right into my eyes. – I literally ran toward the front door and heard, two stories down, the front door open. I woke up my big brother; he went down with a baseball bat—and nobody was there. Probably the guy heard him coming and ran; he was drunk, having a good time. But the idea of an adult who was frightening and enjoyed terrifying a child was the origin of Freddy.”
– Wes Craven, The Take
With this terrifying memory further feeding the lore and look of Freddy, the design of his unsettling sweater not only pulled from Cravens memory but was grounded in science. In 1982 Scientific America published an article about the most abrasive color combination, red and green. With this harsh and upsetting combination in mind, Judy Graham, now known for her sweaters featured on The Big Bang Theory and her popular YouTube channel, was hired to craft her most iconic piece, Freddy’s sweater.
The combo is tough to look at and makes the audience want to look away from Freddy, but you simply can’t because his final accessory is the most terrifying part. With Freddy’s wardrobe shaping up nicely, thoughts of what his signature weapon would be. Craven decided on knives and not just your run-of-mill kitchen knives but a glove of knives that integrated the weapon into his physical appearance to convey a more organic fear.
“Nature is full of stabbing instruments: claws, teeth, horns. I thought the claws of the cave bear must be buried somewhere in our subconscious, so that claw which is from nature or animals was combined with what is one of the most specifically human parts of our anatomy, which is our hands. – So that became the instrument; rather than anything he would leave someplace and then pick up, it was something that he actually had on him.”
– Wes Craven, The Take
Jim Doyle, the mechanical special effects designer on the film, was tasked with creating Freddy’s glove, which wasn’t only dangerous to the teens of Elm Street.
With Freddy Krueger opening up the possibility of what kind of killers could be in a slasher, the possibilities became endless for this new sub-genre of horror, and Freddy seemed always to be able to pull people back for another nightmare.
Turning around to see a figure in the dark and wearing a stark white hockey mask will make any young trick or treater run and scream. Much to the amusement of whoever decided to dress up as Jason on Halloween night. This is Designing Fear: Jason Voorhees
With the spectacular success of John Carpenters, Halloween, everyone in Hollywood was scrambling to create a hit slasher of their own, featuring a new masked killer that would captivate and horrify audiences. Then in 1980, Friday The 13th gave slasher fans a new masked killer to haunt their dreams and destroyed the reputation of hockey masks in society.
However, Jason wasn’t even the killer in the first film of the franchise. The first Friday the 13th, saw Jason’s mother slashing her way through the counselors of camp crystal lake. Only her death at the end of the first movie spurs Jason’s revenge-filled slaughter in the subsequent films. In, 1981, Friday the 13th, part II, he wore a burlap sack with a single eye-hole over his head. While the image is unsettling for the third installment, in 1982, the writers and director Steve Miner wanted Jason to have his own iconic mask.
Surprisingly, a hockey mask wasn’t exactly on their list of terrifying options. The introduction of the hockey mask to film was thanks to Martin Jay Sadoff, the 3D effects supervisor who was an avid hockey fan and had a Detroit Red Wings goalie mask with him. When Miner called for a lighting check, nobody wanted to put make-up on Jason, played by Richard Brooker, so Sadoff offered up his hockey mask. Miner loved it and had the one used in film modeled after it creating one of the most iconic images in cinema.
A tall, description-less figure seems to be following behind you. But, whenever you turn around, the figure slips just out of sight, causing you to doubt your own vision until the moment that figure is upon you, and in those final moments, you regret not trusting your instincts.
The fear of faceless killers gripped the American imagination through the late 1960s and 70s as a seeming epidemic of serial killers dominated the news cycle. As always, Hollywood responded to this fear with a new kind of horror film, the slasher.
While the origins of slasher films can be found in the high body counts of early Agatha Christy films and the crazed killer in Alfred Hitchcock’s, Psycho and the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Many mark John Carpenter’s 1978 Halloween as the first true slasher film. Halloween’s story of teenage babysitters being senselessly murdered by a faceless, unstoppable assailant terrified audiences and established a horror icon, Michael Myers. Halloween’s tale of teenage babysitters being senselessly murdered by a faceless assailant terrified audiences and established a horror icon, Michael Myers.
The infamous killer is now a Halloween costume staple for those aiming to celebrate the horror genre on the scariest night of the year. Michael Myers’s featureless mask and generic navy blue jumpsuit turn one into the perfect non-descript individual that can blend into the crowd and spook unsuspecting passers-by just as Michael did on the streets of Haddonfield.
Carpenter’s inspiration for the character of Michael Myers came from an experience he had in college, where one of his courses took a trip to a mental institution in Kentucky, and he saw a patient with a “blank, pale, emotionless face and blackest eyes.” This description became the basis for the character, but in the script, he states Michael Myer’s mask has “the grotesque features of a man,” but Carpenter knew they didn’t have the money to create the mask he described. So instead took inspiration from the French film Eyes With Out A Face directed by Georges Franju, deciding that the mask should be blank and featureless. Bringing how he imagined Michael under the mask to the mask, it’s self.
With a budget of only $300,000, Carpenter and his team were forced to get creative with making the mask. More precisely, it was down to production designer Tommy Lee Wallace to bring that blankness, featureless mask to the screen. So Wallace went to a mask shop on Hollywood Boulevard and picked up three options. First, a clown mask to reference the clown costume he wore as a child, the second a Star Trek Spock mask, and the third a William Shatner Captain Kirk mask that he ironically picked out because he thought it didn’t look like anyone in particular. Then after Wallace had modified in under an hour to look precisely as Carpenter described.
Spencer: Hey Team! Thank you so much for being here. There is SO much great costume design in the Outstanding Period Costumes category this year. I also think it is safe to say Period Costumes is the favorite here at The Art of Costume, so I know you all have many thoughts! Let’s go around and talk about your favorites and why! Let’s start with Mariana, a big fan of period costumes!
Mariana: Hi everyone! Well, where to begin? I am a fan of period pieces, and this year’s nominees filled my heart with pure joy. One of my favorites will be The Queen’s Gambit, designed byGabriele Binder. There is so much drama and passion in these costumes, which at the same time are accurate to the time period and work brilliantly for storytelling purposes. I love how Beth’s style transforms through the years and cities she visits and tells us who she really is!
Spencer: Two brilliant choices Mariana! Let’s hear from Candice next.
Candice: I will say typically, Regency-era costumes are not my favorite. However, I was hooked on Bridgerton when the first trailer was released.Ellen Mirojnick and John W. Glaser’s take and designs on the era have made me reconsider my previous opinions on the time frame. I am a HUGE fan of the Featherington Family and their costumes in particular. The bright, bold colors and embellishments drew me in. A close second would be the costumes designed for the Queen.
Speaking of Queens, The Queen’s Gambit’s costumes were beyond words. The subtle nods to chess within the costumes were brilliant while conveying the complicated character’s nuances.
This is such a hard category, Ratched was awe-inspiring, and the show with their costume contest saved Halloween during a pandemic while many were unable to be creative with friends. Halloween is my favorite holiday and the costumes that fans re-created during October last year were a testament to Lou Eyrichs’s talent and storytelling through clothes.
Spencer: Ah yes, Ratched was such a great show. I need it to come back like now… Elizabeth I would love to hear your picks.
Elizabeth: Hello everyone! There were so many good period pieces this year, but I really loved Bridgeton, and the costumes immediately grabbed my attention. The Regency era is a particular favorite of mine, and I loved how Ellen Mirojnick and John W. Glaser truly brought the costumes to life. While the overall style and silhouettes of the costumes remain faithful to the Regency era, the designers fill them with color and embellishments that bring a modern, energetic flare to Bridgeton.
Spencer: Bridgerton and The Queen’s Gambit seem quit popular here! Thank you Elizabeth, now I would love to hear from Csilla!
Csilla: Hey Everyone! It is tough to choose just one from this category; all the shows and their costume designers were terrific! But if I had to choose one, my favorite has to be Ratched. That show had such a brilliant color palette, and the costumes from Lou Eyrich were just stunning. I love the end of the 40s, the beginning of the 50s era, and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, so I was excited to see the back story of Nurse Ratched. The aesthetic of the whole show was beautiful but dangerous and scary, and these mixed feelings about the characters were present in every silhouette, even in the uniforms.
My close second favorite is the Queen’s Gambit. I agree with the rest of the team on that completely. Such wonderful designs from Gabriele Binder.
Spencer: Thank you so much Csilla. Well, I guess it’s my turn!
My favorite costumes within this category are easily to Netflix’s Halston, with costumes designed byJeriana San Juan. I fell in love with this show, primarily because of the costuming. She had so much ground to cover, so many decades of research, and brought it all together perfectly. The tie-dye collection, ultra-suede shirt dresses, The Battle of Versailles, Studio 54, Martha Graham’sPersephone – there was so much, and every single costume stood strong. On top of all of the brilliant costuming, Jeriana also worked alongside actor Ewan McGregor to teach him the ways of the designer, coaching him through the process of becoming Halston.
This is Jeriana’s year in my opinion, but I am still in love with every other nominated show in this category – literally, all of them were amazing. It’s a tough call!
Thank you all so much for joining me! I can’t wait to see how this all plays out!
Spencer: On April 17, 2011, the very first episode of Game of Thrones premiered. We are gathered here today to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Game of Thrones, The Iron Anniversary. Game of Thrones has won numerous awards throughout its run, including 59 Emmy Awards, eight Screen Actors Guild Awards, a Golden Globe, and a Peabody Award. Game of Thrones has the most Emmy nominations for a drama series with 161 nominations. Still on the topic of Emmys, Game of Thrones was also nominated for seven Emmys within the costume design category, with four wins. The costumes of Game of Thrones remain LEGENDARY!
Elizabeth: Hello everyone! This is so exciting. I can’t wait to get started and talk Game of Thrones with you two.
Mariana: Hi Spencer and Elizabeth! I am so happy to join you for this Game of Thrones piece!
Spencer: So let’s jump right into it. It’s been ten years since the premiere of Game of Thrones. My first question for each of you, what are your thoughts when you hear the phrase… “10th Anniversary”?
Elizabeth: It feels weird because it seems like I just saw the pilot for the first time yesterday. When I started watching this in high school with my family, it was the show we watched together every week as it aired. Then I went to college, and it became the show I watched with my friends; we bonded over it. Looking back on it, I feel like I grew up with the show and the person who watched the finale is not the same person who watched the pilot.
Mariana: It feels so long ago. I watched it in different places, with different people, at different times of my life. I’m picturing myself here in Toronto two years ago with a friend, running through themed bars so we could watch the live episodes… It’s also amazing how we have grown with the characters and watching them back in Season 1. Arya and Bran were so young! It’s kind of a similar feeling that I had with Harry Potter, but with Game of Thrones, it is way stronger.
Spencer: It’s like each episode brings back a particular memory. Oh, I remember where I was or what I was eating when that happened. It takes you back; I miss it! Game of Thrones is like family to me. I feel like all of my best friends in life were made over a connection to Game of Thrones.
The costumes for Game of Thrones, in my opinion, are some of the best TV costumes of all time. As a whole, what are your thoughts on the costumes?
Mariana: Actually, the costumes of Game of Thrones were the ones that clicked; I wanted to do costumes for Film and TV. When I was in fashion school, one of my friends was surveying your favorite fashion designer, and my answer was Michele Clapton. Of course, my friends were like, “who the hell is this woman?” hahaha… So, yeah, this was when I realized that this was a job, that she did this for a living. I was like, “Oh my goodness, she’s perfect. I want to do whatever she’s doing”. So, working on this article was very inspiring. It felt like going back to the roots of how all this crazy costume design dream began; it is significant for me.
Elizabeth: I love that they build a whole different world with distinct cultures and costumes that don’t exist, but they make them feel so real. It reminds me a lot of what The Lord of the Rings did to bring interest into the fantasy genre. However, they did that not by creating these extravagant or ethereal designs that are something out of this world like a lot of fantasy does. They grounded it in the realities of everyday life; you never see anything impractical. Every piece has a purpose, and all the costumes mean something to show and create the cultures and world they’re meant to inhabit.
Spencer: I almost feel the same as Mariana. I won’t say Game of Thrones brought me into costumes, but I think it laid the foundation the whole time, and I didn’t know it. I remember back in the day when those crazy news articles were coming out about the use of IKEA rugs. It blew my mind; Michele Clapton’s work on this show is just brilliant. I feel like the whole time, the show was setting a foundation for me to move into costumes before I knew it, but Game of Thrones knew it. Cersei Lannister was serving looks that would inspire me for the rest of my life.
It’s time to get started; as I mentioned, there’s a lot of great costuming in Game of Thrones. Let’s celebrate the 10th anniversary by discussing our favorite costumes. In preparation for this article, I asked you both to think of your favorite costume from each season. Let’s take turns and go season by season and talk about our favorite looks.
Elizabeth: I’m so excited about this. I had so many options it was hard to choose just one each season.
Spencer: I’ll start us off with season one, the pilot season. This is the season where we meet each of the three primary houses. We meet the Stark children for the first time and the shocking relationship between the Lannisters.
I love Cersei’s looks in season one because, if you notice, when she starts, she was wearing pastel, bleached colors. While the silhouettes were extravagant, her colors were relatively muted. This first look I picked is one of her brighter outfits. When you first meet her, Cersei is just King Robert Baratheon’s wife. Cersei looks uncomfortable, like she is trapped in a life she doesn’t want. She wears green and blue, which is just not the Cersei that we all know. Once Robert dies, that is when the red starts to kick in. It kind of starts as this bleached red, but as we get into the later seasons, it becomes full crimson and gold. As soon as she breaks free from Roberts’s stranglehold, color comes back to her clothing as she gets closer to world domination.
Elizabeth: So my first design is going to be Sansa.
Spencer: I knew it!
Elizabeth: Yes, it’s the dress that she wears to her first tournament in the show.
When she’s just getting to the south but is still wearing all of her dresses from home in the North, she clearly hasn’t gotten a new wardrobe that’s up to date with the capital’s fashion. I like this because it starts her whole character journey from a very innocent place. She’s just little Sansa, who wants to be pretty and marry a rich prince; that’s all she wants. She is innocent, and this gown reflects that with the rosettes along the front and lavender color. I also love this because, as I was saying before, they add those details specific to the North’s culture that you don’t see anywhere else in the series.
The flowers are these chunky appliques that look like they’re made out of a heavier material like wool or something because they need to keep themselves warm in the North. So obviously any decoration on their clothes will also be heavy; I thought that was interesting. I missed it as the series went on because it’s only northern ladies dressing this way. That’s one of my favorite looks just because it’s like, oh, this is the North, their culture and little sense of being obnoxious but innocent. I like the floor because it’s almost like it reminds me of a rose that’s covered in snow, almost like it’s this quilting kind of rose. It has little beads falling off it, almost like rain; that’s beautiful. I’m astonished by the detail because that doesn’t even show up on the screen; you don’t see that in the show.
Mariana: Okay, so I’ll say that one of my favorites is Joffrey Baratheon’s costume in the scene when Ned Stark is going to be beheaded. There’s a lot of power in his character, and his costume is fully supporting that. There is a clear relation between his costume and Cersei’s; they have the same embroidered lion on the sides as a Lannister symbol. Also, he has an antler’s pin as the Baratheon staple.
In a lot of the men’s costumes, we see doublets and armors, so Michele created a doublet much more modern as a cape with straight lines that make him look elegant and empowered, as the young king he is. I also loved the textile they used. So, from the men’s costumes from this season, I think this one is a winner, also because I know we will be talking a lot about the costumes worn by the ladies, so I just wanted to point out this one as a great costume.
Spencer: I never really got a closer look at this costume before. Looking at the shape of this, it’s crazy good. Obviously, this is a chaotic scene where the presumed main character gets his head chopped off so it’s kind of hard to focus on the costumes so I am glad you picked this one.
Elizabeth: I know, I love that.
Mariana: I also love how Cersei is just like putting the Lannister stamp all over him. When we see them both standing together, you can tell that something will happen with these evil characters, haha.
Spencer: What do you call what he is wearing? I mean, it’s a cape, but what’s the accurate term for it?
Mariana: Well, yeah, I think I would call it a cape. As I mentioned before, it looks like it evolved from a doublet. And in the medieval fashions, they used kirtles which were kind of long vests with openings on the sides, and then underneath, you will have a shirt. Back then, when people showed the garments they wore underneath, it was a synonym of wealth, so I think that’s what Michele was trying to do with this garment.
Spencer: You are such an expert, Mariana!
The Costumes of Season 2
Images Courtesy of HBO – Game of Thrones
Elizabeth: In Season 2, we introduce more of the families and their complex lives, and witness the beginning of the conflict of houses along with the crazy lengths they’re going to in order to grab power. So I have to go with Melisandre.
Spencer: I just have to say, Melisandre is who I associate Elizabeth with… always!
Elizabeth: That’s because of that one dress I have, that’s all.
Spencer: For the audience, one time we went out, and Elizabeth was wearing all red… Red dress, red heels, red lipstick. Elizabeth knew the night was dark and full of terrors. I’m a fan.
Elizabeth: Yeah yeah, so I love Melisandre. She’s just so different from everyone else because everyone else is trying to fit into their house or region of the world, like ‘I’m a fine lady of the South.’ Melisandre is like, I have a mission, my goal is set. I’m just like every single woman when she’s just gorgeous and ready to stand out. I always loved her dress, but I’ve never really liked her necklace. I feel like it’s just kind of out of place, which they explain later on, obviously. But she’s so bold, but then there’s this thing choking her around her neck. I guess that’s because she has this weird destiny.
Spencer: They made it so it’d be more muted so they wouldn’t see it as much because initially, they would use this large diamond but instead went with a more raw type of crystal so it wouldn’t stand out. That being said, it’s pretty noticeable!
Elizabeth: I am a big fan of literally everything else!
Mariana: Okay, so from season two, I’m also going to pick a man; it is Tyrion Lannister. This costume is when he was named Hand of the King. It is basically a doublet with a belt, trousers, and boots. But two things caught my attention, first the intricate detail of the fabric. I guess that’s like leather with a laser-cut pattern, and once again, we can see his undershirt in a burgundy tone. I just loved it so much. And second, this is when his character starts to transform, from being the drunk uncle that no one likes or cares about to the Hand of the King. He starts wearing more “Lannister costumes,” where wealth and power are evident all the time.
Elizabeth: Yeah, I love seeing these because, honestly, it’s something I never noticed before. With the lighting and the way they shoot it, that detail just kind of fades into the rest of what he’s wearing, but it’s crazy because I’m sure it does make such an impact. And it’s so beautiful; I wish you could see more of it in the show.
Spencer: For season two, I picked Brienne of Tarth. You all thought I was going to pick Cersei, but I didn’t, so… HA! I am a big Brienne fan. I love many of her different armors, but I tried to pick just one, so I went with season two. This is the part of the show where we just barely met Brienne. This is a character who is a lady from the island of Tarth. But Brienne does not pretend to be a noblewoman like, let’s say, Cersei. Her entire storyline builds up to her becoming commander of the Kingsguard.
So she’s wearing armor typically built for a man, but I love how Michele Clapton did it. She didn’t want her to have a breastplate that emphasized her body. Instead, she wore male-suited armor, but she created these triangles in the design. The triangle shapes give a more feminine look which I thought was cool. I love the hints of sapphire blue in the armor. Sapphire is the color of the Island of Tarth. As we go further into the show, her armor starts to get bluer and bluer until we get to the very end, when it’s gold once again.
Elizabeth: Yeah, she’s a great character. She’s always true to herself in every single season. But I love that one because I feel like there she is the most herself before the end. She’s like; I’m here to serve my man or whoever; I guess she’s probably serving Catlin by that point. But she’s very focused and driven.
Spencer: I feel like that comes across because Brienne has a very “no-nonsense” state of mind. She’s here because she has a job to do, and she’s not worried about being in a fashion show for flashiest or sexiest armor. Brienne wears her armor to protect herself while she’s killing anyone that challenges her or her loved ones.
The Costumes of Season 3
Images Courtesy of HBO – Game of Thrones
Mariana: Season three showed us not to get attached to any character, and we saw the beginning of the rise of Daenerys Targaryen, which is the character I chose. In this season, she’s conquering and bringing freedom to all these different places. She owns her shit, and she knows how powerful she is and how much good she can do for the world. Daenerys starts wearing trousers and boots mainly to move around and ride her dragons easily, and also, she is wearing long bodices that all have a dragon scale texture. She will carry this along until the end, and I find it so beautiful and thoughtful for storytelling purposes.
I once made something similar in a costume, and I was impressed by how time-costuming but astonishing it ended up looking. To think that she has this textile transformation spread all over her costumes is impressive. She is wearing this costume most of the time with its cape, and it makes her and Missandei look kind of similar in terms of silhouette. They both look stunning.
Elizabeth: I was looking at that the other day; it’s a good one and very her. She’s like, I know what I’m doing. I’m here to free everybody, and I’m the Mother of Dragons, so let’s do this.
Spencer: I love the texture, as you said, the kind of dragon scale type texture up close, which I never really noticed on this particular one, so that’s pretty awesome. Wow, I feel like I’m learning so much today! I’m impressed. For season three, don’t act surprised. I HAVE to go with Cersei one more time.
Elizabeth: It’s who you are, that’s okay…
Spencer: This is one of my favorite looks of the entire series. Cersei Lannister is now basically in control. Joffrey is the king, but Cersei will always be the queen. She’s running this thing, and she looks fantastic. I love this red Crimson color. She’s full Cersei now. She’s got rid of all those dumb Baratheon hairstyles and silly dressed. She now has this metal corset with that matching necklace. Cersei is the boss now.
Elizabeth: I love that you choose this one because it’s kind of like a progression of her paranoia. In the second season, she just wears the armor because they’re under siege, and she has to. In the third season, technically, everything’s fine. Like they’re not under siege anymore, the wars all but over; however, now she’s just so paranoid she has to wear it.
Spencer: Yeah, she can’t let it go. She’s built up these walls. I don’t think Cersei trusts literally anyone. Not even her child who becomes the king.
Elizabeth: So my season three pick is Sansa’s wedding gown when she’s forced to marry Tyrion. This is the height of her being trapped by the Lanisters, and there’s so much symbolism in it. First off, it’s got like this cross pattern around her chest where it’s like, yeah, you’re not getting out. This is it. But then the detail around it is just so beautiful and brilliant because the embroidery tells her family lineage. First off, she’s a Stark, so there’s a wolf. Then her mother was a Tully, so there’s a little fish. And it goes on all the way around it to the back of her neck where there’s the Lannister lion. It’s the biggest one; they’re basically branding her for everyone to see and say, we own you now because we only want you for your baby so that we can take the North.
Spencer: Sansa is a sucker for some symbolism in her garments; she loves it. What do you think about the armor? She has this metallic piece on her hips.
Elizabeth: Yeah, I feel like again that’s probably Cersei’s input of her paranoia because clearly, Sansa did not design this herself; she didn’t ask for it. Everything was just kind of done for her, and she showed up on the day. I feel like that’s just more Cersei being like, yeah, you’re trapped here, so you better armor up because they will be coming after you. But it’s almost a tool for Cersei to be like, look, we’re bringing together all these kingdoms. The Lannister one is prominent because it’s like Cersei has their hands around Sansa.
The Costumes of Season 4
Images Courtesy of HBO – Game of Thrones
Spencer: In season four, the plot thickens as the dangers of politics come to a head. I am very excited about season four because my pick is probably unexpected. So, I picked Oberyn Martell, people probably don’t know, but he’s one of my favorite characters. I also have to do a special shout-out to Ellaria Sand because their costumes work together in a pair. Ellaria is an underrated character, by far!
Oberyn is known as “The Red Viper.” So if you zoom in on the texture of his brown leather, Michele Clapton uses this black stamping to make it look like a reptilian scale because he’s the Viper. My favorite part, he has a hand shield. It’s made to look like a snake coming down his arm.
Mariana: Oh, that’s so cool. I never noticed that!
Elizabeth: Yeah, it’s good. I love these.
Spencer: Then, when it comes to Ellaria, she and Oberyn are always matching. Ellaria brands herself with this signature pointy shoulder piece, which in this show represents power and strength. Ellaria also has that reptilian kind of texture in her costume. So overall, this is one of my all-time favorite costume moments. It’s a shame that this is the final costume we see Oberyn in. I was so crushed when he got…. crushed. I’ll see myself out.
Elizabeth: Good one. All right, my pick for season four it’s kind of like a whole character, Lady Olenna. She is just a badass in her own right, and I find it fascinating because she’s the only older noble lady we ever get to see. She’s the only widow who actually acts like a widow in this kind of world, so it’s really interesting to see how they handle that. For example, you never see her hair. She’s always completely covered, but she always looks so good it’s like, oh, that’s where Margaery gets it from.
She’s house Tyrell through and through with the blue in the gold. And she’s a lot like Brienne where everything is no-nonsense, yes I look good, but you never see anything frilly it’s just beautiful fabric with an excellent cut to it. The rose belts are the most intricate thing you ever see on her, so I just always felt like she was one of the most interesting, dressed because there’s no other like there’s no other old widow, in the show like come on women either die in childbirth or like, go into seclusion after their husbands passing she’s just like no I have family business take care of, I don’t know what you’re worried about
Spencer: Lady Olenna Tyrell is just the best. Unfortunately, Dame Diana Rigg passed away this past September, and we miss her. She was wonderful. The Queen of Thorns was a legend, and she always looked good.
Elizabeth: She was terrific and also, the way she and her grandchildren always have matching fabrics and colors, they look so good. The three of them always represent House Tyrell and knew how to show a united front as a family.
Mariana: My favorite for this season is Margaery Tyrell’s wedding dress. This dress is just so stunning; she looks absolutely gorgeous like she’s coming from an enchanted forest with her power and ambition. It suits her character and her body perfectly; it is basically a haute couture gown. The roses, which are a staple to the Tyrells, were made by hand, one by one, and attached to her skirt and train, creating this gorgeous cascade. It’s so delicate but at the same time powerful and determined, just like Margaery. She has roses and thorns, like as she was saying “keep out because I am beautiful but dangerous.”
I actually found a quote from Michele Clapton explaining the concept behind this design:
“I wanted it to be sort of quite traditional dress in a funny way. But then again, roses can be so pretty, and I didn’t want her to be pretty. I wanted her to be slightly dangerous; hence the metal rose vines running along her dress which subtly are spiked with metal thorns if you look closely, showing her danger underneath”.
Michele Clapton, Costume Designer
Spencer: What a contrast compared to Sansa’s wedding dress that Elizabeth just showed us. It’s so interesting that we have these images one after the other because Sansa was very covered up; Margaery is free to wear seemingly whatever she wants.
Mariana: This is the point in the season where Margaery is in control, and Cersei is kind of losing her power to Margaery, which is, you know, a lot of tension and build-up, so I love that. Oh, and I also wanted to add a little thing to this, Joffrey’s crown and Margaery’s tiara both have the Baratheon’s antlers with some roses wrapped around, merging the two families Baratheon and Tyrell.
The Costumes of Season 5
Images Courtesy of HBO – Game of Thrones
Elizabeth: We are now in season five, where new and old threats reveal themselves, putting our strongest characters in challenging positions. Well, surprise, surprise, I choose Sansa’s wedding dress for her wedding with Ramsay Bolton.
Mariana: Okay, I almost picked this one too; it’s gorgeous.
Elizabeth: It’s yet another wedding dress for Sansa because she’s trapped, again by the Boltons, but this time she’s home in the North. But she can’t be home because the people who killed her family are keeping her here. Unlike the Lannisters who are shouting to the world, this is Sansa Stark, and she’s ours; the Boltons are trying to erase who she is while still leveraging her position as the ‘last Stark,’ but that’s all people need to know.
The gown is completely white with very little detail. Because the Boltons don’t want to deal with the fact that they destroyed House Stark or the possible legal situation with her marriage to Tyrion, they are just like, nope, and with the white, she is the perfect virgin, and nothing’s ever happened here. They just don’t want anybody looking into it. They need people to know she’s a Stark to strengthen their claim to the North but also… don’t think about that.
Spencer: Yeah, I love this; it’s so beautiful. Such beauty, found in such a horrible series of scenes.
Mariana: I think those buttons or pins that she has in the front are fish, symbolizing the Tully family, her mother.
Elizabeth: I wondered about that; that’s not like the flayed man. It’s so tiny.
Spencer: I have an excerpt from Michele Clapton about this dress,
Mariana: Okay, so my favorite for season five will be Arya Stark as the Oyster Girl. In the past seasons she’s been running away, she looks like a little boy, so dirty and messed up, and she’s just struggling so much. So, when she gets to this part of the season, she transforms into this other character: the Oyster Girl, which is kind of her most feminine look from the entire series, I believe, and it’s beautiful. The colors are perfectly picked for her, and the different textures are all working so well. She still has the same silhouette from past costumes, the broad, round shoulders and cinched waist. It doesn’t show her as powerful as she can be, but that’s the point. She’s disguising herself in this town.
Spencer: Oysters, Clams, and Cockles!!!! I just had to say it… I feel like she’s happy because this is the first time she’s not Arya Stark. Arya’s not worried about what the Lannister’s are doing, or really anything at all. She’s just out here selling oysters, clams, and cockles. I love the textile she’s wearing because it’s like she’s one with the harbor at this point, so she almost looks like she’s wearing netting, which is brilliant.
Elizabeth: I was going to say, she never has color except for this, and I feel like this is the first time she’s kind of happy since her family died. I feel like she shows it when she’s like the oyster girl.
Spencer: Okay, I actually almost didn’t pick this look because I thought everyone else would pick this one. I am shocked no one else picked it. I love this look. This is from the Dance of the Dragons episode. Daenerys Targaryen just looks so good in white. However, I find it hilarious that she is wearing white because this a very dusty area. White probably wouldn’t be my first pick. I love the cape and the low kind of cut neckline she has going on. The simple lines in this dress are beautiful. Of course, we have to talk about her jewelry with the dragon wrapped around her neck. It was intended to look like she has a dragon resting on her shoulder, which I think is so cool.
She gives me Cate Blanchett as Galadriel vibes, you know, because she’s wearing bright white, in this really kind of sad town riddled with slavery and brutal arena games. To me, I feel like Daenerys is trying to give off this angel energy, even though she is nowhere close to an angel. Most people buy into this pureness; that’s the kind of the story of Game of Thrones. This evil side of Daenerys comes out toward the end, and many people didn’t see it coming because she was selling this stuff like this, where she’s wearing all white looking like a cute little angel in this arena full of killers. The signs were all there, people!
The Costumes of Season 6
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Mariana: In Season 6, the war between the great kingdoms starts to take some main characters off the map. I’m going to choose Dany for this one. By the end of this season, we have her again in this Greek/Roman-style draped gown, like she used to wear on her very first costumes from the series. At this point, it’s her time to settle a little bit and go back to where she came from before heading to Westeros to claim her throne.
Daenerys is wearing dark colors again, and it is such a contrast coming from the white she was wearing in the past season. This costume is simple, yet powerful and bold. It is the side of her that we were missing for a while, the simplicity and sensitivity underneath it all. Also, in this scene, when she names Tyrion as Hand of the Queen, she looks trustful and faithful. Right after this point, everything’s going to collapse, so it’s an excellent point to start again.
Spencer: All right, so this next one is going to be a surprise to no one. Season six, I’m all about this Cersei Lannister look. It was the first costume I thought of, and no one can change my mind. This is one of the greatest costumes of all time. Cersei just had the entire Sept of Baelor blown up with a majority of her enemies inside, all with a glass of wine in her hand. Consequently, her last living child just jumped out a window. Things are going south. At this point, Cersei is out of, well, for lack of a better word, f***s to give. Instantly it’s like she takes all the red in her closet and packs it all into a cardboard box, and takes it to Goodwill. Suddenly Cersei is all about black and this black leather that she has going on.
I just love this dark look, and it’s all about armor. Cersei is just trying to protect herself at this point and protect Jamie and the throne; she doesn’t care about anything else at this point. Cersei is in a constant state of mourning and wears black leather and silk brocade.
One last thing that’s interesting, Cersei is dressed very conservatively at this point, and she’s done showing skin. Cersei is just completely covered from the ground up, which as we mentioned earlier, at this point in the show you’re going to notice the powerful women will always be completely covered up at this point. This is one of my favorites. I guess I should mention that the piano music from this episode, The Light of the Seven, is actually my ringtone.
Elizabeth: Okay, season six… Sansa. Sorry, but I was going through it, and the character development for her and how they show it is amazing. In the Battle of the Bastards, Sansa finally gets to be her own person, she ignores everything John says, and she takes control of the situation and little fingers army to do what she knows is right. She’s very much done with listening to everyone else because that’s what got her in this mess in the first place.
It’s hard to find a picture of the entire dress, but all of the detail is at the top of it so you can see what’s important. The dress is gorgeous velvet, and she has the Stark wolf embroidered across her chest. I am Sansa Stark, and nobody’s taking that away. She’s wearing a cloak draped over her shoulders with a full wolf hide as the trim at the top like her father used to because she’s also ready to rule. As I was looking through photos of the dress, it was funny. One of the captions said, this is Sansa clapping back, and it’s true. She’s taking control of the situation because she’s literally watching John drive the army into the ground at this point, and she’s like, I’m going to fix this.
The Costumes of Season 7
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Spencer: In season seven, during the most unusual circumstances, characters from all over Westeros must band together to survive. This was kind of a hard one for me to pick, but I settled on Daenerys Targaryen’s initial costume that she wears as she arrived at Dragon Stone. Dany is dressed very conservatively. This is her first step into Westeros.
This costume is all about intent. Daenerys is here on a mission at this point, and she’s not playing around. Her eyes are back on the prize, and she’s just full of intent. If you zoom in, as Mariana said earlier, you’ll see a dragon-scale-looking textile. This look also has a burnt appearance to me, representative of the trauma she’s gone through as we’re nearing the end. Dany has many great looks in this season, and I really could have picked any one of them. Also, you know I love a good cape; this is a good cape.
Elizabeth: Yeah, I love this one because she never wears armor, but with this, she’s like, I’m ready for battle, and I don’t believe we ever see her in a gown again. I think it’s all pants, and long tunics, because she’s here to get things started. Even in the Battle of Winterfell, she was running around and something kind of like this.
Spencer: Yeah, if I were a Game of Thrones character, this would probably be close to what I would be wearing if we are honest here.
Elizabeth: So mine is also going to be Daenerys.
Mariana: You might pick the one I want. I also have Daenerys.
Elizabeth: She has a lot of great costumes this season. In every scene, it feels like she’s wearing something new. I guess because she’s got that Esos money now, she can afford it. This is what I like to call her “Commander Dany” look because this is what she wears at all the war meetings. She’s got her long tunic and pants combo in charcoal grey trimmed in fur now that they’re in the North, But her accessories make this look. She’s got some sort of chain across herself like a lot of commanders in the show have. But it’s very unique. The chain has been made to look like the vertebrae of a dragon’s spine, and then at the top by her shoulder the three-headed dragon brooch. Attached to the broach is a beautiful deep burgundy cape with a dragon scale pattern.
Spencer: Is this the look you picked, Mariana?
Mariana: No, I chose another one!
Spencer: Wow, we got three different Daenerys looks. This is the season of Daenerys looks!
Mariana: Good! So my pick is, I think it’s the last one from the season: Dany’s white fur coat. This is the costume she is wearing when she saves Jon Snow from the White Walkers and loses her dragon in the battle. So, it’s very emotional, powerful, and bold. This coat is pretty much her armor, and it keeps the silhouette she’s been wearing the entire season, which is that of a warrior queen. The texture on the back of the coat, simulating a dragon-scaled vertebrate, is absolutely astonishing. Not only the intricate work put into it but also how much power it brings to her character.
The total evolution of how the dragon scale texture I mentioned some seasons before has evolved fully to the Mother of Dragons. An essential part of the costume is her silver dragon chain that she also uses with the previous costume. Also, the vertical lines on the fur coat, besides the technicality behind its construction, make her look more empowered. As a design choice, vertical lines will always imply superiority, so I think that was a clever choice. In addition, Emilia Clark is a short person, so that detail worked brilliantly for her.
“I can’t think of another time she’s gone to the aid of someone who is also, to some extent, a rival. It had to be a real statement piece. It looks very warrior queen, she’s a vision when Jon looks up and sees her arriving”.
Michele clapton – costume designer
Spencer: I’m so glad that we picked the three essential Daenerys Targaryen looks, that wasn’t even planned!
Mariana: Yeah, every single costume Dany wears is a piece of art.
The Costumes of Season 8
Images Courtesy of HBO – Game of Thrones
Spencer: Okay, so, Elizabeth, you get to lead us through your favorite season of all time. Okay, to be fair, it’s not my favorite season either, but I still liked it. Your point is taken. We can save it for a podcast.
Elizabeth: Yeah, no, I just, I wish they had taken a couple more seasons, and I don’t like how Dany dies. Anyway, Season 8 brings us to the conclusion of Game of Thrones. Let’s get back to Sansa.
Throughout the whole series, Sansa goes from a sweet innocent lady to The Queen of the North. Her coronation dress is so beautiful and so powerful. You see, she takes a little advice from Cersei always to be wearing some armor; however, she incorporates it a little better. It’s not solid armor, it’s more like a cage, and you can see her gown underneath it.
The weirwood tree inspires the gown itself. It’s a whitish-grey color with a pattern mimicking leaves or bark and is full of details. It’s got the red leaves of the weirwood tree cascading down the back, which reminds me of Margaery’s first wedding gown with the roses and is a reminder of how much she influenced Sansa. She’s got her Wolf’s fur to reference back to her father. Also, there’s a very subtle fish scale pattern on the fur and sleeve for the Tully’s and her mother at the top.
Spencer: I also picked this look! Since you brought up what I was going to say, I’ll just read you a quote from Michele Clapton about this stunning gown.
Now THAT is some good quality costuming right there.
Mariana: My favorite one for this season is Arya. I love this costume, everything that she was achieving throughout the entire series comes to one single moment, and it’s this one. She is powerful, strong, fearless, and determined. Arya is finally wearing something that she’s comfortable with, and she is finally showing herself as a warrior and a smart girl.
She is also wearing the “commander cape” across her body, which gives her that power and authority. In addition, we can see some accurate details from medieval/renaissance costumes, like the sleeves, which were not sewn into the garment but tied with a cord. Also, I heard in an interview with Michele Clapton that armors in the north don’t have metal because it will get cold, so they are all using leather or fur, which I found to be such an interesting thing to have in mind and to keep it accurate through the whole series.
Spencer: Wow, we did it! We went through eight seasons of Game of Thrones costumes. That was a lot of fun, but now to make things really interesting… I think we should each go around and pick our favorite costume from the entire show! Cue the dramatic music!
Elizabeth: Oh no, that’s too much. I can’t decide that.
Mariana: OMG! This is going to be hard!
Images Courtesy of HBO – Game of Thrones
Spencer: Well, I’ll go first, but that is because mine is pretty straightforward. My winner is…surprise surprise, Cersei’s black gown from season 6, The Winds of Winter! I remember seeing this for the first time, and I stood up and started clapping. It’s the best. I love the textile, and I love the black leather. I love the armor on the shoulder pads and high neckline.
This is the best Cersei looks in the entire show; she just looks fantastic and in control. I know she’s pretty evil at this point, but she doesn’t really believe herself to be evil in her head. She sees herself doing the best for her family. That being said, her family is basically dead at this point, but you know where I’m going with this. So that’s my favorite costume. If I ever meet Michele Clapton, I want to thank her for this entire show, especially for this specific costume.
Elizabeth: I’m ready. Okay, so I’m choosing one that I didn’t already go over. I’ll explain why. So it’s Margaery in her almost her standard Tyrell dress with the flower belt blue velvet shoulder pieces, gold-embroidered roses on her bodice with an open back. This is her at her pinnacle when she’s manipulating Joffrey and climbing her way up to the top. She was my favorite character that season, and I cosplayed her later that year.
Mariana: My favorite costume will be Daenerys in her blue dress. First, because the transformation the character is going through in this particular moment is crucial for the entire series. And second, when I discovered the amount of detail going on in this dress, it blew my mind. I never thought something could be as symbolic and as perfectly done for a character. So, I’ll say this one is my favorite one, and as I mentioned before, I once tried to imitate the texture for a costume I made. It was a beautiful thing to reference, and I had lots of fun. So, yeah, this will be my favorite one.
Spencer: We did it. Thank you both for joining our first Game of Thrones roundtable. I’m sure we will do more in the future. Maybe at the 20th anniversary? Ugh, no, I can’t wait that long.
Mariana: Thank you again for this! I had a great time; it is amazing to find people who share your passion and obsession with particular series and costumes.
Elizabeth: This has been so much fun with you two, Game of Thrones is one of my favorite shows to talk about, and I hope we can talk about it more again.
A woman wearing an empire-waisted dress made of fine, white muslin in a bonnet decorated with delicate ribbon and flowers gazing across the English countryside is the classic image of the subdued Regency-era woman we’ve all become accustomed to. It’s also the image we expect when a new adaptation of one of Jane Austen’s classic novels is announced.
While each new adaptation has taken liberties with this classic image, from the 1996 Emma movie in which Emma practices archery in a striped pink dress or 1995 Pride and Prejudice miniseries where Mr. Darcey goes swimming only half-clothed; to the 2005 Pride and Prejudice movie where deep earth tones telegraphed the gravity of every situation or 2009 Emma miniseries where costume designer, Rosalind Ebbutt, wasn’t afraid of florals. However, each strives to capture the era’s perceived simplicity through a lack of color or embellishment in its costumes.
When the first images of Autumn de Wilde’sEmma emerged, showing a vibrant and elaborately dressed Emma, it looked like de Wilde and Oscar-winning costume designer Alexandra Bryne had decided to take a lot of creative license with the period piece. With the film clearly leaning into comedic aspects of the story of Emma’s miss conceived plan to use her great wealth and influence to create an advantageous match for her friend Harriet, the exuberance made sense even if it didn’t seem period-appropriate. However, de Wilde was nothing if not thorough when researching her feature film directorial debut.
“I was really excited by how colorful the Regency period really was. Color was how you showed your wealth and your class rank…It does feel like a heightened world, but it is based on historical accuracy.”
De Wilde wanted to create a world accurate to the era but in a way that heightened and showed the complexity of the characters. The extremes of creating heightened realities or ones firmly grounded in history for the big screen are challenges Bryne is very familiar with, having designed multiple films in the Marvel universe and historical dramas, including Elizabeth and Mary Queen of Scots. This allowed her to be ready for the Historically heightened world of de Wilde’s Emma.
“I find the period interesting because fashion journals were beginning to be published. These journals and the hand-colored fashion plates played an important part in the definition of ‘fashion’ as a fast-moving, cosmopolitan phenomenon. The clothes emerging from the fashion plates depended on interpretation, ability, money and confidence.”
Emma Woodhouse, played by Anya Taylor-Joy, is nothing if not confident enough to wear these emerging fashions around the small village of Highbury, where her wealth and status make her an influential figure, and Bryne’s designs center around this fact. In every room she walks into, Emma is clearly the individual with the most wealth and power in the room.
The color scheme for most of the cast ranges from earth tones to burgundies, and where they fall in that range depends on how wealthy they are. The richer they are, the more burgundy tones in their wardrobe, the poorer they are, the more earth tones. In contrast, Emma’s wardrobe, filled with bright colors and pastels, is a ray of sunshine, allowing her to stand out. This distinction between Emma and those around her is most apparent when she attends her friend’s wedding. All attending the wedding are wearing their Sunday best, creating a sea of burgundy pretty much regardless of class. This allows Emma’s pastel pink jacket and bright white muslin to create a stark contrast.
This contrast is also apparent in her relationship with Harriett Smith, played by Mia Goth, a newcomer to Highbury with no family to speak of. Because Emma is convinced she is the daughter of a gentleman, she takes Harriett under her wing. At the beginning of their friendship, the vast wealth gap between the two is evident as Harriet’s wardrobe is filled the earth tones signaling her low social status and lack of wealth, while right next to her, Emma is exuding wealth and status wearing bright, rich colors. As her influence on Harriett grows, her wardrobe begins to lighten up; however, Emma’s rank is never in question as she always has more trimmings and expensive accessories.
While it’s clear that Emma is regularly the most high-ranking person in the room, there are two exceptions Mr. Frank Churchhill, played by Callum Turner, and Mr. Knightly, played by Johnny Flynn. They are her love interests in the film and her social equal which means they can afford to look as good as Emma.
Frank Churchhill was raised outside of Highbury by his rich aunt and is the son of Emma’s close friend. Like Emma, Frank is used to having the money and ability to keep up with the latest styles. He wears bright colors compared to those around him and patterned vests that draw attention to him. When he appears alongside her, there is no visual disparity allowing them to be seen as equals.
Life-long friend and owner of a large neighboring estate, Mr. Knightly is the only other character that equals Emma’s status and class. Like Emma and Churchhill, Knightly can keep up with the latest styles; however, he ops for a more straightforward refined look. Bryne used color in this simplicity to make his wardrobe complement Emma’s and creates equality between the two characters allowing them to interact on the equal ground despite his lack of fashionable additions.
While he isn’t the most fashionable gentlemen, Knightly is always well dressed with outfits that are impeccably tailored and put together. The film reveals how gentlemen of the era create this unique look when it turns the table on the typical period-piece dressing scene.
“I read a diary of a gentlemen, who explained dressing with his valet,” Byrne said. “The measure of a man in the Regency Era was about the quality of his laundry, how clean his shirt was, and how starched white the collar was.”
Usually reserved for showcasing the intricacies of women’s undergarments, dressing scenes have become a staple in many period films. While this scene is not generally in Austen adaptations, because of her reserved writing, de Wilde decided to add it, but instead of giving it to Emma, she gave it to Mr. Knightly.
“Autumn mentioned that we always see female characters dressing, with corsets and stockings. She wanted to push this idea with Mr. Knightley. Autumn ultimately wants the audience to understand how the clothes work and how the clothing helped compose a day for each of the characters.”
While Churchhill and Knightly look like Emma’s visual equal on-screen, some take the style to its extreme. Mrs. Elton, played by Tanya Reynolds, is the first person to challenge Emma’s hold on Highbury society when she moves there as the wife of the vicar. From the moment she first appears, it’s clear that she is a very fashionable woman, but she lacks the class and constant of Emma.
“Fashion can be so ridiculous — and I love that about fashion — and I love it especially when the person wearing it does not seem to be aware in how ridiculous it is.”
Unlike Emma, Mrs. Elton overdresses in an attempt to assert the position she believes she should have as the vicar’s wife. She says that she has the “greatest dislike to the idea of being over-trimmed,” however, being over-trimmed defines her style.
When she makes this statement during the ball sequence, she is very much over trimmed in a bright yellow gown with frills, beads, rosettes, a tiara with a matching necklace, and earrings. In comparison, Emma is her white gown with small contrasting rosettes that match the ones in her hair and jewelry that compliments her overall look. She is demure and refined, while Miss Elton is representing everything she claims to dislike.
While this constant over trimming adds to the general ridiculousness of her character, it’s also a reflection of how she tries to forcibly insert herself into Highbury society. Offering unsolicited help and advice to those around her. She is as forthright and abrasive as her fashion.
While it looks as though Emma’s wardrobe is extensive enough to be wearing several new and intricate outfits every day, this was far from the truth,
“I think there is a danger to over costume. I tried to counter this by giving the characters ‘working wardrobes’ so that different looks could be achieved by putting layers and accessories together in different combinations … She only wears three muslin dresses through the film, but they are played with different colored petticoats, gloves, bonnets, spencers, chemisettes, and jewelry .”
Bryne does this artfully throughout the film and showcases this ‘working wardrobe’ in the first ten minutes. She starts the day getting ready for her friend’s wedding in a simple white muslin dress with a sheer ruffled collar seamlessly added over the top. Emma continues to wear the muslin dress throughout the day; however, she removes the collar to create an entirely different look for the wedding. This new look is achieved by adding a light pink Spencer jacket, cross necklace, fur muff, and lavishly decorated bonnet.
At the wedding luncheon, we see the removal of her jacket and bonnet while adding gloves and a dusty rose overdress. That evening, as Emma relaxes at home, she has one accessory, her necklace, and a dark rose house jacket over her muslin. Through accessorization and layering, Bryne manages to turn a single dress into four unique, varied costumes.
Bryne creates Emma’s seemingly endless wardrobe by layering the muslin dress with brightly colored petticoats to change its color. This illusion works so brilliantly because of the muslin’s inherent sheerness, which allows the colors of the petticoats to shine through transforming the dress to fit the scene.
“So actually, Emma within the film only has three muslin dresses, but with all the accessories and the layers, because the muslin is so sheer, you can put a yellow petticoat underneath, or a pink petticoat and it changes the nature of the dress.”
Byrne has taken a story that has been retold time and time again, managing to create a unique look for a beloved character and gain a much deserved Academy Award nomination in the processes. She and de Wilde have opened up the possibilities for what a Jane Austen adaptation can look like and pulled the novel into the 21st century. Alexandra Byrne’s work on Emma is truly a master class in how abundant research, ingenuity, and a focus on the character can breath new life into classics.
“It’s actually all true to period and I think there is a tendency with period, to make it faded and sepia because we think of antiquity like that. But from doing the research, both on fashion plates and looking at garments in museums – when you look at the fabric on existing original pieces, where it hasn’t been exposed to sunlight (so inside a hem or within a seam allowance) the colours are actually astounding and the colour combinations are astounding. So that gave me the courage to think; actually yes, we really can use colour and as a designer, I think colour is one of our best storytelling tools.”
Hoo, Fawnia Soo. “Autumn De Wilde on the Dreamy, Colorful and Period-Authentic Style in ‘Emma’.” Fashionista, Fashionista, 28 Feb. 2020, fashionista.com/2020/02/emma-movie-autumn-de-wilde-interview-costumes.
Underhill, Fiona. “INTERVIEW: ‘Emma’ Costume Designer Alexandra Byrne.” JumpCut Online, JumpCut Online, 15 Mar. 2021, jumpcutonline.co.uk/2021/02/06/interview-emma-costume-designer-alexandra-byrne/.
Blythe, Finn. “Oscar-Winning Costume Designer Alexandra Byrne Dissects Her Latest Work for Emma.” HERO Magazine, HERO Magazine, 26 Feb. 2020, hero-magazine.com/article/166259/alexandra-byrne-costume-designer-emma/.
Tatiana Maslany as Sarah Manning (Left) and Helena (Right) BBC America: Orphan Black Season 2 Episode 5. Photo: BBC America
While all the separate characters in Orphan Black could be considered an ensemble cast with distinct fully fleshed-out storylines for every character. However, the majority of the story pivots around sisters Sarah Manning and Helena.
Twins by an accident of nature and born outside the program because their surrogate realized what kind of life they were headed towards and spirited them away, Helena and Sarah defy and encapsulate everything they were created for.
At birth, Helena was put into a Catholic orphanage in Ukraine and eventually found by the religious sect of neolution. They abused and brainwashed her into believing she was the original that all the clones were created from and that it was her mission in life to murder them. Trained to murder and live on the run, Helena was laser-focused on her task, so how she looks is not a priority. With little to no color in her wardrobe she easily fades into the background as she wears a combination of what she’s given, finds on the road, and what she gets to use for a disguise. Wearing those clothes till they no longer serve her purposes or they are too coated in dirt and blood.
While she doesn’t dress in any distinctive way, her hair is her signature. Bleach blonde, curly and voluminous Helena’s hair, it’s hard not to notice her. While her hair lets her stand out her face tells you a lot about who she is and what she’s had to survive. However, deciding Helena’s look was a journey that started with inspiration from the Joker.
“I would have to say the most challenging and the most stimulating was coming up with [Sharah’s twin] Helena. They had seen her originally as a sooty black eye makeup kind of a joker. We kind of ignored that – in fact we ignored that completely.”
STEPHEN LYNCH IN AN INTERVIEW WITH GLAMOUR
While the Joker inspiration certainly reflects her mad murderous nature at the beginning of the series they know that this look would not carry through her transformation in the rest of the series and so they turned to religious iconography for inspiration.
“We used the church as our research because she was raised by nuns in Eastern Europe and she’s a damaged character. We looked at the silent version of Joan of Arc … We used Michelangelo and frescoes, and Eastern orthodox and Latin American statues that cried real tears. We just wanted something new, something we had never seen before.”
STEPHEN LYNCH IN AN INTERVIEW WITH GLAMOUR
Another outward expression of Helena’s character that is hidden to us most of the time is her wings. A troubling and disturbing insight into her past, Helena has cut the image of angel wings into her back when seeking to repent or to refocus on her original mission. However, this was not always the image showrunners had in mind for her wings.
“I had been asked to do a tattoo, and frankly it just bored me. We had to come up with something else. So we thought what if she creates angel wings with scarification. So we grabbed our show runner’s assistant and we did our own photo shoot to convince the powers that be. I was really proud of that. It’s really off-kilter and nothing we’ve seen before.“
STEPHEN LYNCH IN AN INTERVIEW WITH GLAMOUR
Helena continues her crazed murder spree until she finds herself unable to murder Beth Childs because she instinctually knows it’s not Beth, but Sarah.
At birth, Sarah is put into the British foster care system and adopted by her foster mother, who moves them to Canada. A troubled youth Sarah becomes an accomplished con artist and single mother who desperately wants to regain custody of her daughter and create a better life for them. So when she witnesses Beth step off the train platform and takes her identity in an attempt to get enough money to move away with her daughter she unknowingly throws herself into Dyad’s path.
In all five seasons, Sarah’s aesthetic is punk, and she doesn’t care or think about what other people have to say about her appearance. Messy hair ripped jeans and leather jacket all in black and grey. Like many of her sisters, Sarah’s makeup is one of her defining features. While the original inspiration for her was Amy Winehouse, lead makeup artist Stephen Lynch decided she needed to be more relatable,
“She is enigmatic and on the run,” … “So we considered those things and probably went a little Amy Winehouse on Sarah the first time. We were about 90 percent there but thought [the makeup] was a little bit much.”
Stephen Lynch in an interview with Vanity Fair
Lynch certainty brought it down to a very real level. While she always has dark eye make up Sarah is rarely seen with lipstick or any other makeup and above all else, she looks tired.
“…I thought we all know and recognize this girl: we see her on the train and think maybe she sleeps there or in subways or on park benches. We want her to be a bit worn down by life. We decided to make it look like she maybe wears a little makeup on top of her old makeup and never cleans her skin properly. There is always a hard, worn-out kind of look to her that we want to reflect her inner state.”
STEPHEN LYNCH IN AN INTERVIEW WITH VANITY FAIR
Sarah is certainly worn down by life as she becomes the main clone searching for answers while simultaneously trying desperately trying to herself and her daughter out of Dyad’s hands. Her make-up and style become progressively less extreme as the stress weighs down on her.
As Sarah is struggling and her style becomes less defined, Helena is finally starting to find new meaning in her life and develop a style.
As Helena is finding her new place in the world she simply wears what she is given. Whether that’s it’s the conservative Mormon esc dresses from the Neulotion cult she’s kidnapped into. A mishmash of clothes from Sarah or if the drab khaki prisoners clothes she’s given when detained by the military. Helena continues to have little interest in how she dresses until she starts to embrace her clone club sisters.
As Helena starts her new life among her sisters and gets ready to be a mother she continues to wear what is given to her. Because she lives with Alison her clothes consist mostly of pinks and bold patterns that permeate Alison’s wardrobe and from here she begins to develop joy in her life she’s never had before she also develops her own style. While she loves the clothes Alison gives her, Helena takes down the color during a little escape into the wood but never again fully abandons color. By the end when her troubles are mostly behind her Helena’s the prints and colors that reflect the joy she finds in life with her family.
After five seasons Sarah, Helena, and the sisters have achieved all they have struggled for and learning that their differences are what gives them value. These differences created by Tatiana Maslany, Stephen Lynch, Sandy Sokolowski, Laurie Drew, and Debra Hanson illustrate the power those differences can have on-screen when created through hair, makeup, and costume and brought to life with acting.
“We do a character workout with Tat and Stephen [Lynch, the head of makeup] and Debra Hanson [head of wardrobe]—we collectively build a character.”
Sandy SokolowskiIN AN INTERVIEW WITH GLAMOUR
In the series the sisters often need to impersonate each other. Here are some of the times Helena and Sarah impersonated their sisters.
“I remember thinking, [the clones] are so different, we probably could have gotten away with different actors who look similar.” He shook his head and added, “I couldn’t see, at all, the same person.” – David Frazee, New York Times “The Many Faces of Tatiana Maslany” by Lili Loofbourow
One of Orphan Black’s strengths is Tatiana Maslany’s ability to transform herself into every clone and make them individuals. While these three clones only get a small amount of screen time they show off that ability.
We meet Beth Childs in the first episode; however, it is at the end of her story that we see, and don’t get to know her till season four. A detective and original member of the clone club Beth is responsible for bringing together much of the clone club, including Cosima and Alison. She also starts their investigation into Dyad leading to the rapid deterioration of mental health as she realizes what they’re forcibly part of becomes too much for her. She wears little to no makeup with messily arranged hair, and her business casual wardrobe is the epitome of practicality that reflects her role as a detective. Because of this practicality, she can hide the fact that she’s spiraling out of control to most of the people around her with only a slightly unkempt air and arrangement of her appearance reflecting that fact until it’s too late.
A loner and hacker, M.K. is on the run from Dyad after they murder all the other clones in her home country. She wears multiple layers covering up as much of her body as possible, an outward symbol of the fears and anxiety she feels from being in hiding. Another emblem of her fear is the sheep mask she often wears when video chatting with the other clones. A nod to the first cloned mammal Dolly the sheep, the mask also signifies her feelings that Dyad is just another disposable sheep in the flock. She sheds her extra layers when she faces her fear and anxiety and takes on Rachel’s appearance to protect the other clone club members.
Tony is the first and only transgender clone we get to meet when his friend sends him to find Beth and discover his origins as a clone. Not exactly on the right side of the law at all times, so Tony’s wardrobe of flannel, jeans, and a tank top reflects his need to stay on the move. His look is brought together with hair and makeup designed by makeup artist Stephen Lynch and hairstylist Sandy Sokolowski. Lynch used rabbit hair to create his goatee, and Sokolowski made a wig that went over only the top of Maslany’s hair, creating a mullet. Unfortunately, after finding out he’s a clone, we don’t get to see Tony again, but he opens up the possibilities of who the clones can be.
In my final article we’ll be taking a look at the clones who hold all the hopes and dreams Dyad had for the Lyda Project, twins Sarah Manning and Helena.
Rachel Duncan grew up not only privileged, with wealth and position within Dyad. She was the only clone self-awareness of her origins and also had access to files of all other clones. Touted as the first child raised by Neolution, Rachel was raised in the Dyad Institute’s care after a “lab accident killed” her parents, the Lyda project’s lead scientists. Because of this, she grew up in a cold corporate environment privy to all the data collected on her sisters. This upbringing turned her into the perfect corporate CEO who only cares about furthering the Lyda project. As she chases, harasses, and takes advantage of her sisters, Rachel never losses her impeccable sense of style.
Because her entire life revolves around the running of Dyad and the Lyda experiment, Rachel is rarely seen outside of business wear. When we first meet her, she is the perfect image of a demure yet strong and ruthless corporate leader. A neutral color palette and her outfits were fitted but not tight, with low necklines and modest skirts that still leaves everything to the imagination. The stiff Silhouettes that project her strength, however, there are always one or two soft feminine details. Whether that detail is a pleat or silk blouse, giving her a sense of softness that she uses to attempt to put people at ease. In her downtime, Rachel leans into that softness with silk and lace lingerie. But all the delicate details don’t mask her domineering personality, which is what causes her to lose her and change her look.
After losing her eye and some neurological damage that causes her to limp, setting Rachel on a journey of self-discovery, her wardrobe takes a dramatic turn. While she’s recovering Rachel still looks perfectly put together by wearing matching silk Nancy Meyer pajama sets allowing her to convalesce in luxury. She wear these through her entire recovery period as they give her freedom of movement as she learns to walk again and comfort as she gets her new eye.
After her recovery Rachel returns to the same color palette but the silhouette changes completely, to cover up the severity of her limp. The fitted silhouette she had used to project power completely falls away. To hide her limp and make it easier to walk she wears wide legged pants, A-line tops and Jackets that hide her waist and hips. She also begins to wear maxi dresses that achieve the same covering up of her limp but also is a symbol of the spiritual experience she believes that she begins to have, softening her personality and wardrobe toward the vary end of the series.
While her wardrobe goes on a journey, her hair and make-up are her signature. Rachel’s hair is radically different from most of the other clones who ten to keep their hair long and dark. But never one to follow the crowd hairstylist — Sokolowski went to great lengths to give Rachel her power bob, needing to adjust Maslany’s hair and make all her natural hair disappear with the wig.
“Every time you get a hairline involved and you want to show it, you are working with mohair, you are working with superfine lace; it’s bewildering.”
While the process may have been bewildering, Sololowski’s design for Rachel is nothing short of perfect for Rachel’s role as the perfect, ruthless corporate leader.
While not as dramatic as Rachel’s hair and wardrobe — Lynch’s make design for Rachel encapsulates everything she believes about herself as he explained to Vanity Fair,
“in Rachel’s mind, makeup is fun and a class thing. She has to absolutely represent the high … someone who has people come to her to do her skin and nails and hair, trying to look radiant with her expensive look. She can’t achieve that kind of radiance, though, because she is kind of dead in her eyes. . . . But I think Rachel would think that Alison is almost vulgar in her middle class-ness, though. Even her haircut says, I am better than you.”
Rachel truly does believe she is better than her sisters in the clone club and with every piece of clothing, makeup and hair she send that message to everyone around her.