Last night we watched the season two finale of Game of Thrones in all its mind-f*cking glory. (Daenerys got her dragons back, FTW!)
Anyway,we haven't mentioned this much before but...here at Fashionista we're obsessed with G of T. The compelling plot, ass-kicking women characters (say what you want about Cersei, but she is no wallflower) and the absolutely stunning styling in the series have all kept us hooked.
So we got on the phone to chat with Kevin Alexander, the show's hair designer, and Michele Clapton, the costume designer, both of whom were nominated for Emmys for their work on the show. Needless to say, we had tons of questions for them. From Daenarys' (aka Khaleesi, aka the Mother of Dragons) killer platinum braids to that crazy breastplate Cersei wore while drinking herself into a stupor during the siege of King's Landing, we got all the behind-the-scenes secrets. Want to know how they make the characters so disgustingly dirty? We found out. Wondering how many wigs are used and what they cost? (Hint: A lot and a lot.) There's even an awesome Bjork/Alexander McQueen connection.
So read on for all the scoop. Winter is coming, people. (PS: There are spoilers in here--you've been duly warned.)
The Costume Inspiration:
The costumes in Game of Thrones are epic. Because of all the different locations and climates, outfitting all the characters is a major undertaking. While the show has an obvious medieval vibe, it’s still a fantasy set in a fictional time and place, so Michele Clapton, the costume designer, took inspiration from lots of sources to get the unique look of each locale.
Clapton said that besides medieval England and Europe, she looked at all different tribes and cultures. The Bedouins inspired the look of the Dothraki, the desert oasis of Qarth owes a nod to Persia and the Middle East, and the wildlings north of the Wall wear their fur the same way as the Inuit tribes (that would be fur side in, skin side out). She was also inspired by Japanese and Persian armor, but you won't find literal translations in the series.
Many of the wardrobe looks come from Clapton’s imagination, rather than directly from the book. “Sometimes the descriptions [from the book] don’t translate well to screen, “ she said. “If we took them literally it would be a very different look--too extreme.” For example, in the book, the doomed King Renly had a posse of rainbow warriors (gay symbolism?) but she didn’t think that would work onscreen.
Next up: The hair is a big deal...
Hair Inspiration and Symbolism:
Kevin Alexander, the hair designer, sticks pretty religiously to the hair references in the book--there are many and they're all rather symbolic. You'll recall that hair color was a key plot line when Ned figured out that the blonde Joffrey was the child of Cersei and Jaime's (eww) incestuous union rather than the king's son. Red heads also figure prominently, from the auburn Catelyn Stark and her offspring, to that smoke monster-birthing Malisandre and the sassy wildling Ygritte.
So besides the books, Alexander's research led him to the pre-Raphaelite artists, and painters like John William Waterhouse and Dante Gabriel Rossetti. And what about those killer braids?
"They come out of our imagination actually," Alexander said. The braids all started with the Dothraki, and then when Daenerys became one of them, she adopted a more plaited style, and the rest is history.
So what's involved in all the hairstyles?
Wigs: Alexander estimates that 20-30 wigs are in use on the show; show principals like Daenerys (Emilia Clarke), Cersei (Lena Headey), Malisandre (Carice van Houten), and Margeary (Natalie Dormer) all wear wigs, which can cost up to $7,000 each. Why so expensive?
Alexander explained that the price shoots up the longer you go--and some of the wigs are 24-28 inches long. The human hair is sourced from India, Europe, and Russia. Plus Cersei's wig doesn't have any chemical processing at all. The wig maker sourced individual colors and strands of hair, which were then individually knotted onto a lace cap for her golden blonde blend. The wigs are then carefully maintained; at night they're put on custom made blocks in the shape of the actresses' heads. They treat it like actual hair. Every few days they're washed, styled and set--the team uses Wella products, and Cloud Nine rollers and The Wand.
Color: Besides wigs, Alexander and his team use some pretty impressive color processing on the cast. Sansa (Sophie Turner) has naturally baby blonde hair. To get that Tully red, Alexander uses a mix of four different watercolor shades. Since Turner was only 13 or 14 when she started on the show, Alexander didn't want to use peroxide on her. The color lasts about ten days and needs to be touched up constantly. Ditto for King Joffrey (Jack Gleeson), whose naturally dark hair needs touching up every single day he shoots to keep it Lannister light. (Joffrey's hair is also kept short, unlike some of the other dashing knights, because it makes him look younger.)
Daenerys Targaryen's Hair and Wardrobe Journey:
Daenerys has arguably had the most significant personal journey, and it's reflected in her wardrobe and hair in a very deliberate way. She's married in a flowy, diaphanous wedding gown, then adopts the dress of the Dothraki people as she starts to fall in love with her husband, Khal Drogo--those costumes featured a lot of skins and hand weaving. One piece is even made out of fish skin that Clapton thought looked like dragon scales. After the journey across the desert to Qarth, out of courtesy Daenerys accepts some Qarth-style dresses. As she gets stronger and more sure of herself, she adopts the men's Qarthian coat style over a gold corset and her Dothraki leather pants, completing her style evolution. "She needs to have a strength to her but also vulnerability," Clapton said. "We’ll take her [look] even further as she finds herself."
And that hair! Here's how the magic happens...
Clarke, whose hair is dark, spends two hours in the chair getting her tresses transformed into her Mother of Dragons persona. The team braids her hair, puts on a bald cap, then styles her wig.
Much like her wardrobe styling, her hair has gone through a transformation of sorts, too. She started off long and loose, adopted the braided style of the Dothraki (and rocked the swooniest braids EVER), then went back to a looser look in Qarth. We're hoping for some impressive updos as she starts wielding her dragon powers more.
Next up...how they make everyone look like they haven't washed their hair and clothes for weeks.
How Do They Make Everyone Look So Dirty and Disgusting?:
It takes a lot of work to make the characters look like they never bathe. Alexander uses multiple products like Lee Stafford, VO5 Matte Clay, Fudge, and Jonathan Dirt products to get that "I'm a peasant of the North" look. His secret ingredient? Vaseline. He puts the Vaseline in first so it gets "really dirty and really greasy, then a dry product, then you knit the hair together in little sections almost like you’re doing a little dread." The final touch is a sprinkling of dirt powder, which is an actual real-life makeup product. It can take up to 15 minutes in the chair to get an unkempt character ready. (And Daenerys has two wigs--one for when she's dirty, and one for when she's clean, according to EW.)
The dirtying of a garment is an even more elaborate process. "If it takes three days to make a costume, it then takes another three days to destroy it and break it," Clapton said. Depending on the climate and whether it's armor or a women's gown, it involves, oiling, sanding, oiling again, waxing, and pressing dirt colored pigment into it. "After the actors have worn it a few days in the sun it gets even better--nice and ripe!" Clapton said. Lighting is used to help project an image of squalor.
Margaery's McQueen Moment:
Margaery, the widow/beard of the doomed King Renly, is taking on a decidedly bigger role come season three (we won't spoil the season two finale in case you haven't seen it, but DAMN YOU, JOFFREY). She favors J.Lo style plunging necklines, but she made an impression on us right after Renly's death wearing a striking high funnel-neck dress. "It was something I just really wanted to do. It was a one-off," Clapton said. "Some people really hated that dress and some people love it." Count us in the 'love' category, even more so because it turns out that Bjork, who's worn Alexander McQueen gowns with a similar neckline, inspired Clapton. "I've always adored [Bjork]," she said.
No discussion of Game of Thrones would be complete without a discussion of the "whores." From Tyrion's love, Shae, to the wily King's Landings ladies, the prostitutes are big plot movers (gratuitous nudity notwithstanding).
How do you dress a medieval fantasy prostitute? Same way as you dress everyone else, but with a slight twist. In King's Landing, for example, they wear similar costumes to the hand maidens--the difference is that they come off much more strategically. "[Just like] you see with contemporary prostitutes," Clapton said. "They wear something similar to someone going out for the night--it’s just what they do with it and how they wear it."
A word about merkins: Yes they use them, but Alexander and his hair team aren't involved--that falls under the purview of the makeup department. Why?? Isn't it hair? I hope they make sure the carpets are matching Alexander's very elaborate drapes.
Speaking of hair *ahem* how did Arya's boy chop go?
Arya's Hair Drama:
The scene when Yoren chops off Arya's hair to turn her into a "boy" is pivotal. Maisie Williams wore a wig for that scene, which took five or six takes. Alexander and his team just kept sewing the wig back up so it could be hacked off again. It was made out of synthetic hair so it would break more easily. During season one Arya wears a short wig, but Williams decided to go for it and chop her locks for real for season two. She wanted something that would look cool when she was out of character, and this is the result. We love it--it makes her eyes look huge.
Why Doesn't Anyone Wear Hats in the North?:
This is a personal pet peeve of mine, so I had to ask Clapton about it. It looks absolutely freezing on the Wall, yet Jon Snow and his cronies NEVER WEAR HATS. It seems ridiculous. Clapton agrees with me. She said, "I wish they did wear more hats but unfortunately in filming every time I put a hat on them they say, 'But we can’t see who the actor is!'" She pointed out that the extras always have hats on but rarely the principals (see above). "I mean it’s ridiculous and I know it and I fight it, but people wouldn’t know who they were," she acknowledged. We will grudgingly agree to suspend disbelief on that one--it's hard enough to tell who all the dirty, messy haired guys are as it is. Plus if I'm willing to believe that Daenerys can walk through fire, I can believe that Jon Snow's ears aren't that cold.
Cersei's Metal Bosom:
This dress, from the penultimate episode of season two, got people talking. Why does Cersei need to protect her breasts with armor? Cersei gets progressively drunker and crazier in that episode, but Clapton wanted to show her strength. "It was a ceremonial piece that I wanted her to wear," she said. "They were under siege and it seemed like a good place to do it. Overall the whole society becomes more armored."