- See main overview article, "Costumes".
Essos is the vast continent located east of Westeros, across the Narrow Sea. The westernmost parts of Essos are the nine Free Cities, which are involved in brisk trade with the lands of the Seven Kingdoms in Westeros.
The Free Cities are located on the western coast of Essos, across the Narrow Sea from Westeros. Costumes of the Free Cities have not been extensively developed in the TV series yet. The Free Cities are loosely comparable to the medieval Italian city-states, densely urbanized and focused on trade. Each of the nine Free Cities (presumably) have their own unique clothing styles.
What little was seen of Pentos in the first episode of Season 1 is shown to be adapted for a relatively warm, Mediterranean climate. Braavos was first briefly seen on screen in Season 4. Much more of the Free Cities will be seen in Season 5, now that both Arya and Tyrion have fled east across the Narrow Sea.
- In the novels, Volantene slaves who drive carts have wheels tattooed on their cheeks, slaves in the city guard have tiger stripe tattoos, prostitute-slaves have tattoos of teardrops falling from their eyes, slaves who sweep dung from the streets have tattoos of flies, etc.
- Tyrosh is one of the major producers of color dyes in the Free Cities, and its people are known for wearing very colorful clothing. They even commonly dye their hair different colors: Daario Naharis is Tyroshi and he actually dyes his hair blue in the novels - the TV series chose not to include this, believing it was too distracting.
- Myr is famed for its textiles and finished goods. Myrish lace is expensive finery, prized across the Free Cities and Westeros.
- Norvos was founded by a strict religious sect and remains a conservative theocracy; its people also dress conservatively because it is one of the northern Free Cities. Norvoshi men of all social classes frequently wear long, upswept moustaches, while the ruling priests wear long beards. Norvoshi women, as well as all slaves, shave their heads entirely bald (though noblewomen will wear wigs when in the company of foreigners).
Braavos is one of the northernmost Free Cities, located at around the same latitude as the Eyrie in the Vale of Arryn, so it has a colder temperature than the others, and its costuming in the TV series seems to reflect this.
Braavosi women braid their hair up into buns on both side of their heads. The coils of the braids are on the sides, and collect into buns above the temples.
- In the novels, Braavos is a fairly egalitarian society in which slavery is outlawed, and instead of a hereditary nobility their society is dominated by powerful bankers and merchants (who elect the Sealord). Perhaps as a result, wealthier Braavosi actually dress in dress in relatively drab colors: "charcoal grey and purple, blues that were almost black and blacks as dark as a moonless night". The materials used for their clothing are of high quality, but they prefer subdued fashions. In contrast, the young street-fighting swordsmen (known as Bravos) of the lower classes dress in flamboyant colors. The TV series generally matched this description by having the Iron Bank representatives dress in more subdued colors.
The robes worn by the Faceless Men in Season 5 have textures which are supposed to echo the stone textures of the House of Black and White's walls. Also, though they are never shown using it, the square of fabric that hangs down the front of Jaqen H'ghar's robe was designed so that he could pull it up to cover his face while dealing with dead bodies in the Hall of Faces. It is also supposed to be vaguely reflective of his constant use of masks and disguises in general.
Frank Doelger (Executive Producer) "Once we decided we were using the Netherlands in the 16th and 17th century as the model for the buildings of Braavos, Michele then picked up on that, and designed the costumes for Braavos along the same lines."
Clapton: "I quite like the idea that banking is a dirty business. Once they come into the bank, they put the (sable?) on, because it's where they're working. And the men are in these very pleated skirts, and metalic roughs."
D.B. Weiss (Executive Producer): "...From the moment we read about the Iron Bank, and Tycho Nestoris the representative of the Iron Bank, we loved it because it was such an atypical element - banking doesn't really factor into most High Fantasy. But it's very modern, I mean the lines are very clean and Dutch Protestant, and the way they dress is inspired by the Dutch Golden Age, and they're a bit more advanced than most of the people in Westeros - which is perhaps why they're in charge of everything."
Deborah Riley (Production Designer), on Braavos in Season 4: "David and Dan had always said that perhaps an inspiration for Braavos could be Venice. And the thing that I think was quite exciting about Braavos was being able to show wealth, but being able to show it through an austerity, through the notion that less is more."
Clapton, on Arya's Braavosi street-vendor costume: "[It's] inspired a bit by Russian costumes, with fabric made to look like filigreed copper."
Costume designer Michele Clapton explained how the idea to have a prostitute in a Volantis brothel cosplaying as Daenerys, wearing an assless-cutout imitation of Daenerys's costume: she came up with the design as a joke, a good laugh was had by all, and then they decided it was so funny that they should put the joke costume into the actual TV show. As Clapton said:
- "I wanted to shock [showrunners] David [Benioff] and Dan [Weiss], because they always ask me to do outrageous things. I just thought, 'Fine, I'm going to do a costume with no ass! And they were like, 'What were you thinking, Clapton?'" - but ultimately the costume made it into the show, and - "The whole essence of Dany is there...[there] are always circles cut in and bits missing in her dress, so I thought it would be really funny. Some people said, 'Well, how would they know what she looked like?' - She's this iconic woman so of course people talk and gossip and know what people look like! It was meant to be amusing."
While meant as a joke, in the novels there actually was a whore in Volantis who dressed up like Daenerys, and it is another example of the "trickle-down effect": just as prostitutes in King's Landing wear cheap knock-off imitations of the fashions that Queen Cersei sets, now that Daenerys is becoming (in)famous across Essos, prostitutes are imitating her unique fashions too as the new novelty.
The Dothraki, mounted nomads from the central plains of Essos, primarily wear clothing artfully woven from the plentiful tallgrass of the Dothraki Sea. All Dothraki warriors must wear riding chaps made from horse leather.
The Dothraki traditionally fight with curved swords known as arakhs, and also employ bolas, daggers, and whips, or huge, recurved bows with impressive range and striking power that can be fired from horseback. They also shun armor, considering speed and freedom of movement to be more important in battle. Some Dothraki warriors wear light leather armor jackets or woven-grass shirts, but many ride into battle bare-chested, such as Khal Drogo. Even those who fight bare-chested, however, typically wear leather armor that protects the vulnerable area of the abdomen, while leaving their pectoral muscles upward exposed.
What precious jewelry powerful khals such as Drogo might have, such as his belt of gold medallions with horse images engraved on them, are often made in the Free Cities then given to the Dothraki as tribute.
Dothraki khalasars (clans) sometimes differentiate themselves by decorating themselves and their horses with different colors of paint. For example, Khal Drogo's khalasar used blue paint, but Khal Jhaqo's khalasar uses red paint. These pigments (made from crushed stones) are expensive so they often only use them for special occasions, such as wedding feasts and religious ceremonies.
- No mention is made in the novels of the Dothraki using colored pigments to adorn their bodies and horses, this is an idea that the TV series costume team came up with. Dothraki khalasars usually dissolve on the death of their khal, so they do not have any long-standing histories or deep-seated affiliations, or even names (just "Khal Drogo's khalasar"). Thus for all we know a hundred years ago Drogo's grandfather's grandfather's khalasar might have used green paint. Clapton's explanation is that blue color pigment is the rarest and most expensive that the Dothraki have access to, which makes blue the Dothraki power color (similar to how purple was the color of the Roman Emperors, because purple was the rarest and most expensive color dye at the time). Drogo and his khalasar use blue because he is one of the most powerful and successful khals and can thus afford it.
Dothraki warriors wear their hair in a long braid and only cut it when defeated, so the world may see their shame. Very capable warriors therefore often have a very long braid.
- In the books, the Dothraki adorn their long hair braids with various small bells, adding new ones for each victory. Jason Momoa (Drogo) said the bells weren't included in the TV series because they weren't very scary in real life: the constant jingling noises were somewhat comical, and it was felt they detracted from the performance.
Clapton said that the clothing style of the Dothraki took elements from African, Bedouin, and Native American designs, but a mixture of many different elements so there is no one-for-one equivalence. Nomadic mounted peoples share certain common design elements (i.e. anyone who rides a horse all day absolutely needs to wear leather riding chaps).
Clapton: "The look for the Dothraki changed a bit between the original pilot and the filming of the series, and it was a tricky one to get. There was danger of going too far in one direction, too far into strictly African or Native American. Originally, their look was a bit more theatrical, but we brought it down by taking it straight back to their environment. What do they have access to? Well, there’s grass from the grasslands; the women weave. And there are skins from small animals.
All the colors were quite natural and one with the land, but we wanted to give it something else. So we developed this blue paint, this pigment, that maybe they developed by crushing stones, and that they used relatively sparingly for celebrations – like the wedding in Episode 101. Visually it became much more exciting, this blue within this very barren landscape.
We also looked at a lot of images of Afghani horsemen, which inspired the Dothraki riding boots. We imagined their footwear would be designed to accommodate riding first and foremost, since they’re a horse culture. So they have these heels that keep their feet in the stirrups. And, if you’re riding, you need trousers – leather trousers – even Daenerys had them under her skirts, as do some of the other Dothraki women. But we didn’t want to be frivolous about it – the weaving was practical and gave it a nice texture."
Qarth is a rich city far to the east of Westeros, so its fashions are very exotic and opulent. The city is east of Slaver's Bay, south of the Dothraki Sea (and separated from it by the Red Waste). Qarth is located on straits which separate the Summer Sea from the Jade Sea: control of these vital trade routes, taxing all merchant ships passing from the west to the east, has made Qarth fabulously wealthy.
Clapton explained that she wanted to show that the Qartheen are very opulent, but also that it is all a facade and for show. Thus Qartheen men wear vests which are lavish and ornate on the front to impress others when they face them, with extravagant gold tracing, and even large gold pieces shaped like insects and encrusted with jewels. However, they don't bother to decorate the back of their clothing at all, which is plain and unadorned: they are merchant-princes who care only about appearances.
Both Qartheen men and women wear wide metal belts around their waits of elaborate, interlaced filigree, with chains of beads and jewelry hanging from them. Qarth has a warm climate, so women wear sleeve-less dresses with plunging necklines and backs.
While there is no one-for-one equivalence, Clapton said that Qarth's costume designs took inspiration from Persia and the Middle East.
- In the novels, Qarth has no real analogue with any real-life civilization. The Qartheen people have very pale skin, to the point that the Dothraki call them the "Milk Men" - George R.R. Martin has outright stated that the Qartheen are a fantasy construct, not corresponding to any real-life group. That being said, due to Qarth's vital strategic location on narrow straits separating east from west, it is somewhat like ancient Byzantium. However, it is located so far to the east (even further east than Slaver's Bay, the loose analogue of the Middle East) that it is somewhat more similar to city-states in India. Similar to how India was viewed by medieval Europe, Qarth is the most eastern part of the world that people from Westeros are aware of through trade contact, and it is where exotic spices and silks come from. These are only minor and loose similarities, however: Qarth has no direct analogue to real-life cultures.
Clapton: "I always in my head, saw Qarth as a sort of mirage, so with that in mind, it's a sort of case of taking to Gemma about the architecture, obviously the climate. We started actually with the fabrics, really. We dyed all the silk, and then printed, it's almost like gilded gates on it, and then I had a painter who came in and actually painted the sort of fronds and the flowers and the gold behind the gate. With their underskirts, we actually had them baked in clay and then shook them out, and so it gives this lovely crumpled sort of weight to the fabric, that you really can't get any other way. And then with those costumes I wanted them to be able to be worn in different ways, so when they come out of the gates they lift it up over their heads and it protects them from the heat, and other times they can be down and the jacket takes prominence.
And then again I wanted it to be like a facade, like a theatrical piece, so that when they turn around a lot of the backs are just linen, or hessian [burlap], so it's all a front, it's all a show."
In the novels, Qartheen women (all of them) are described as wearing a style of dress that leaves one breast bare. Daenerys Targaryen adopts the Qartheen-style of dress for women so they won't disparage her as an unrefined savage wearing Dothraki leathers. Clapton actually went so far as to design the very revealing Qartheen dress described in the books, but the producers then told her they weren't going to include that in the adaptation. First, while Emilia Clarke (Daenerys) had done nude scenes in the show since Season 1, it was felt that having extended dialogue scenes in which she had one breast exposed would be too distracting, as well as damaging the integrity of the scenes. Second, every Qartheen woman in crowd shots would have to dress in this fashion to match, and for practical reasons this would run into difficulty with local obscenity laws, etc.
Question: "Is there a certain emphasis on sexy that you need to keep in mind? In some cases the sex is even toned down — for example, the Quartheen gowns in the book that Daenerys wear expose one breast?"
Clapton: "I had actually designed the dresses to reveal one breast and was surprised when they didn't want to go in that direction. But actually, we filmed that in Morocco and it would have been very difficult to find the number of women required to do it. Even to just film it would have been hard."
At the Game of Thrones panel for San Diego Comic-Con 2012, Emilia Clarke jokingly gave the explanation to author George R.R. Martin that she didn't wear the breast-exposing Qarth dresses as described in the books because it was a "warmth issue". The real reason, as Clarke explained in a separate interview, was that it was felt that having Daenerys spending entire scenes wearing a dress that left one breast exposed would detract from the integrity of the drama and of Daenerys as a character:
- "I remember when I was filming in Croatia seeing a copy of book 2, and the front cover picture was of Dany in the ‘traditional Qartheen fashion’ and you could say that I was rather taken aback. There are lots of things to bear in mind when adapting a book for the screen, and yes we all agreed that if this was kept as a visual reference, it would take away from the drama and integrity of Dany’s storyline as she grows into such a strong Khaleesi."
See the article about the "Qartheen gown" on A Wiki of Ice and Fire. It includes the official cover art image that Clarke was referring to, as well as fanart (there is an inordinate amount of fanart based on this costume, for reasons which should by now be all too obvious).
Asshai is located at the far eastern edge of the known world, a feared city of secrets inhabited by sorcerers and shadowbinders. Qarth is the furthest east that traders from Westeros travel: beyond the Straits of Qarth is the Jade Sea, but the lands even further east of it are only half-legendary to men from Westeros and only heard of second-hand, such as the fabulous wealth of Yi Ti. Asshai is even further east than Yi Ti, at the extreme edge of maps and legends (the only place said to be east of Asshai is nearby Carcosa, a strange city ruled by its Yellow King).
Quaithe's mask was designed to display a stylistic link to Melisandre, because both of them are from the region of Asshai. Melisandre wears an ornate neck piece featuring a repeated design motif of elongated hexagons. Quaithe's mask was constructed using the same hexagonal shapes as links, though filled in with metal. Further, the dresses of both Melisandre and Quaithe have the same hexagonal design motif (elongated so they are taller than they are wide). Melisandre has different dresses, and she usually wears an all-red one, but the one with hexagons which match her neck piece appears prominently in "The Night Lands" when she has sex with Stannis.
In Season 5's "High Sparrow", as Tyrion and Varys pass through Volantis they see another Red Priestess preaching to a crowd of slaves. Her gown has the same repeated motif of elongated hexagons, and she also wears a large hexagon-shaped pendant on a necklace. This Red Priestess seems to be ethnically Yi Tish, but this raises little confusion, as Asshai has no set ethnicity. According to The World of Ice and Fire sourcebook, the land and water in Asshai is poisoned, making the warlocks and sorcerers who live there sterile, so they "reproduce" by purchasing slaves from all over the world and raising them as the next generation of Asshai'i (both this Red Priestess and Melisandre do mention that they were originally slaves).
Season 6 features Zanrush, Kinvara and another Red Priestess, all of whom wear a variation of Asshai'i dress, with the elongated hexagon motif. Kinvara in particular wears a costume and necklace almost identical Melisandre's, suggesting she may be from Asshai or even be a shadowbinder herself. Zanrush wears the hexagon motif in an amulet on his collar, and the Red Priestess wears a corset piece with the design, as well as a necklace not too dissimilar form Kinvara's. Generally, this trend suggests that the fashion of Asshai has been adopted by the clergy of the Lord of Light religion as liturgical dress regardless of whether they are Asshai'i themselves.
Slaver's Bay is the hub of the international slave trade. It is located on the eastern side of the Valyrian Peninsula from the Free Cities, south of the Dothraki Sea, and west of Qarth. Slaver's Bay used to be part of the ancient Ghiscari Empire, but it was conquered by the Valyrian Freehold five thousand years ago. After the Doom of Valyria four centuries ago, the city-states of Slaver's Bay reasserted their independence, much as the Free Cities did to the west of Old Valyria. The three great slaver-cities are, from south to north: Astapor (whose rulers call themselves the Good Masters), Yunkai (ruled by the Wise Masters), and Meereen (ruled by the Great Masters), which is bigger than Astapor and Yunkai put together.
The slave-masters of Slaver's Bay wear a clothing style with a repeated motif of rings which the fabric of their clothing is interwoven with, visually evoking slave chains. They are often dressed ostentatiously to display their wealth, wearing fine silks and jewels. They seem to favor colors such as green, teal to light blue, bright yellow, and beige.
The slaves themselves are typically dressed very poorly, though slaves who work as artisans or house servants can possess better clothing. The slave population is very diverse, having been brought in from captives taken in many distant lands (or descended from those taken captive). One notable feature is that the clothing provided for slaves has been designed to outright incorporate their slave collars into them.
The Unsullied warrior-eunuchs produced in Astapor are brutally trained to be utterly selfless, gladly falling on their swords for the slave-masters if commanded to do so. To reflect this lack of individuality, that they are seen as interchangeable and expendable, a key point is that they wear face-obscuring visors.
There are also regular non-slave soldiers, who seem to make up the bulk of the private guard of the slave-masters. Unlike the Unsullied, they do not wear face-obscuring visors. Their chest-plates also have a prominent circular disc shape in the middle of them, apparently another representation of the slave manacle motif that the slave-masters wear in their own clothing.
Missandei, a slave taken to Slaver's Bay from Naath, initially dresses in a slave costume but after being freed and entering the service of Daenerys Targaryen, she switches to Daenerys's unique style. When Missandei is first introduced, her hair is bound up, to visually evoke how constrained she is as a slave. During her second appearance, however, in which Daenerys takes her into her service, Missandei's hair is unbound, large and frizzy, to symbolize how she isn't constrained by slavery anymore.
- In the novels, the masters of Slaver's Bay have wiry hair which they tease out into various exotic shapes, if not outright foppish and impractical designs (i.e. broad wings that stand away from the head). This is a sign of their high social status. After Daenerys takes over Meereen, those who wish to display loyalty to her shave off their old hairstyles as a symbol of embracing the new social order she wants to set.
- One of the more famous costumes in the novels is the "tokar" worn by the slave-masters of the region. It is a long, loose, toga-like sheet wrapped around the body. A tokar is wound around the hips, under an arm, then over a shoulder, and must be held in place at all times with the left hand. The dangling fringes of the end hanging down from the shoulder are decorated with expensive materials and jewels. It is difficult to wear a tokar: if wound too loose, it might unravel and fall off, but if wound too tightly, it might tangle and trip the wearer. Even a properly wound tokar must be always held in place with the left hand, and requires walking with small balanced steps to avoid tripping. The entire point of a tokar is to be impractical, for the slave-masters to show off that they do not need to perform any manual tasks themselves. Daenerys frequently wears a tokar once she becomes queen of Meereen, in order to be taken seriously as a ruler by the former slave-masters.
[Few quotes have yet been provided from official sources explaining the design choices that went into the costumes of Slaver's Bay]
Clapton: "I really enjoyed doing Meereen. It's just much more opulent and wealthy, it has a color range that's greater and brighter."
"The uniform of the Unsullied, an army of elite warrior eunuchs, which was inspired by beetles, can fit many different body types, but not at the expense of a metaphor. "The final piece that really made it come together was the idea of obscuring the face," explained Clapton. "This really removed all personality, it sort of felt that it was the perfect ethos to be Unsullied--all personality removed."
Clapton, on the Unsullied: "Sometimes what looks to be the simplest costume is often the most difficult - especially when they must fit many people. The Unsullied costume was difficult only in that it had to create a uniform shape that could give almost any shaped man a look of strength, and yet it had to be light and not cover too much of the body."
Clapton, on Unsullied helmets: "Bending the points on the helmet creates a more elegant look."
Sothoryos is the third continent in The Known World, other than Westeros and Essos. Its northermost regions are located directly south of Valyria and Slaver's Bay in Essos, across the Summer Sea. There are several major islands and archipelagos in the Summer Sea, particularly the Summer Islands, Naath, and the Basilisk Isles. Strictly speaking these islands are not considered part of "Sothoryos" (any more than Madagascar is "part of" mainland Africa - it's an island) though the inhabitants of all of them are ethnically quite distinct from other peoples in Westeros and Essos, and notably dark-skinned.
In the first four seasons of the TV series, it has not depicted the costumes of any characters from "Sothoryos and the Isles of the Summer Sea". A few characters from these regions have appeared, but dressed in the clothing styles of other regions: Missandei was taken from Naath by a slaving raid and Grey Worm was taken from the Summer Islands as a baby, so they dress in the clothing styles in Slaver's Bay. The TV series also changed Salladhor Saan and Xaro Xhoan Daxos to be "from" the Summer Islands, but they have been living for years in Lys and Qarth respectively, and wear the fashions of those areas.
In the novels, the Summer Islands are home to many exotic tropical birds. Therefore, Summer Islanders are described as often wearing resplendent cloaks made out of interwoven exotic bird feathers. The Summer Islands are said to be rich in hardwood timber, gemstones, spices, and exotic animals, but to be poor in metals such as iron, gold, and tin (which is mixed with copper to make bronze). What metal they have is acquired through trade. Summer Islander warriors therefore favor using great longbows made of goldenheart wood (as they have plentiful timber resources to supply arrows), and they are considered the finest bowmen in the world. They are also said to carry wooden shields, not steel ones (though many shields carried by common infantry in Westeros are simply made out of wood or boiled leather, not metal). Summer Islanders probably don't wear any metal armor. They also probably do not wear much gold or silver, but the islands do have abundant gemstone supplies, so they probably incorporate more of those into their clothing than precious metals. Somewhat like the Dornishmen, the Summer Islanders have very relaxed attitudes towards sexuality, and their climate is even hotter than Dorne, so their clothing is probably not very concealing (i.e. a noblewoman from the Summer Islands wouldn't wear the multi-layered and concealing dresses that Cersei Lannister does in Westeros, the climate is far too hot). The Summer Islanders are unashamed of their bodies, considering sex to be a gift from the gods and a holy, life-affirming act. Summer Islander women are warriors and ship-captains alongside their men, and apparently have equal inheritance laws because it is just as common for islands to be ruled by Princesses as by a Prince.
The Basilisk Isles are pirate dens even worse than the Stepstones, with no surviving indigenous population. They probably dress like other pirates plying the world's seas. Sothoryos itself has not been explored beyond the northern coasts, which are filled with jungles, tropical diseases, and ruins of vanished civilizations. The only people generally found living there are also pirate dens and adventurers spilling over from the Basilisk isles.
Nothing has been mentioned in the novels about how the Naathi dress on their own island - only enslaved Naathi have appeared, wearing the clothing styles in Slaver's Bay. The Naathi religion believes in utter pacifism, even to defend their homes and persons. This extends to the point that they will not harm any living thing, refusing to eat the flesh of animals, with a diet consisting primarily of fruit. Therefore, Naathi probably have no unique armor or weapon designs of their own. Naath's climate is very conducive to insect life, and it is also known as the "Isle of Butterflies". Among these insects are silkworms, and Naath actually used to be a major exporter of silk before the Doom of Valyria four hundred years ago. Afterwards the slaver-raids drastically intensified, driving the Naathi into the interior of their island and nearly shutting down their silk production industry. It is possible that indigenous Naath fashions incorporate a large amount of silks.
- ↑ Season 2 - Talisa mentioned this at some point
- ↑ Season 5 Blu-ray commentary
- ↑ Game of Thrones - Silk, Leather & Chainmail: Costumes of Season 4
- ↑ 
- ↑ Michele Clapton Fashionista interview, June 2015.
- ↑ Michele Clapton Fashionista interview, June 2015.
- ↑ David J. Peterson's blog, Dothraki.com
- ↑ Jason Mamoa Q&A
- ↑ 
- ↑ "Costumes" featurette, Game of Thrones Season 1.
- ↑ Inside HBO's Game of Thrones, page 151.
- ↑ 
- ↑ "Garden of Bones" In-Episode Guide
- ↑ 
- ↑ SDCC 2012 Game of Thrones panel
- ↑ Emilia Clarke interview
- ↑ "A Man Without Honor" HBO featurette
- ↑ 
- ↑ Game of Thrones - Silk, Leather & Chainmail: Costumes of Season 4
- ↑ 
- ↑ 
- ↑