While some aspects of last week’s tundra-set episode “Beyond the Wall” left fans cold, even the most demanding Game of Thrones fan had to admit that Daenerys’s “north of the Wall dragon riding” look was on point even if it further mucked up the believability that not only would she have time to pick through her closet, but also fly thousands of miles to save Jon Snow and his merry men.
Dany’s fierce winter coat — which mixed North appropriate furs with hints of dragon-esque qualities — wasn’t just a fashion win, it is a key step in her style evolution.
While she has been a queen of one sort or another since Season 1, the current events have finally allowed her to be a queen on her own terms. Not only do we see this in how she’s evolved as a ruler as she weighs the benefits of being righteous versus being feared, but it is also reflected in how her style has evolved.
Season 1 - A Slave for You
The Mother of Dragons has sported many looks over the years. With each passing season, Dany’s style has provided key information about the kind of queen she was and the kind of queen she would one day become.
When we first meet Daenerys Stormborn, you could easily mistake her for a slave girl or a lady of the night working one of Littlefinger’s brothels. She exists as so many women in Westeros and Essos do: as a pawn for powerful men. Thus, her outfits reflect her wistful qualities which are as flimsy and sheer as a Dornish bed sheet. Her loose garments in the early episodes of the series also tended to be done in whites and pastels, further emphasizing her powerlessness.
Following her marriage to Khal Drogo later in Season 1, Dany gets her first royal garments which reflect a sense of utilitarian and earthy grace befitting a Dothraki queen. This is the first of a number of instances when Daenerys takes on the royal garments of another culture, as she figures out how to be both a queen and a liberator.
Ultimately, her first stint as Khaleesi is short-lived. It’s time for new adventures and new looks.
Season 2 - A Queen Without a Country
Following the death of her beloved Khal Drogo, Daenerys is a queen with nowhere to rule. Her style at the beginning of Season 2 is anything but regal, as this is the only time in the series when she’s not in control of anything. No wonder this beggar look is Emilia Clarke’s least favorite look of the series.
"Around like seasons 2 and 3, I was like, ‘Can I have a pretty dress now?'" she joked.
Following her desert wandering, Dany comes back to civilization and lands in the merchant city of Qarth. Again, she adopts the native look: flowing blue finery punctuated with aristocratic gold. Though this is the closest Dany will get to Disney Princess territory during the series, this look also doesn’t seem natural on the Mother of Dragons. She’s more of a breaker of chains than a wearer of baubles.
Stormborn reaches a turning point at the end of Season 2. She throws off Qarth’s signature style and opts for a more badass warrior pose when she approaches the House of the Undying to reclaim her dragons. As she prepares for a fiery showdown, this is the first time we see Daenerys start to take agency over her looks.
Season 3 - Chain Breaking Boots
Though Dany is still kicking around merchant and slave cities in Season 3, she does so with fiercer looks than in previous seasons. Dany maintains the blue hues worn in Season 2, but she adapts a more militaristic, regal style. She’s combining the soft looks of Qarth and the ruggedness of a Khaeleesi. Fully formed, she has gone from slave to liberator in three seasons, and it shows in her outfits where color pops against more earthy tones.
However, these are still modified combinations of the style of the warlike Dothraki and Unsullied and the courtly residents of the Free Cities. She’s molding her look from various Essos influences. This continued adherence to the customs of her adopted homelands is especially evident in the clothes she wears when receiving dignitaries at court.
Her white dress looks like something she would have worn in Season 1 before being bartered for dowry with Khal Drogo.
Season 4 - Heavy Is the Head That Wears the Crown
Liberation, it turns out, is the easy part. After Dany takes the city of Yunkai, she stomps into Mereen and takes control. Between nailing slave masters to posts, she realizes that while she can conquer as much as she likes, she is eventually going to have to learn to rule. Her growing dragons also present problems: they can kill, but she has to teach them how to avoid wantonly barbecuing shepherd’s flocks.
The changes to Dany’s wardrobe in Season 4 are subtler, but keenly reflective of her painful evolution. She transitions from softer looks to more firmly structured dresses, similar to what we see on Westerosi royalty. Costume designer Michele Clapton also introduces the pleated look and carapace like tops we will see more of once she arrives in Westeros.
As Dany evolves as a ruler, she is forced to make tough decisions. In Season 4, we see these decisions shape her exterior wardrobe as much as her internal point of view.
Season 5 - Out of the Frying Pan and Into the Field
What began as a series of small challenges in Season 4 grows into full-blown insurrection in Season 5: the Sons of the Harpy, an aristocratic insurgency, stage a revolt against Dany. As she endures a bloody, backstabbing battle in the streets, she grows tired of trying to shape herself to the culture of Slaver’s Bay. Instead of wearing the soft blues of Essos, she takes on the regal white of an emerging ruler.
As Clapton put it, “Now she’s got this sense of power and also a sense of immortality. I wanted to give this rather untouchable [quality] to her. The idea behind the white and pale grey is the sense of removal, a removal from reality.”
No longer is Dany going to bend to the expectations of Essos’s various kingdoms. She is going to forge her own regal identity.
Though the finale of Season 5 leaves Daenerys alone in a strange land, her white gown caked with dirt, in a way she the season leaves her at her most liberated. Freed from the expectations of what a queen should be, she's free to focus on the kind of queen she can be.
Her thoughts turn to Westeros.
Season 6 - The Dragon Queen Emerges
As her thoughts drift to her homeland, so too does her wardrobe. After a brief sojourn with the Dothraki, where she returns to her rustic Season 1 duds, her outfits take on the look of a Westerosi dress rehearsal.
In the latter episodes of Season 6, Clapton introduces concepts into Dany’s wardrobe that will blossom in Season 7. We see broad, ornate shoulders, the emergence of a chain at the front of her outfit, and more explicitly warlike cape complimenting a firmly formed dress.
Season 7 - The Queen, Herself
In Season 7, Daenerys is every inch a Targaryen and every bit the queen: all that’s missing is a crown. This season, Clapton set out to build costumes that do “everything [they] can to show [Dany’s] status” as she “can’t wear the crown... before it was due.” This means allowing Targaryen red to seep into her wardrobe. The fierce leather befitting a commander of the Unsullied is now accompanied by pleated skirts, high necks and tight sleeves: all of these touches work to give her a warlike bearing. She has also taken to wearing an ornate three-headed dragon clasp attached to what Clapton calls a “chain of intent.”
As Clapton told Elle, "With Daenerys, there's a creeping of red within the scaling embroidery of her coat. It's like she's finally beginning to grasp power and she feels closer to to idea of taking the throne, of coming home. Although it's always been her ambition, whether she actually believed she could isn't clear, even though she said she could. So I decided that finally now she can start inhabiting and owning her family's place."
And of course, there is the shimmering dragon dress Daenerys debuted last weekend. This look combined the militaristic Targaryen tones with a regal beauty that she has perfected as the seasons have gone on. The piece still has a high neck and broad shoulders, but the white, flowing build is also reminiscent of her white regal look in Season 5. The back of the coat blends mimics dragon scales, allowing her to blend in with Drogon, almost to the point of camouflage.
The coat is a powerful symbol of the The Mother of Dragons finally coming into her own and combines Dany’s nobility, fierceness, and beauty into one statement piece, might have been her ultimate look.
No wonder Jon Snow bent the knee.
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