Game of Thrones costume designer reveals Cersei’s dress had a hidden meaning
What is good visual design? When it comes to characters, a good visual design tells you something about who they are before they've opened their mouths to say a single word. With just one glance, you begin to understand what a character is about - if the costume designers have done their job right.
When it comes to Game of Thrones, costume design defines the look, feel and values of all the houses of the Seven Kingdoms. After all, aesthetics are politics, and the way a certain family feels to the viewer tends to be how they truly are.
Take, for example, the Lannisters and their golden and scarlet armor, implying wealth, pride, and power. Then there's the Starks, who wear wolf's fur and long draping cloaks, implying dignity, solitude, and solemn winter stoicism. I mean, just look at Season 7 Jon Snow. One look at him, and you kind of understand what type of character he is.
A noble Northerner, uncomfortable in the South, a fish out of water, a good man who commands respect attempting to understand the world around him. That's how his surrogate father Ned Stark, and Ned's father before, looked and felt.
So then, what about the series' last human villain, Cersei Lannister? Gone are the flowing regal dresses and long hair she sported for the majority of the series. Now, she's dressed like Snow White's Maleficent, with the spiked black shoulders of a villain. Since taking the Iron Throne, Cersei's costume design, especially in the season finale, has shown us exactly how dark her soul has become.
The chainmail-dress she wore during her dragon pit meeting with Daenerys and Jon Snow looks reptilian, silver, and overall inhuman.
Costume designer Michele Clapton had this to say on the subject:
"Something about the slashing and the twisting told you a lot about her character, a contradiction of the costume from the front. It's almost like a sting in the tail, something on edge as you see her walk away - there's something really disturbing about this woman."
And yet, the most terrifying part of this dress may be its spine. Obscured in most of the finale's scenes, up-close, its strangeness is clear.
It looks like a grafted exoskeleton straight out of science fiction, the spine of some alien xenomorph, a monstrosity growing out of its own skin. The deeper meaning here, considering Cersei's role in the story, is illuminating.
While most other characters have surrendered their short-term interests to save humankind from the dead, Cersei Lannister plans to betray the living for her petty goals of maintaining power over King's Landing. By selling out humankind to the dead, she has made her choice - she doesn't care about humanity, only power. In that way, she is more like the Night King, a prelude to the future that would take place under the eternal darkness of the long night.
Her exoskeletal appearance, her monstrous ideas and her anti-human philosophy are all conveyed in her clothing. She wants victory at any cost, and has no sentimentality in her, not even for her own brother. Suffice to say, the costume design is pretty strong!