An interview with Game of Thrones costume designer, Michele Clapton

Being a massive fan of HBO’s Game of Thrones I was very pleased to have the opportunity to interview the costume designer, Michele Clapton who is responsible for all of the fantastic costume choices throughout season one and two. The second season started just a few weeks ago, have you been watching? You would be a fool not to be. Can I just say that I have fallen for Jon Snow and yes his fur collar is a big part of this love I have acquired for him.

On Screen Fashion: How long have you been a costume designer?

Michele Clapton: I actually started out as a fashion designer and after a few years I really didn’t enjoy the business side of it and decided to move direction. When I had my daughter I worked on styling band videos, commercials, short films and soon discovered my love for costume – it’s probably not the orthodox way in really! I have never assisted and would no doubt be useless at it but I do regret this as I think you learn so much this way. I think it affects my confidence sometimes.

OSF: I can imagine due to the different kingdoms in Game of Thrones that the research process must be very time consuming?

MC: I start research for each season of GOT really early on. In fact I am always looking and reading, even in the down time. About 14 weeks before we start filming I meet with my assistant designers for a couple of days and we talk about the direction I would like for each existing character. We also talk about the general look of the various groups, look at all the new locations, discuss new characters, look at the climate and influences etc. I will also start talking with the production designer Gemma Jackson, as well as the writers and the producers etc. From these discussions we will create mood boards for each new place and I will start to draw for principles. We will also travel to Italy, Paris and Madrid to look at fabrics, as well as scout London – mainly Shepherds Bush, Chelsea Harbour, and Berwick Street. I have to mention our favourite fabric supplier John England in Belfast too!

OSF: What is the process of creating the costumes? Is everything hand-made? Do you have a costume break-down department?

MC: 10 weeks in we will move into our workrooms and the cutters, makers, armourers and breakdown department will all start to arrive. I love being in the workroom most of all, I understand cut as I spent 2 out of 5 years studying cutting, making and textiles. We try to make as much as possible in house as it is practical and much more fulfilling. 99% of the time I ban the use of overlocking on 100% principles, encourage hand finishing on all principles and whenever we can on extras costumes. We have weavers, embroiderers and printers so a lot of costumes are created from scratch. Craster’s wives costumes for instance, were woven from raffia, rabbit skin and feathers which were then aged in our breakdown rooms. Likewise, Daenerys Dothraki’s costume were woven in-house. Each season we try to hire less costumes although we sometimes have to commission some extras costumes to be made outside of the workroom due to time and numbers but we still try to finish them on site. I am in love with my embroiderer who works on Cersei’s costume, she is so talented. We talk through an idea which she takes and makes it more beautiful that I could hope, her stitching is like a painting. Crew is so important in costume design, you have to build a trust and then the results are there to see. I feel that I have a real bond with many of my regulars, they become friends.

OSF: How do you show the characters journey with the use of their costumes?

MC: When looking at different groups for example, the Lannisters in the south and the Starks of the north, both are important families so we would look at what is available to them and what is important to their character. The Lannisters are very wealthy, competitive, they live in the capitol and power is important. It’s warm and on the coast which means there is trade and they don’t have to worry about keeping warm. They have a large staff with silks and jewels readily available to them. As Cersei influences the court and we notice her hatred for her husband, through season two we start to see her style begin to shift as her role changes. The Starks have less available to them and are in different circumstances as they live in cold, damp weather. Available to them is wool, leather, fur and some dyes. They have to think about warmth and wear the high padded embroidered collars as status rather than jewellery. The village people wear a simpler form of this look. They are not ostentatious and are a loving family who are not trying to prove anything. Only Sansa disagrees with this and we see this as she is influenced in her clothing, mainly by Cersei and as the plot develops, she moves away from this.

OSF: Can you describe a typical day as a costume designer on the set of Game of Thrones?

MC: My days are very varied. Sometimes I’m in my office designing, in the workroom, in production meetings, at fittings and on set, often I do all of this in one day. The part I hate the most is driving to new locations, I tend to always get lost down some farm track! I also feel sad just being away from my family for so long.

OSF: The Helmut Lang Fall 2012 catwalk designs and fashion trends in 2012 are both influenced by the television series with a lot of leather and fur involved, how do you feel about this? Have you ever been influenced in your personal wardrobe while working on Game of Thrones?

MC: I was very flattered that Helmut Lang was influenced by GOT, especially with my background in fashion. I often wear the padded Stark skirts especially in Belfast and lots of crew and actors love the Shae style dress, it’s great for summer.

Many thanks to Michele Clapton.

A look into the costumes in The Hunger Games

I have been meaning to do this post for a few weeks now, I even tweeted about it after I watched it at the cinema but alas, other commitments have gotten in the way. It goes without saying, well, for anybody who has seen the first installment of The Hunger Games that the costumes are fantastic. Even if some of them aren’t completely accurate to the book, costume designer Judianna Makovsky did an excellent job. She was influenced a lot by designers including Alexander McQueen, John Galliano and Schiaparelli as well as the Elizabethan period which are all noticeable throughout the film.

For anybody who is not familiar with the plot, this is The Hunger Games in a nutshell through the words of director Gary Ross:

“In a dystopian future America [now called Panem], a nation made up of twelve impoverished districts, all ruled by a militant capitol where technology and excess are a way of life. Every year the capitol holds a televised battle royal, where one male and female teenager from the twelve districts must battle to the death for the pleasure of capitol. When a young hunter from District 12 named Katniss Everdeen sacrifices herself to save her little sister from the games, she embarks on a brave fight for survival that could change a nation.”

Heroine Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) is shown at the start of the film wearing the above dress which is known as her ‘reaping dress’ in which Makovsky took the description from the book to create it. The dress has a very vintage feel due to the 1930s to 1950s influence and the fact that they wanted it to look like something that could have been a hand-me-down from her mother. Makovsky found some vintage fabric and dyed it until it was the perfect colour giving the dress a very simple and elegant look. All of the costumes in district 12 are supposed to look like hand-me-downs or workwear and therefore most are hand-made or rented from vintage sources. The amount of extras in the film was high and therefore at least 1,800 costumes were used throughout the film.

This dress is one of the most memorable costume moments in the film due to it showing Katniss in a completely new light. The dress is showing how she has transformed but not in the sense that the dress has transformed her, but how she has transformed as a person. It’s a moment, if not the only moment where viewers stop and think she is beautiful. The dress is coral-red with several layers of ombre fabric, pleating detail at the bottom and Swarovski crystals scattered all over it. Makovsky wanted the dress to be simpler than the description in the book, not as sparkly but more elegant and subltle with the flames at the bottom of the dress only visible when she twirls around. Caeser (Stanley Tucci) the talk show host has striking blue hair and therefore his costumes are typical of a talk show host, they stand out but isn’t overly outlandish as the blue hair says everything it needs to about him.

Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks) sports some rather outrageous outfits throughout the film, especially when we first meet her at the start, wearing the above pink ensemble – she could give Dolores Umbridge a run for her money. Again, staying true to the book despite some slight alterations, Effie is noticeably eccentric in the way she presents herself. It’s not to the point in which it looks overly cartoon-like but comical in the way that she has a vicious streak yet is dressed in ruffles and florals. Makovsky aimed for Effie’s outfits to be the colours in which they were described in the book but chose certain shades in order for it to look slightly classic and tasteful.

Due to the location in North Carolina, it was difficult to figure out how to make the costumes so that they could be worn while shooting in 100 degree weather with humidity. The matching parade costumes in the above image were skin-tight which would prove uncomfortable in the heat and therefore were made into two pieces so they could get in and out of them as easily and quickly as possible. Here, Katniss is wearing her ‘girl on fire’ costume which many people think is leather but it’s actually a novelty stretch fabric with embossed plastic on top and stretch patent leather. The costume was created by Makovsky’s co-worker from the costume department of X-Men who has a lot of experience in creating striking costumes.

Haymitch (Woody Harrelson) plays an alcoholic and a previous winner of The Hunger Games, therefore has a lot of money which needed to me shown through his costume. He has an Edwardian cut to his clothes and puts on a front which confuses the viewers into understanding who he really is, despite the obvious referrals to his relationship with alcohol. He is a stylish alcoholic.

In the book everyone involved in The Hunger Games, all members of all districts wear completely the same outfit but due to the transfer to screen, it would be hard to distinguish each character. All of those taking part wore the same trousers but had different coloured jackets to tell them apart but it proved difficult to find appropriate colours that looked good on screen due to the location in the woods. Despite this, earthy colours were used which blend in with the background to the characters advantage but also distinguish each district subtly enough for it to not be an extreme difference from the book itself.

What do you think of the costumes in The Hunger Games? Are you a fan of the books?

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