For the past year, The Getty Museum has been posting on its blog, “The Iris”  many articles on the TV series Game of Thrones and how it can connects historically to its massive inventory of medieval artwork, objects, and manuscripts.

From “The Reading the Future of “Games of Thrones” through Mediveal Manuscripts” in conjunction with their tumblr blog (“unpack Game of Thrones episdoes through medieval imagery“)


A Medievalist’s Viewing Guide to “Game of Thrones”, Season 4”  (“looking for links between printed fiction, cinematic still frames, and medieval art“) their blog articles are both informative, entertaining, and (most importantly) leverage the Getty’s core values of education into a format that they hope will entice younger (and “young at heart”) viewers to visit the museum.

Getty Talks and the Game of Thrones

Besides blogging about GoT, The Getty also premiered at their “Getty Talks”  a GoT lecture entitled: “Designing the Middle Ages: The Costumes of GoT” which only rather recently put up online on Youtbe.

Bryan C. Keene, assistant curator of manuscripts at the Getty, starts off with how the Medieval Ages were like with a geeky quip “As Doctor Who has said, ‘The Middle Ages were not a good time to be alive‘” and then goes onto shows samples of what could be considered the more edgier parts of their collection that Game of Thrones fans might find interesting in the series: violence, nudity (“St. Sebastian’s tighy whities in the Middle Ages“) and other provocative themes.

He then introduces Debroah Landis, the director of the Copley Center for Costume Design in UCLA who expounded on the importance of costume design to establish mood, character, and backstory on a genre show like Game of Thrones:

Nothing that appears in the frame is casual or accidental. Every single accessory has a role and each costume is a deliberate choice made by the designer. Costumes are so much more than clothes. They embody the psychological, social, and emotional condition of each character at a particular moment in the script.

When a character and a story like Games of Thrones captures the Public’s imagination, the costumes can ignite worldwide fashion trends and become embedded in Popular Culture.

Cinematic icons are born when the audience falls deeply in love with the people and the story. That’s what costume design is all about.

Debroah Landis

Director of the Copley Center for Costume Design - UCLA

Michelle Clapton – Costume Designer – Game of Thrones

Ms. Landis then introduces to the main speaker to the stage: Michele Clapton, costume designer for the first five seasons of Game of Thrones.

She starts to discuss the series’ medieval aesthetic and the visual sources for her designs and emphasised that the real key into the series was the roadmap of the geography and climate provided by the books and the various related crafts and trades aligned with each of these areas.

The use of concept art (mostly from Kimberly Pope – website portfolio here) was important in grounding the world and helped Michele ramp-up when she started working on-set.

She also supplemented the environmental concept art with her own sketching of simple character/costume illustrations to help her solidify what she felt was look of GoT.

The Use of Color in Costuming of House Stark and House Lannister

Color and the dyeing process was such an important signifier that any available materials such as wool, leather, and fur were heavily researched,  assembled into costume swatches onsite so as to have complete control over the color process, and sprecific colors palettes were made into “color bibles” for the different regions and social hierarchies of Westeros.

For example, out of all of the banners and allegiencies in the North, Ms. Clapton only used warm grey blues for the Starks to help define them as the most important family.

She then goes on to breakdown each costume for every major character in the Stark family starting with Catelyn and Ned and working down to Bran before moving onto other Houses such as the Lannisters with the gold inlay and maroon styling.

Color swatches for costumes

Lesser known Houses in the North

House Stark – Matriarch (Catelyn Tully-Stark) and Patriarch (Ned Stark)

House Stark – Siblings (Bran, Jon Snow, and Robb Stark)

Lannister gold and maroon for Joeffery and Cercei costumes

Lannister lion signage on sword hilts – Gold plated armour (Jaime Lannister)

Finally, after her lecture all three presenters further diving into how costumes and the world work in a symbiotic relationship.

More info:

Game of Thrones Concept art (via io9)

The Getty’s Center’s Blog: “The Iris” (Getty Center)

Source of video (Youtube)