The most recent Game of Thrones episode included Brienne becoming a knight, Tormund’s giantess story, and Jon Snow — ahem, that is, Aegon Targaryen — revealing to Daenerys his true lineage. It was truly a fan’s dream episode, and doubly so for those of us who live for the costume details.
Sansa Stark’s leather armor ensemble, a fitted dress of leather straps worn with her signature circular “needle” necklace, was practically a character itself. It was the subject of almost unanimous admiration:
Sophie Turner, who plays Sansa, revealed to Entertainment Weekly in February that Sansa would finally be getting armor for the first time. Costumes are never an afterthought on this show, and GoT’s costume designer Michele Clapton has been building Sansa up for this moment over the last eight seasons.
As show lore has it, Sansa is an accomplished seamstress and has always made her own clothes, so they are a direct statement about how she feels. Sansa has always been influenced by the powerful people around her (like Cersei, Margaery, and Littlefinger) and their influence has showed up in her outfits. But now, as one of the most influential people in Winterfell, Sansa’s taken to arming herself.
Starting in season five, after Littlefinger helped her escape from Winterfell, we saw hints of Sansa armoring up, with wrapped fabrics and more obvious corsetry. A day before episode two aired, Clapton posted a throwback to this original “Dark Sansa” look to her Instagram, writing: “The moment Sansa grew up..no more a naive victim…”
After escaping the terrible Ramsay Bolton and reemerging as the Lady of Winterfell, Sansa’s armor became more obvious, incorporating leather belts and straps in addition to the fabric ones.
“She is almost [inaccessible] to anyone; she’s almost strapped down. It’s this idea of being wrapped and unavailable and not feminine,” Clapton told me recently in an interview about Sansa’s costume evolution. Sansa’s been through a lot of trauma, and this subtle strapping was a way of protecting herself.
Now it’s not subtle anymore. It criss-crosses her whole torso and is molded the same way Ser Brienne’s more traditional metal armor is. This full-on leather armor look practically shouts that she will be standing up for herself from the onslaught to come, starting with Daenerys, whom Sansa backed into a corner regarding the independence of the North, but holding strong through the Night King and his band of zombies. This armor is still largely symbolic and not that practical — what use will a bunch of leather straps be against dead people? — but the visual statement is one of strength and defiance. Clapton confirms this analysis.
“It’s not about protection, it’s a statement! Sansa’s armor is a direct reaction to Dany’s assertion of power,” Clapton writes. And why leather? “One, it’s the material of choice for Stark armor, so celebrates the north [and] two, all the armorers are making weapons out of dragon glass or Valyrian steel, so they’re busy! It’s also not really like anything else we’ve seen before. It’s just Sansa creating her own style/direction now.”
The outfit’s tight bodice and high collar still contains evidence of her past influences, though. One eagle-eyed commenter said on Twitter that she looks like the “love child of Littlefinger and Cersei.”
As for her “needle” necklace, Sansa has seemingly not taken off her circular chain since she fed Ramsay Bolton to his own dogs.
A version of the necklace with first showed up in the Dark Sansa era, with the circle split in half. The circle itself has spiritual meaning for Clapton, who can be seen in many interviews, even as far back as 2011, wearing the shape herself. She explained it on her recent Instagram post: “I use circles as they represent a positive emotional message of harmony and protection.” She explained that the circle is “often used to represent unity and commitment, they are associated with women’s strength” as well as community.
At the bottom of the chain is a large pointed “needle,” which Clapton previously told me is a symbol of both a bond with sister Arya (whose sword shares the same name) and her own identity as a gifted seamstress. In the updated, unsplit version of the circular necklace, a needle is still there, hanging at the end. But it’s hard to see since it hangs below her waist. The message? Sansa has always had hidden strength and weapons — don’t you dare underestimate her.
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