The ladies of Westeros are dressed to kill — especially those who go into battle, wield weapons, and wear armor. (Brienne of Tarth, we’re looking at you.) So when photos leaked of some new Game of Thrones characters — Prince Oberyn’s bastard daughters in Dorne, known as the Sand Snakes — more than a few people scratched their heads. Did the Red Viper’s avenging angels have nipples on their breastplates? And wouldn't author George R.R. Martin be totally against this, considering he likes to use the phrase “as useless as nipples on a breastplate” throughout the books?
To sort out nipplegate — and other sartorial issues for the coming season — we caught up with costume designer Michele Clapton at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where she was giving a Spark Talk along with the curator of the Arms and Armor department. “You’ve picked a bone of contention!” Clapton laughed. She told the Cut that “it certainly wasn’t my intention” to have nippled armor. “I’m not terribly keen on it,” she added. “I don’t see the necessity for it. You don’t do it on men.” Well, except the famously ridiculed Batman suit. “Yeah, okay, that. But I wouldn’t do it on men, and I don’t really like the concept of it on women. Of course you have to have the woman’s shape. That’s fine. But [nipples on armor] is almost from a man’s point of view, and there’s something slightly cheesy about it.”
She went on to explain that the nipple feature was kind of a mistake — it was a result of the structured molds they used to make the armor. “They sand it off to an extent, but they didn’t do it as much as I wanted them to,” Clapton said. And because of the rush in production, she didn’t notice the sanding wasn’t completed until it was too late and shooting had to start. Even then, she said, it wasn’t that noticeable on set, but a trick of the lighting made the nippled effect more visible in the photographs taken that day. “I had the same thought as you. I was surprised when I saw the picture. But I didn’t notice them when I was there. And sometimes you can’t go back and change things.” Her armory team, most of whom have an Italian background, also didn’t see the problem. “They’re like, ‘No, it’s fine! Don’t change it!’” she told us. “But it was a bad move!”
In addition to the are-they-or-aren’t-they nipples, the Sand Snakes will share elements of Oberyn’s beaten-leather look in their clothes and jewelry, “so they have a sense of family,” Clapton said, but each will also have an individual look and their own weapon of choice. Clapton compared them to a “little pack of animals” or a gang, and while snakeskin will be incorporated into their outfits, it won’t be too literal.
As for some other groups of characters, Clapton revealed during the Met talk that the actors playing the Unsullied “start behaving as a pack” when they put on their armor, and it can be “terrifying” when they start fighting with each other. “So finally we said, ‘You can’t put your helmet on until you get to set.’” And while the White Walkers have an armor of sorts, Clapton told us that it’s all found materials, “part of sculptures and architectures that they reused as armor,” nothing they made themselves. “The idea was that they maybe discovered an ancient society that was actually very sophisticated, but the leather bits were all kind of eaten away. That wouldn’t have survived.”
Sansa’s makeover at the end of season four was also about using found materials — in her case, feathers from message-bearing ravens, to deliver her own message about a change in personality. “We’ve always known that Sansa makes her own clothes, so it was a very deliberate decision of hers, to change and say, ‘I’m not going to be pushed around. I’m going to take charge.’” Clapton drew our attention to Sansa’s necklace, which has a long spike at the end. Because Arya has her Needle, this is Sansa’s Needle. “It’s her chance to take control,” Clapton said. “When she comes down the stairs, she’s playing with it like, ‘This is me, taking control of this situation.’”
Arya will get her own makeover when she arrives in Braavos in season five, which delighted actress Maisie Williams, Clapton said. “She finally got a few frocks! She was like, ‘Yeah! Yeah! I can’t believe it!’ in the dressing room.” Arya’s road-worn attire, which lasted her through the past three seasons with nary a chance to change, is presumably retired. “She’ll never go back to it,” Clapton laughed. “She was like, ‘I want to set fire to it! I want to throw it in the water!’”
Most Viewed Stories
Did Lena Dunham Shade the Wing on Girls?
Self-Empowerment Is Just Another Word for Narcissism
What, Exactly, Are Melania and Ivanka Trump Trying to Sell?
When Good Christian Girls Need Planned Parenthood
Madame Clairevoyant: Horoscopes for the Week of February 20
Inside the Secret Dating App for Famous People
After Divorce, Angelina Jolie Tells BBC, ‘We Will Always Be a Family’
Nighttime Voice-mails From the White House
Alt-Right Troll Milo Yiannopoulos Uses Campus Visit to Openly Mock a Transgender Student
Melania Trump Is Reportedly ‘Miserable’ in Her Role As First Lady
The Cut’s Latest Love and War FeaturesA Holiday Season Weekend Through London
A good guide for avid The Crown fans.It’s About Time You Learned Tove Lo’s Name
The singer has crafted pop hits you’ve heard a thousand times by now.Marina Abramovic Has Outlasted Her Lovers and, She Hopes, Her Critics
The world's most famous performance artist at 70.The Wing: Do Women Still Need a Space of Their Own?
This exclusive social club for women, is part sorority, part start-up.In Virtual Reality, Women Run the World
A new generation of female artists is making VR the most diverse corner of the male-dominated tech space.The Novelist Disguised As a Housewife
Shirley Jackson wrote 17 books while raising four children — and she couldn't have had a successful career without them.Ava DuVernay on Hollywood Racism, Modern-Day Slavery, and Why She’s Still an Optimist
The director, whose new documentary The 13th chronicles America’s history of racial subjugation, talks to Rebecca Traister about Bill Clinton, Newt Gingrich, and the modern criminal-justice system.What No One Tells Couples Trying to Conceive
It helps to be rich.The Hidden Black Women Who Helped Win the Space Race
A segregated unit of mathematicians born of desperation during World War II became the secret to NASA’s success.Slut-Shaming Squids Are Everywhere
The “Bermuda Square” comic strip is back.
The collaboration that dreams are made of.Good Morning America Host Amy Robach Apologizes for Saying ‘Colored People’ on Air
She quickly apologized.Unknown NFL Player Tries to Get Attention by Asking Aly Raisman Out in Video
That’s one way to do it.Don’t Mess This Up, Mischa Barton
Marissa Cooper is poised for a comeback ... maybe.California Votes to Remove Time Limit on Prosecuting Rape Cases
In light of the Bill Cosby case.Beyoncé’s Behind-the-Scenes Lemonade Photos Belong in a Museum
She had the "Boycott Beyoncé" sign already in formation on set.The Rise of the Male Celebrity Full-Frontal
An ex-publicist explains.Gabby Douglas Will Be a Miss America Judge
The gold-medal gymnast will help choose the 2017 pageant winner.Camille Becerra’s Photo Diary of Rockaway Beach
An ideal trip to add and cross off your summer bucket list.Sorry Nerds, Ian McKellen Won’t Officiate Your Expensive Lord of the Rings–Themed Wedding
Not even for $1.5 million.