Game of Thrones costume designer Michele Clapton was honored at the 20th Anniversary Designing Women event presented by New York Women in Film & Television and their longtime partner Variety. The event, which was held at the Director’s Guild of America Theater, acknowledges the work of women costume, hair and makeup designers in the industry, “who have exponentially succeeded at their craft,” said NYWIFT executive director Cynthia López.
It was Clapton’s “sheer tenacity” that made her a perfect candidate, according to López. “When you see the amount of costumes that Michele and her team had to prepare and arrange, it is astounding. There are costume designers who sustain us, who surprise us, who inspire us, and she’s one of those people.”
From the red carpet Clapton shared how flattered she was to be recognized not only for Game of Thrones, but also for her whole career — especially since she’s from “out of town.” (Clapton hails from the U.K.)
While flattered by the honor, Clapton added, “In some ways it’s sad we have to have organizations like this. Women should be recognized without needing this support. It’s a wonderful thing, I just wish it wasn’t necessary, that we were people in film.”
Although Clapton was being recognized for her incredible body of work (which includes other stunners such as The Crown and Mama Mia! Here We Go Again) there was special focus placed on her Game of Thrones designs from presenter and HBO Executive Vice President Janet Graham-Borba, who has worked with Clapton through all 8 seasons of the series (and credits Clapton for inspiring her own daughter to be a costume designer). Graham-Borba applauded Clapton’s more than 73 hours of costuming work on the show, stating, “Her work is threaded with inspiration, intelligence, and confidence, and she gave [the series] heart, beauty and an entirely magical personality.”
During her acceptance speech Clapton said of being hired to work on Thrones, “I knew I wanted to do this more than anything I’d ever wanted to do…and once I got the job I was elated for about a minute. And then panic set in.”
The event showcased some of Clapton’s work with costumes belonging to characters Daenerys Targaryen, Sansa Stark, Cersei Lannister, Yara Greyjoy and the wildling Karsi. Clapton pointed out she had selected all female characters. “I wanted it to be a really strong statement that yes, there are lots of strong men in the show, but I think one of the best things about Game of Thrones was how strong the women became; and that they weren’t all positive roles, but they were all strong roles.”
When asked which costume from all eight seasons she would have liked for herself, Clapton’s answer was immediate: Sansa’s coronation dress. But she admitted she was a little shocked by how little screen-time the outfit got in the end: “At the time I was a bit cross it was only on screen for so long, but in the end I really loved it because it almost underlined that in the costume department we do it because we love it. I didn’t know how long it was going to be on screen for, but even so it didn’t matter because we still would have done it the same way. And I think that’s what’s so strong about Game of Thrones.” For fans who go back to watch the finale, keep an eye out for the hands dressing Sansa’s for her crowning — they belong to Clapton.
The night, which also honored makeup artist Riccie Johnson (60 Minutes), hair stylist Shunika Terry (Atlanta), and the design team behind The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, was full of pride and excitement for every honoree. In closing her speech Clapton reminded the audience of a lesson that rings through her own behind-the-scenes work, as well as on-screen for many of Throne’s female characters: “Women can do anything if they’re given a choice.”
Check out Game of Thrones’ behind-the-scenes video about Michele Clapton’s work on the series here.