The final character posters for Game of Thrones gave fans a lot to talk about ahead of the season 8 premiere, especially Sansa Stark. Sansa (played by Sophie Turner) sits on the Iron Throne in a navy outfit that has added fuel to a popular theory about Sansa’s allegiances at Winterfell this season. (Specifically, its scale and fur motifs are references to her Tully and Stark lineage, implying that she’s more interested in restoring her family’s status than buddying up with Daenerys Targaryen to give her the Iron Throne.)
Nothing’s for certain until the show premieres on April 14, but Game of Thrones costume designer Michele Clapton confirmed to Glamour that Sansa’s season 8 wardrobe is “absolutely” a reflection of her loyalties on the show. The scaly fabric seen in her season 8 poster is “reference in the fabric to her mother’s family sigil the fish.” Then, “the fur cape at her neck [pays] respect to her father’s family, the Starks.”
Compare this symbolic final season outfit with the dresses she wore eight years ago, and you’ll recognize how far Sansa has come over the past seven seasons. Where her early looks were heavily influenced by the people around her, her final season outfits represent a fully realized individual. “I think you can see that she is influenced throughout her journey until she finally comes into her own style in season 7,” Clapton says. “The look is a culmination of her difficult story.”
The Sansa audiences see in the final season is a hardened version of her younger self. At the beginning of Game of Thrones, Sansa relocates from Winterfell to King’s Landing. The journey saw her adopt colorful styles worn by Cersei, and later, Margaery, as she tries to assimilate to her new home. “The ‘Little Bird’ initially copied the style of Cersei, when she first arrives in Kings Landing,” Clapton says.
Her departure from King’s Landing in season 4 and gradual journey north to Winterfell leads to dramatic changes in her appearance. As she encounters more difficult circumstances, her dresses get darker and more subdued. “She then retreats to the cut of her mother’s costume, a refuge, showing how she feels, wounded and scared, but she can’t speak it,” Clapton says. “She tells of her pain through embroidery and color.”
Littlefinger, master manipulator and her companion for much of that journey, has a profound impact on these outfits. The patterns in Sansa’s dresses and her pin are close to his own, to show that she’s paying close attention to his tactics. (Which, as fans know, will help her take control later on.) “This was supposed to imply that she now understands that she can learn and take from those that hurt her,” Clapton says. “She copies Littlefinger’s look not because she’s impressed by him, but that she needs him.”
By the time Sansa has returned to Winterfell and reunited with her surviving family members, her outfits carry subtle cues referencing her long journey home. “She suffered at the hands of Joffrey, her mother’s sister, and Ramsey [Bolton]; this influences the design of the belt in season 7 that wraps around her body, protecting her. The wrap over front and laced dress, the shorter length and the stitched, quilted heavy cloth—all tell of protection and the ease of movement if needed.”
Sansa’s outfits aren’t the only barometer for her influences and relationships on the show. Sophie Turner revealed that her character’s hair styles also mirror the people around her. “Sansa’s hair is constantly reflecting the people she’s learning from, or mimicking, or inspired by at the time,” Turner told Refinery29 in 2017. “When she’s Cersei’s prisoner, and she’s kind of absorbing all her manipulative techniques, it’s reflected in her hairstyle, and when she’s finding the spirit of Margaery in herself, she wears her hair like Margaery.”