The final season of Game of Thrones looms like an army of White Walkers waiting to kill off more of our beloved characters. For now, three of our favorite female players are still alive (Cersei Lannister, Daenerys Targaryen, and Sansa Stark), despite their harrowing journeys.
For seven seasons, the Game of Thrones creators have cleverly mapped their stories onto their clothing. The change in their color palettes shows the consequences of surviving the game of thrones—all three women now wear almost exclusively black. The bold Lannister colors have disappeared; Sansa Stark’s icy blues and whites left with her innocence; the Targaryen red is lost amongst Dany’s inky costumes. In the last two seasons, the entire Game of Thrones color scheme has faded to black, hammering home the notion that our remaining faves are in dire straits, and that house colors and allegiances don’t matter when the White Walkers are on their way.
For the women, black reflects their losses and their newfound power. For the show, black reminds us that winter is indeed coming. Explore Cersei, Dany, and Sansa’s color journeys below and see what’s in store for their future and the future of Westeros (it’s probably not blue skies and rainbows).
She’s managed to claw her way to the top, but at a hefty price, and the shift in her clothing palette reflects the consequences of her rabid pursuit of the throne. At first, Cersei’s gender stunts her power—a queen by marriage only, she wears muted tones or the gold of her husband’s House Baratheon.
Veteran film creative Kat Smith suggests this is her demure attempt to “gain the court’s favor by playing passively.” But Cersei soon takes over, orchestrating the King’s death, and draping herself in deep, blood reds to reflect her newfound power. John LaRue, graphic designer and creator of this Breaking Bad color infographic, suggests, “red is a color she wears when she’s most fiercely loyal to her family, as the Lannister sigil is bathed in red and gold.”
In Season 4, when her power is challenged by the younger Margaery Tyrell, Cersei’s red fades to muted blushes, until a murderous rampage kills Tyrell (and hundreds more) and puts Cersei back on top—but at the cost of her last living child. In her despair and misplaced anger, Cersei doubles down on her cruelty, further alienating herself, until she is alone, in mourning, and clad in black.
Daenerys has gone from merely a pawn in the game of thrones to a woman fighting for control of the entire chessboard. Her journey begins as an exiled woman, leagues from her home, attempting to find her footing as the “true” leader of Westeros. Her clothing shifts between the pale tones of virginal bride-to-be, the saturated pinks and blues of the mysterious lands she travels through, and the earth tones of her adopted Dothraki people. As she rises to power in Season 3 through Season 5, Dany begins wearing stately blues before shifting to pure, icy whites. For the past two seasons, finally at home and at the height of her power, Dany has worn only black (save for a curious all-white ensemble when she ventures beyond the Wall). She has amassed a legion of warriors, decimated the Lannister army, and become a true leader—but can it last?
“Sansa has often been used as a minor piece in the larger player’s power games, and that meant her style has always been reflective of whomever held her down at the time,” Smith says. In Season 1, Sansa wears soft colors (light blue, mauve, pale green) which emphasize her girlishness as Joffrey Baratheon’s betrothed. After her father is executed, she becomes a prisoner of the Lannisters and wears the same muted wines and blues Cersei wears early on. When Sansa grows close to Margaery Tyrell, she wears the bolder Tyrell hues, Lannister house colors during her forced nuptials to Tyrion, then dyes her hair and wardrobe black after fleeing the city. Sansa is later imprisoned and forced to wed (again, but this time in white). But she perseveres and becomes the Lady of Winterfell—since then clad in all black to remind us of her sobering journey and her newfound power.
For John LaRue, black denotes “mourning and death, power and authority,” while Smith suggests “black primarily symbolizes absolute power rather than death itself.”
All three women have suffered to gain their power: Cersei is, after years of answering to men, Queen of the Seven Kingdoms, Dany has overcome exile and brutality to take her rightful place at the throne, and Sansa has (repeatedly) escaped the clutches of evil to rule over her ancestral home. The female characters, once shackled by and draped in their femininity, have ascended to power along treacherous paths that are littered with bodies. Ultimately, black represents several themes that are all at play in this final season—the realm is mourning, power has a price, and the darkness of winter is coming. Remember, by night, all cloaks are black.
If you liked this, you’ll love our Game of Thrones script analysis.