Costume designer Jany Temime talks to Tatler about working colour theory into the outfits for the 'Game of Thrones' prequel, why silhouettes matter and what she did to make Matt Smith look powerful
How familiar were you with the Game of Thrones series, and why did you decide to work on House of the Dragon?
Jany Temime (JT): To be honest, I’d never seen Game of Thrones. I got the offer during quarantine, and I thought House of the Dragon was interesting because it was a prequel. Working on a prequel is like starting a new project, because it’s not directly related to the original.
I read Dance of the Dragons—the book the show is based on—to understand the Targaryen family context, and from there I was hooked.
The executive producers Ryan [J. Condal] and Miguel [Sapochnik] were amazing to work with, and we had an amazing cast with lots of new talent, as well as old friends that I’ve worked with for a long time, including Paddy [Considine] and Rhys [Ifans].
In Game of Thrones, costumes discerned the characters’ backgrounds, identifying their family and status. With House of the Dragon focusing on the Targaryen family, is there anything in the costumes that signals the individual characters and their intentions?
JT: The main point the showrunners made was that we should design costumes with the colours of each side of the family in mind: red, black and gold, and green and blue.
Having such a strong colour story refined the designs so much. They affected the [silhouettes]—simple and graphic shapes helped to accentuate the colours further—and [forced us] to consider how these colours would appear on screen.
It was important to show the colours clearly; for instance, you wouldn’t want a circle of red next to a circle of green. Instead, we’d go for a square or triangle, as that’s how the colour can be expressed more powerfully.
One of the other challenges was how we could bring sex and femininity into the story. In both Game of Thrones and House of the Dragon, the characters are passionate and larger than life, and that makes them sexy—not [just] because you’re seeing sex, but because of how visceral and basic their needs are, which is ultimately the need for power. Power is a strong ideal, and can be represented by red: for blood, for sex, for death, for fire.
Which was your favourite character to design costumes for?
JT: I mean we all loved the dragons, but they didn’t need costumes! It’s difficult to say, but I loved making the armour—there’s something about working with metal and creating these shapes. You can’t [cut corners] with armour because it’s all about proportion and volume and movement
After doing the armour, I work on the other characters in order of casting: King Viserys (Paddy Considine), then Daemon (Matt Smith), then Rhaenyra (Emma D’Arcy and Milly Alcock)—and each character became my favourite [laughs].
Which costume was the most difficult to design? Why?
JT: Even though I loved the armour, it was difficult to design Daemon’s armour, especially because I thought it was extremely important. When it came to his helmet, I didn’t want to do just any kind of mask—I wanted to create a sexy dragon [laughs]. Helmets aren’t the prettiest [accessory], and it’s hard to create a beautiful face on the mask, but we succeeded.
The second hardest was Rhaenyra’s coronation dress, because it’s supposed to be antique for the time. I wanted to do something cultural but not too recognisable. Their world is completely fantasy, and it’s difficult when you’re trying to create a unique, antique and special dress.
Where do you find inspiration? Did you draw from any historical references in your designs?
JT: There were references to medieval times with the palace looks and armour, and for accessories, I got a lot of inspiration from Moroccan brides. I found these earrings and made them longer and longer and longer, and I thought it looked mysterious.
But that was just an element—I get bits and pieces from everywhere, and that’s how I accessorised the costumes. With Rhaenyra’s headpiece, for example, I layered necklaces from markets.
We put everything together little by little, like a puzzle. I’d find some buttons and add those, then some metal pieces and add those, and cut something up from something else, and so on.
I wanted to create a beautiful version of something that viewers would be interested in wearing themselves. One way people connect with characters is if who they see onscreen resembles them in some way, so you need to draw inspiration from many places.
What were the challenges of designing during the pandemic?
JT: We were on Zoom constantly [laughs]. I’d speak with the producers and showrunners and we were exchanging ideas. After discussions, I’d do some sketches and mood boards, and then we’d meet online again so I could present these ideas—it was a long process.
I was also working with a designer in LA, but I was in the South of France at the time, so we worked out an incredible system that meant we were working while the other was asleep, and we managed to do so much that way.
Lockdown was a sad period for everyone, but working was a salvation. Thank goodness for House of the Dragon—we were thrown into this amazing fantasy world, and we had something to live for.