As each new annual Game Of Thrones premiere approaches, my Facebook feed quickly succumbs to a flood of incredible Game of Thrones cosplays. Just as the show is unprecedentedly popular with people who wouldn't otherwise touch fantasy, Game of Thrones seems to have a similar appeal among cosplayers — everyone seems to have made a costume from it. But what exactly is it that makes it so special?
I've only got one Game of Thrones cosplay myself — Daenerys, as she appears for the desert-wandering section of Season 2 — but it's served me well over the years. I briefly touched on the process of making this costume previous article, but one of the best things about this costume was the level of detailed craftsmanship I got to explore in everything from brasswork jewelry to moulded leather armour.
Not only that, but as a live-action show Game of Thrones is much kinder to cosplayers than shows or video games with animated costumes. Cosplayers making the garb of Game Of Thrones have a real, physical piece to base their work off — something that's actually designed to fit on a human body and be worn for moderately strenuous activity, what's more.
Details of Arya's costume by Dashy
Beyond the practicality, garb from the world of Westeros has a unique visual appeal that's rare to find in video games, anime, or other live action fantasy and sci-fi shows. It's a dark, gritty fantasy where the costumes are designed to match. Every costume shows imperfections and the marks of being worn — whether it's Arya's beat up leather jerkin, the white-frosted furs of the Night's Watch or the coarsely textured fabrics of the Northerners' wear.
Even the more pristine costumes of the nobility show texture in the beautiful, rustic, beaded embroidery by Michelle Carragher. Each bit of embroidery tells a story, and cosplayers, of course, have gone to lengths to recreate them.
Details of Lysa Arryn's costume by Alita Cosplay
As a live action show, Game of Thrones cosplays do tend to require a little more in the way of physical resemblance (though that's not to say that people haven't created beautiful Thrones costumes without being a perfect doppelganger), and the community has thrown up a number of startling lookalikes:
You've probably seen Santatory's near-perfect Margaery around, or Khal Drene's Khal Drogo, but Australia has a few of our own too — FTK Cosplay's Joffrey is so spot-on that he scored a selfie with Jack Gleeson himself, while Achlime Cosplay often suffers for his resemblance to the Night's Watch's Sam, wearing his blacks in the blistering Brisbane heat.
Even for people like myself with little physical resemblance to our chosen characters, Game Of Thrones costumes have a broad appeal and often end up being worn more than any other costume. They're instantly recognisable even to people who aren't deep into pop culture, and there's always a convention, a party or a Game of Thrones event that will be the perfect reason to dust off your adorable shoulder dragon once again.
Steven as Golden Crown Viserys by Pireze
Despite its wealth of interesting characters and gorgeous on-screen design, the Game Of Thrones cosplay community has seen a growth in costumers taking creative license with the series. Costume designer Michele Clapton has built such a beautiful visual style for the series that people are now designing their own costumes within that canon — whether it's for characters who only appear in the book, or simply for original designs like a handful of unspecified women of "House Baelish".
Lenora Gewandungen's take on the long-dead Lyanna Stark. Image by Ark Pendragon
This fan creativity even extends to some more out-there designs, like a White Walker-turned version of Daenerys.
HBO is surprisingly supportive of the cosplay community, for a company that has been known to be fierce about protecting their IP. Last year, fan creations inspired by the world of Westeros (and Essos) were showcased in the Game of Thrones Compendium — a book full of fan art, creations and of course cosplay.
— Chelsea M-C (@InnAtCrossroads) January 26, 2016
Not only this, but HBO routinely invites and hires cosplayers for certain events — from promotional days, to events like the touring Game of Thrones exhibition and even the coveted UK premiere at the Tower of London.
While Australia is quieter in official events, this year saw the fan event ThronesCon open its doors in Melbourne for the first time, bringing down a couple of Game of Thrones actors and a bunch of local and interstate cosplayers.
All in all, it's a pretty exciting time to be a Game of Thrones cosplayer. Even when the next two seasons wrap up the show for good, you can bet we'll be seeing Game Of Thrones cosplays for years and years to come. Besides, with all those spin-off shows yet to come, we'll no doubt be seeing much more of Westeros and its fabulous costumes on our screens.