Back to our series of articles about stage costumes used in today’s popular movies and serials. In this article, we will take a closer look at the outfits of Game of Thrones’ matriarch Olenna Tyrell. She’s a very interesting character, and many of her attires are based on real Medieval clothing articles and fashion trends. Especially, Olenna’s headdresses. They are traditional and appropriate, but charming and beautifully adorned at the same time. So, let's get right to the costumes.
Lady Olenna Tyrell was the de facto head of House Tyrell of Highgarden, which was one of the great houses of Westeros but unfortunately, is now officially extinct with Olenna’s death.
The Tyrells had ruled over the Reach from their castle seat in Highgarden. By the way, while the Lannisters dress in red, like the Capulets in Romeo and Juliet, the Tyrells, who are a rival family although formally allies with the Lannisters, dress in blues and teals mixed with bronze and gold – the colors of variation of their family sigil.
We first meet the late widowed lady Olenna Tyrell, also called the Queen of Thorns because of her witty barbs, in the Season 3 Episode “Dark Wings, Dark Words”. While she dressed modestly, befitting a widow of her age and stature, her silhouette is still in keeping with the Tyrell ladies-in-waiting and to a lesser extent, her granddaughter Margaery Tyrell.
Actor Dame Diana Rigg said of her costume, “The costume is terrific. I don't have to spend hours in makeup and I'm in a wimple, it's great. I adore it, I absolutely adore it”.
The Tyrells like to show their wealth and opulence through their clothing, wearing exquisite imported floral silk brocades, luscious silk velvet, and dupioni silk fastened with gold and bronze claps and fasteners.
In the beginning, it's thought that while the Tyrell family color is actually yellow and green, they have toned it down in their dress to come off as less threatening to their former allies the Lannisters.
Olenna wears a fitted and tailored jacket made of a gold brocade fabric and a Wedgwood blue silk taffeta skirt.
One of Olenna's hallmarks is her pillbox hats. Although, the Medieval name for it would be called a “barbette”. This likely indicates that she is a devout and pious woman – at least on the exterior, since what sometimes comes out of her mouth is often in conflict with this.
And then the wimple, which is the section that covers her neck, is often, although not always, tucked into the neckline of her jacket.
Olenna also wears, like Margaery and Loras, a bronze casting of their family's sigil – the Tyrell rose. Olenna's handcrafted rose embellishment is attached to her jacket with laces. This one is custom made by Steensons Jewellers in Ireland.
Pictured here, are Loras’ brooch on the top and Margaery's belt on the bottom, taken from Steensons Jewellers website. So Olenna's is a much more elaborate version of Margaery's.
According to Steensons Jewellers website, “Each individual petal was rolled and shaped by hand, using copper clay. The vine work was formed from brass wire and a mould was taken from real rosebuds to cast the beautiful silver bud details”.
As a guest at Sansa and Tyrion’s wedding in the Season 3 Episode “Second sons”, Olenna wears this ornate gold and blue brocade coat, featuring an oversized feather plume motif, with a contrasting Wedgwood blue silk taffeta full A-line skirt.
The Tyrells’ blue and gold outfits are in stark contrast to the noble women and men of King's Landing, standing directly behind them and dressed in dark reds and maroons.
Olenna's asymmetrical tailored coat, the first of two we’ll see her wear, has tailored princess seams through the torso that flare out into a cascading skirt, two-piece fitted set-in sleeves, and an oversized shawl collar feature. The coat is closed with an oversized gold clasp.
Olenna wears the same pillbox hat and wimple, tucked neatly into the coat collar.
Here is another of Olenna’s jackets. The motif of this particular brocade fabric has a bit of a Gothic feel to it, with the pattern reminding a bit of stained glass windows. She's wearing it in the Season 4 Episode “Two Swords”.
While Olenna’s look is more matronly and has much more skin coverage, Olenna’s costume mirrors Margaery's Season 2 outfit.
In this close-up shot, you can see that both Olenna and Margaery's bodices have multiple panels and seaming that create this particular silhouette. We see that shape to a much lesser degree on the Tyrell ladies-in-waiting.
The jacket has an overlapping front closure, A-line circle skirt, and a pleated brown silk sash, hanging at the front of her skirt. You can't always see it when her wimple is in the way, but this sash is actually wrapped around her neck, is tucked into her bodice, and then hangs loose in the front.
In this shot, as Olenna meets with the High Sparrow in the Season 5 Episode “The Gift”, you can see that the jacket has a bit of a peplum at the back and the skirt has a slight train.
The train, while it often indicates wealth by showing you can afford the extra fabric to drag about the floor, also shows that Olenna still holds on to the traditional, while Margaery and the handmaidens offer the new look, with skirts that just skim the ground.
As we’ve mentioned before, Olenna's pillbox hat, wimple, and veil are her signature look.
Although, we have seen other versions of it on other characters – both Septa Unella and Septa Mordane wore a simpler version, without the pillbox hat or the veil and wimple.
On the left, is Olenna's headdress from The Game of Thrones exhibit and on the right, is a painted portrait of Queen Anna of Poland from about 1590 by Polish artist Martin Kober.
The notes on the painting indicate that the subject is wearing widow’s clothing after the death of her husband. The wimple, in this case, is actually a structured piece worn around her neck.
We see this style of headdress in Lithuanian folk costumes as well. This particular style of headdress would have been worn by a married woman.
The veil and wimple was a commonly worn headdress in Medieval Europe, seen here in a painting from the Morgan Bible. This book depicts the customs of 13th-century France, depicted from a Christian perspective.
According to Sarah Thursfield who is the author of the book, the Medieval tailor's assistant, she says, “The wimple was a covering for the throat worn by most women in the 13th century. It could be part of the kerchief, or the wimple might be a separate piece and more stylish in its effect. During the 14th century, it gradually went out of general use, being seen mainly on elderly women, widows, and nuns”.
And in this painting, also we see an example of the fillet and barbette.
Here are two examples of the veil and wimple, depicted with incredible lifelike detail in two paintings by Dutch artist Rogier van der Weyden. The oil on oakwood painting on the left is a section taken from the “Deposition” from circa 1435. And the painted portrait on oak on the right, meanwhile, titled “Portrait of a Woman” is from circa 1440.
This is the second coat designed by Michele Clapton seen in the Season 3 Episode “And Now His Watch is Ended”.
This coat is cut the same way as the one she wore to Tyrion and Sansa's wedding, except that it's closed with two brass claps instead of one. And she's matched it up with the gray base of the brocade with a similarly huge silk taffeta or dupioni silk skirt.
Olenna wears it while taking a stroll with Varys.
And in this scene, in the Great Sept of Baelor with Cersei.
The coat is made from this incredible rose motif, cotton and polyester brocade fabric from makers Rubelli. It has a small percentage of metalized polyester that gives the fabric its luster. This fabric has limited availability, but originally it came in multiple colors, including a black version worn by Margaery in Season 4.
Olenna wears it again in the Season 4 Episode “The Lion and the Rose”, otherwise known as “The Purple Wedding”.
One shift here is that the wimple is actually tied back under her hair and her chest is exposed, showing a gold necklace. The Medieval name for the chinstrap that we see here worn with or without a wimple, is called a “barbette”.
Moving forward, Olenna begins moving away from her House colors and, like Margaery, opting for more golden tones. The thought behind this is that now that Margaery is queen and Cersei no longer holds the power that she once knew, they can now embrace that position. Margaery doesn't need to prove anything anymore and by association, Olenna doesn't either. Essentially, her work is done.
Here is a close-up of this headdress taken from embroidery artist Michele Carragher’s website. Carragher does the majority of the elaborate embroidery and beading and fabric manipulation for the series.
Unlike the blue headdress which had a detachable veil, the embroidery is actually applied directly to this lovely bias-cut silk chiffon veiling.
Here's an example where Olenna has moved over to gold brocades in the Season 6 Episode “Book of The Stranger”.
This is the first of three leg-of-mutton style sleeved jackets that she wears. These jackets are more symmetrical. This one's fastened in the front with three brass closures.
And a metallic gold embroidery rose applique adorns her upper sleeves.
Here is the same jacket, worn with a new headdress. Instead of embroidery, the pillbox hat is embellished with this simple plate metal rose.
In the Episode “Oathbreaker”, where Olenna is meeting with a Small Council, she wears a similarly cut jacket. This one is made from a gold-embroidered silk fabric. The jacket also has a rose applique, although this one appears to be a fabric applique.
Here's a better look at the metal embellishment on her headdress, attached directly to the veiling.
Olenna wears similar costume one final time when she meets Margaery under the scrutiny of Septa Unella in the Episode “Broken Man”. This is actually the last time she'll see any members of her family alive.
Olenna arrives in Dorne for a surprising parlay arranged by the teleporting Varys in the Season 6 Finale “The Winds of Winter”. She's in mourning.
As we've learned through Cersei and Margaery, black or near black is a mourning color in Westeros. Through the Middle Ages and Renaissance Europe, black was the color of mourning that dates back to the Roman times. Interestingly though, however, the color of deepest mourning among Medieval European queens was white.
Clapton has essentially copied her previous gold jacket, and then she's cut it in a tone on tone floral black jacquard fabric, and then decorated it with muted brass buttons.
It's hard to ascertain the color exactly, but it appears to be a warm black with hints of brown. She does have that one flash of color in her ring.
Here's a close-up look at her headdress. This one again taken from Michele Carragher’s website.
Of course, these are not all of the Olenna Tyrell’s outfits but we think that you got the idea. The stage costumes of this character of Game of Thrones are special and charming in their own way.