An Exhibit of Ice and Fire

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Minor spoilers up to Season Three

This May 14-18 the internationally touring Game of Thrones: The Exhibition returned to Toronto at the TIFF Bell Lightbox. The 2014 exhibition features nearly one hundred original artifacts, costumes, weapons, storyboards and other paraphernalia from the first three seasons, including select pieces from the fourth season, of the epic fantasy series.

I walked into the Game of Thrones exhibit completely stoked. I have been a fan since the beginning of the series and Game of Thrones is currently my favourite show on television. One of the many reasons why it is so engrossing for fans is that the set and costume designers imbue the world of Westeros with lavish detail. Game of Thrones is an immersive viewing experience because the world looks so real on camera. So when I heard that an exhibition of GoT costumes and props was going to be in Toronto, I knew I had to go.

The start of the exhibit was truly ghoulish. Guests were treated to the sight of Grey Wind’s dismembered head, which viewers will remember was sewn to Robb Stark’s body in a vicious, sacrilegious effort to dishonour his corpse. In a tribute to Game of Throne’s notoriously high death rate, there was a memorial picture wall of major characters slain during the show’s run. (Catelyn Stark’s portrait took up twice as much room as anyone else’s.) There were a good number of props in the exhibition, including some that are being introduced in Season Four. The best were undoubtedly the costumes worn by the characters in various parts of Westeros. True to the spirit of the books, the clothes of each character revealed telling aspects of their personality.

The wildling and northerner’s costumes were very shapeless and layered. There were pelts of many different animals used to create a sense of how cold the North is. The North’s austerity was also recognizable in the lack of ornaments on the costumes. Brooches, necklaces, and hair ornaments were noticeably absent.

Stannis Baratheon and his allies had similarly functional and somewhat ugly clothing. Like the Northerners, with whom Stannis shares certain similarities, his clothing is very dark; browns, blacks, and silver chainmail feature prominently. A noticeable exception is Melisandre’s clothing, which is fire-engine red and beautiful in its exquisite drapery, emphasizing that she is a foreign influence in Game of Thrones. I especially enjoyed seeing the pouch in which Davos Seaworth kept his finger bones in season two. It is a small detail in his costume, but it is important to his character.

The real treat for me, I admit, was seeing the costumes of the King’s Landing ladies. What an enormous amount of work must have gone into their construction! Sansa Stark’s wedding gown was a beautiful brocade with intricate detailing around the neck. The embroidery crosses across the chest, seeming to bind her into the dress. There are also metal panels on her hips that, while beautiful, serve to emphasize the hips in a stiff and bizarre manner. The brocade also looks heavy and unwieldy. This turns a beautiful and expensive dress into one that looks uncomfortable and restrictive. The parallels to Sansa’s marriage to Tyrion are obvious.

In contrast, Cersei Lannister’s red and gold brocaded dress, while also heavy, seems to be something she wields like a weapon. The opulence suits her personality, and her lion choker looks like armour. The treat of the King’s Landing costumes was definitely Margaery Tyrell’s wedding gown. I had been looking forward to seeing it since watching Episode Two. The photos don’t do the dress justice; it is exquisite. The vines running across the bodice are spectacular, and the train is a work of art. The dress is supposed to symbolize more than a wedding, it is designed to showcase that Margaery is from House Tyrell, whose sigil is a golden rose. Sigils are as important as names in Westeros, and it was nice to see that incorporated into the costumes for the show.

I could go on about the intricacies of the armour and the detail in the jewelry, but then this post would go on forever. The only criticism I have to make about the exhibit is that there were unacceptably long lines in front of two attractions: the virtual tour of the Wall and the iron throne replica. Since I had already been waiting half an hour to get in (they were running behind), I had no desire to wait in yet another line. On the whole though, the Game of Thrones exhibit was a fantastic experience for an obsessive fan and I eagerly await its return next year with props for Season Five!

 -Contributed by Lara Thompson




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