Words by Ella Sangster
Two Years on From the Game of Thrones Finale its Wardrobe is Still Regarded as One of The Most Iconic of All Time. Meet Sheena Wichary, the Costume Supervisor Behind Some of the Shows Most Talked-About Outfits.
Game of Thrones is notorious for its evocative wardrobe, with its enormous fur coats cut out for the arctic tundra, dragon scale dresses, and intricate metal armour redolent of bygone eras solidifying its ranking as one of the best wardrobes the silver screen has ever seen. Each costume is more than just clothing, with every garment steeped in meaning, used as a powerful tool to foreshadow the characters' future and reflect the journeys they’ve been on. It’s no surprise the show and its wardrobe have won countless awards, and the hearts of millions of fans worldwide. Sheena Wichary is a powerhouse behind the famous wardrobes, having worked as Costume Supervisor across the series. Costume supervisors act as a sort of project manager, overseeing the costume department and maintenance of the looks across filming. As long and famous as the series (and its outfits) are, it’s no surprise Sheena has won two Emmys for Outstanding Costumes in a Series for Game of Thrones. In addition she’s worked as costume supervisor for globally-appraised projects such as The Handmaids Tale and Avengers: Infinity War. I sat down with Sheena to break down what it takes to be a wardrobe supervisor, and how to break into the exclusive costume industry.
How did you first get into working in wardrobe and costumes for TV and movies? I went to Edinburgh College of Art to study Illustration. When I finished it was so hard finding work in this field so I became a runner for a local TV company in Glasgow. It really is the best training in my opinion. They made me work my socks off! After a few more years down the line working in Production roles, I had a colleague ask me to co-ordinate for her in the costume department as they were in such a mess with their admin... twenty + years later here I am as costume supervisor.
What does working as a Costume Supervisor entail? Costume supervisors keep everything shipshape in the 'wardrobe department' and thrive on being organised. They work mainly on very big multi-camera shows that require multiple outfits. Working to the costume designer’s plans, they coordinate the work of the department, work out what clothes and accessories need to be made, hired or bought, what staff are needed and where. They also organise storage and supervise the tasks that need doing to ensure all work is done to schedule and budget. Costume supervisors work with the costume designer to ensure costumes or outfits are of the standard they require, ready and prepared in time for fittings, rehearsals, recordings or live shows. During filming, they supervise continuity of outfits, the cleaning, maintenance and any repairs or adjustments. When filming is over, they supervise any cleaning, repairing and returns.
You’ve worked on some amazing projects such as Game of Thrones, Avengers: Infinity War, and The Handmaid's Tail, just to name a few. Is there any difference in the planning and production of a period drama as opposed to fantasy or fiction? I’d say that the main difference is that when working on a feature film it’s only one script. Working on HETV episodes is much harder going, usually eight scripts and a lot of prep work and organising throughout.
Do you have a favourite person you’ve ever dressed or worked with? My favourite was Elisabeth Moss on Handmaid’s Tale. She’s a very grounded woman with a real drive to produce quality work.
The GoT wardrobe is notorious for its meticulous details that foreshadow character arcs and future plots. Could you run me through the process of translating a script into a costume? One of the most important components in creating a successful production is creating an illusion. The idea is to create a new world through characters to which the audience relates and through which they understand the idea behind the production. The world of costuming requires the designer to investigate ways in which to achieve a desired illusion. This method varies from designer to designer, but there are several components to it that are necessary for every costume designer to follow. These components include the script, the theme, the time period, the character, the sketches, the tools, and the costume plot. The script is the costumer’s playbook through which they start the creative process. The first reading of the script gives a basic overview of the story behind it. Future readings enhance the knowledge of the story more and also help us discover various elements of the story that greatly affect not only the looks of the costume, but also how it is made.
There are so many amazing costumes from GoT, do you have a favourite that stands out through the series and why? Cersei’s Ceremonial Gown. It’s so fabulous. Black laser cut leather - So badass!
What advice would you give to someone who wants to get into the industry and work in the wardrobe department for TV or film in the future? Apply for traineeships in the industry. Look for work as a runner / trainee. Failing that, search for your local crew database and send out your information and interest to as many costume supervisors as you can. They are the ones who do the crewing.