On a show known as much for its brutal murders and gratuitous boobs, a polite, ladylike character like Sansa Stark is often overshadowed by other powerhouse women like Daenerys “Khaleesi” Targaryen, OG Wine Mom Cercei Lannister and Karate Kid Arya “the girl has no name” Stark. But Sansa (who, full disclosz, has been my girl since season one episode one) has been winning more fans of late. Clearly, spending two seasons tortured by Joffrey Baratheon and another brutalized by Ramsay Bolton leaves it pretty hard *not* to root for this ginger. And style-wise, she’s at the top of this cast list as a) her character is literally shown designing and sewing her own outfits and b) she has an uncanny ability to craft exactly the right dress for the right moment. Think of the red carpet pressure celebs face at awards season and multiply that by facing literal death if you come in the wrong ensemble. That’s the pressure Sansa faces and the fact she throws it down time and time again? Makes her the true style star of the Seven Kingdoms.
Season One: Head in the clouds got no weight on my shoulders
One reason Sansa was not an early fan favorite was her, real talk, terrible decision-making in the first season. Her crush on the odious Joffrey blinded her to all reason as she memorably sided with him, against her own sister (#RIPLady). Yes, her actions had terrible consequences, but she was a little kid! With a misguided crush! Who hasn’t been there? These season one braids are perfect for beach season in our world in 2016 btw. Also note the wild amount of detail on this garment – every piece on this show is covered in gorgeous embroidery and tiny details like these grommets. As a fashion designer/sewer and character, she’s at the start of her career and overdosing on ruffles and trim.
As proof of her sewing bonafides, here’s a still from a scene of her working on her stitching. I think this is a different dress, also in the Queen Elsa baby blue that seems popular in Winterfell. This one has a sort of sailor collar and… hood… travel pillow? She’s experimenting with her style and that’s a good thing.
A throughline for her story in the first few seasons is her insistence on viewing her life as a fairytale. This next look is when her family leaves home to go South, where she’s going to marry the “handsome” young Prince. Her pale blue look has her looking like Cinderella at the ball in scrubs, emphasizing how out of her element she is. Again, she’s got the knotted neckline detail: clearly a skill she’s recently gotten into, like when Aria Montgomery was wearing feathers all the time on PLL.
She gets her first standout style moment once she’s down at King’s Landing, attending a joust and inhabiting the Queen Guenevere fantasy of her dreams (or whoever the Westeros version of Queen Guenevere is). She’s upgraded her shapeless blue dresses to this pastel purple and traded in the knotted neckline for fabric roses. The sleeves are covered in more flaw free embroidery, too, allowing her to look like she belongs here among the royal court. Also: step off, Littlefinger, I see what you’re up to.
The next stage in her assimilation to King’s Landing is when she starts wearing her hair up in these Cercei wannabe styles. It’s not my fav look on her, but comes in handy when your cretinous fiancé wants to coil a pendent necklace around your neck. But forget that piece and focus on the stunning butterfly (moth?) ring she’s got there. The imagery of a butterfly/bird becomes extremely prominent over the next few seasons for reasons that will soon become clear.
Season Two: This is the part when I say I don’t want ya
So her illusions of living a fairytale Princess life basically imploded the moment she was forced to witness a) her father being publicly beheaded and then b) his head, on a spike, outside of the palace. She’s still betrothed to the never-not-horrifying Joffrey, but it’s gone from a Cinderella scenario to a Bluebeard scenario as she’s more captive than princess bride. This is where her fashion gets misleadingly muted – she proves her badassness by dressing to completely blend into the background, the better to stay alive. She gets heavily into pinkish-lavendar around this time, too – nearly matching her skin tone, accentuating her vulnerability. And to be on the safe side, keeping with the Cercei-inspired hair.
She also begins adding belts to her standard shift gowns, another concession to help her blend in. This is sort of like in Mean Girls when Cady started infiltrating The Plastics and not just because her gorgeous auburn tresses are giving me OG Lohan feels and because on Wednesday we wear pink.
A series of extremely horrifying things happen to her, including this traumatizing sequence where she’s humiliated and stripped down in front of the whole royal court. She didn’t know that was going to happen when she got up that morning but her wraparound dress with XXL sleeves immediately makes her look like crumpled, defeated, wingless moth – sadly appropriate for the situation.
Season Three: One less problem without you
Season three begins with two pieces of good news for Sansa: first, that Joffrey’s broken their betrothal and second, that his new fiancée is the totally kickass Margaery, who becomes her mentor/BFF and #HairInspo as the Cercei updos are gone and long, mermaidy waves are in. Sansa’s still trapped at court, but life seems slightly less terrible and she has clearly more time to make herself new dresses. For the first time, we get her in a patterned fabric – and, occasionally, see her sincerely smiling.
She’s got a short-lived new possible courtship with her former childhood crush Loras who may be gay, but also won’t point a crossbow at her, so win! This gown is truly stunning, with the sumptuous fabric, embellished waist adornement and I love the way she’s holding the skirt so as to subtly show the purple lining. The tiered skirt is also a more sophisticated design than she’s worn before, showing that if nothing else, her time at King’s Landing is doing wonders for her sewing skills.
And then… she’s forced to marry Tyrion Lannister. She’s not super psyched, but that’s just because she doesn’t realize yet that he’s literally the only decent person in this city/one of like three decent people on this entire series. Her wedding gown is a true standout (google to find some close-ups of the embroidery like: #HeartEyesEmoji) and accomplishes two important things simultaneously: she blends into the room (harder to murder her) and the gold palette, Cercei hair and bare arms make her look like a long lost Lannister.
In another accidentally badass fashion moment, Sansa wears this purple dress (possibly her old blue dress, dyed purple?) to Joffrey and Margaery’s wedding, along with a necklace of purple jewels she was given as a gift. What she didn’t know is that one of the stones on the necklace is poisoned, which would be used to murder Joffrey, and she’d set off on her escape from court in this very number. The chunky braids are an interesting sartorial nod to her first look in the first season, tying in season 3 court Sansa with baby Northerner Sansa. Into her hair pin here too.
Season Four: Dangerous woman
Finally escaping King’s Landing, she winds up in the Eyrie with her crazy breastfeeding aunt and psychopath cousin Robin. This is a year of recovering and regrouping, and she spends it dressed in her leftover King’s Landing style – but with added gloves and cloak for the colder temps.
But then she gets her next major badass fashion moment at the end of this season, on par with that time Scarlett O’Hara went to Melanie’s party in the red sequinned dress, complete with a dramatic She’s All That descending-the-staircase moment. She’s owning her new look and it is glorious… and oh so gothic.
Yes, those are literal raven feathers on her shoulders. Where did she get the black hair dye from? Not sure, but I don’t doubt her ability to MacGyver anything for kickass fashion purposes at this point. She’s unstoppable, like a finalist in Project Runway told to make their entire collection from scraps left over in workroom.
Note also her oh-so-subtle new necklace, complete with giant spike detail. This is literal armor that says NO ONE WILL EVER FUCK WITH ME AGAIN.
Would that it were so simple.
Season Five: I only want to die alive
Her creepy mentor/sort-of-sugardaddy Littlefinger brings her back to her former homestead of Winterfell to marry her off to the dude who runs it now – evil hobbit Ramsay Bolton. Sansa thinks she’s got this figured out, having witnessed masterful levels of manipulation at King’s Landing, but even her new Jessica-Chastain-in-Crimson-Peak style isn’t going to help her out. She still looks totes badass, though.
From all black to all white, she shows up for her second teenage wedding in this wintry ensemble. The white fur resembles the black shoulder feathers, but the way it’s all brushed forward seems like it’s about to throttle her which: foreshadowing.
And then yet again, she finds herself coincidentally wearing the exact perfect thing at the worst time in her life, as she ends the season fleeing Ramsay’s brutality by jumping off of a tower to either death or escape. If nothing else, the full skirt looked magical as she tumbled down into hiatus.
Season Six: This is the part when I break free
Finally, finally, finally, she gets to live life on her own terms (at least for now) in season six. She manages to escape Ramsay’s goons and makes her way up to Castle Black for a reunion with her half-brother “You Know Nothing” Jon Snow. This is the same ensemble she wore when jumping off the castle because there was no time to pack an overnight bag, obviously.
Somehow, though, this dress photographs totally differently at Castle Black, bringing out that Dark Sansa feel from before. I love seeing her with her hair down like this, wearing no jewels, like her version of throwing on sweats to chill out and eat ice cream. She’s been dressing to impress for so long, it must be a relief to literally let her hair down and relax, knowing her death isn’t immediately imminent.
But then we get her latest and possibly greatest badass fashion moment. She spends her time at the castle with her first love, fashion design, crafting herself a new Warrior Queen ensemble. This is full Boudica realness and the look on her face is that of a woman who won’t pause before destroying those who have wronged her. The black raven dress was to badassness as a tween buying pre-ripped jeans is to being punk. Sansa has lived a life (and she’s what, like, 18 at this point? Younger?) and she has earned this badass warrior queen aesthetic.
Season six is bringing us a Sansa Stark with no fucks to give, and I can’t wait to see what she gets up to next. Also I’m terrified at what might happen to her. Such is the way of this show.