Oh, Cersei. One part Cruella DeVille, one part Regina Mills, and one part grown-up Blair Waldorf. There is such rich history to Westeros, though, that if the show started with the events of 20 years prior she’d have been the young woman we were all cheering on to prove her haters wrong. But as it rolled out, we met her when she was already broken by life, fuelled by rage, and the doting mother of one of the worst people to ever appear on the show. And as she was introduced as the enemy to our protagonists, it took awhile to see she was more than the murderous ice Queen we first took her for. And, unlike ingenues-turned-badasses Daenerys and Sansa or apparently immortal tomboy Arya, Cersei’s age meant that she had gone through all of her fashion experimenting by the time the show debuted. However, the events of her life are apparent on every braided updo and intricately embroidered sleeve of her insanely posh wardrobe. So yes: she’s been cruel to Tyrion and Sansa, was involved with Bran being thrown off the tower, and . But she’s also a fierce lioness of a mother, refuses to secede her power in a patriarchal world stacked against her, and, if rumors are true, may end season six by burning down all of King’s Landing. And looking at her fashion moments to date, we see she’s been on a low simmer all along.

Season One: Poor unfortunate souls

As noted above, the Stark family were our first intro to the world of Game of Thrones, and it was through their eyes we met Cersei’s gloriously sneering resting bitchface. As the visiting Queen (she was married to Robert at the time), her clothing is suitably upper crust from the still-attached head on her fur to the sumptuous gold fabric of her gown. Sort of like when Kate Middleton visits a country other than England, she’s dressed similar to the locals but with several thousand dollars behind each stitch.

It was of course during the royal visit to Winterfell that the whole Bran defenestration occurred. Cersei kept her involvement a secret through faux-bonding with Catelyn over being a mother while subconsciously assuring Catelyn of her innocence via dressing like a Tully woman in pale blue gowns. Love how she can’t be without a wrap or some sort, a nod to how unfamiliar she is with these temps after growing up in King’s Landing. (FYI Cersei though: #WinterIsComing)

She’s a Baratheon by marriage but a Lannister by blood, and her loyalty has never been clearer than with this ensemble. Remember on SATC when Carrie was engaged to Aidan and wore her ring on a chain buried inside of seventeen oversized costume jewelry pearl necklaces, because she just wasn’t that into him? Cersei’s mini-antlers Baratheon tiara compared to her updo and massive Lannister lion cloak is that effect writ large. Thankfully, this hairdo was not repeated again, let’s just presume it was something her husband made her do.

After Robert’s totally accidental death* (*Cersei arranged his murder) she looks ten years younger and a thousand percent more relaxed. She was wearing this gorgeous dress and shawl (back in King’s Landing where it’s sunny and you don’t need to wear furs to dinner) when she caught Ned (and the audience) up to speed vis-a-vis her unhappy marriage. Long story short, she was given to him as a teen, got called “Lyanna” (as in R+L=J) on her wedding night, and things went downhill from there. Guessing it’s not a coincidence she looks like a youthful maiden while recounting this tale, the easier for us to imagine the frosty adult as the vulnerable teen she once was.

With Robert’s death, she briefly becomes (like Reign’s Catherine would after her) the Queen Regent to her son. Regrettably, said son is The Worst Person On This Show For Like Three Seasons Joffrey, and her role as Regent is mainly picking up after his messes until the role is taken over by her Also Pretty Awful TBH father, Tywin. Still, without a husband forcing her to take a back seat as his trophy wife, she’s fully able to dress as she’d like which is apparently the King’s Landing version of Britney Spears’s Slave 4 U Video Music Awards performance with her hair braided into what can only be called a hair crown. And that body chain though!

I’m so sorry to have to share a picture of Joffrey, but in this post-Ramsay world, his villainy sort of pales, doesn’t it? If you can look past his always-so-slappable face you’ll peep Cersei in an overgrown tumor of an updo and her Official Lannister cape. Now that her children, who are basically purebread Lannisters, she feels comfortable not even paying the slightest jewel-encased nod to their ostensible Baratheon genetics.

This was also, of course, where Joffrey went officially off the rails by ordering Ned’s execution against the advice of literally everyone. Cersei went from mostly-powerless trophy wife to semi-powerless Queen mother which is not much of an upgrade at all, actually.

Season Two: Mother knows best

Season two and the living is easy, I mean, as much as it ever can be on this show. It’s around this time she cements her official Queen Mother lewk, which includes massive metal belts and ginormous sleeves. Her family is known for being blond, and she wields that mane of hair like a Lannister flag. Bow down, bitches.

During her infrequent moments of vulnerability, such as when her daughter was shipped off to Dorne to be married* (*murdered, as it turned out) she threw on this blue number – though not without one of her signature metal belts. She’s as soft in this scene (and how much does that look like one of Sansa’s King’s Landing-era gowns?), a reminder of how deeply she truly loves her children. Pour one out for Tyrion’s brief stint as Hand of the King, too. That is truly the Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher position on this show.

Full disclosz: the fashion’s not that notable in this sequence, but it’s more just a reminder she’s been sneaking off to talk wildfire with Maestor Qyburn all the way back in season one. (Read more on this theory here, if you’re interested.)

Anyhoo, during the big season-ending siege of King’s Landing, she (and her family) went full Lannister in red and gold and lions all over the place.

She had had boldest moment as a parent when, just when it seemed all was lost, she prepared to murder-suicide with her son Tommen. From the lowkey braid to the quasi-armor of this bodice I’m getting Joan of Arc feelings from this ensemble. The way this look shows her as simultaneously a mother and a warrior really defines her arc going through this. She would do literally anything for her kids, shitty as they may occasionally be, and that’s sometimes more powerful than any army.

Season Three: Trust in me

So the Lannister-Baratheons were saved from attack when the Tyrell clan saved the day which is like good news, bad news. The good news is that they’re all still able to live another day, but the bad news is that there’s a new girl in town threatening Cersei’s standing as the most powerful woman around. She wields her sartorial weapons as best she can, deploying another armor-like bodice along with her Blake Lively hair and massive, almost vaginal sleeves.

So the thing with Cersei is that she’s in the role of a much older woman, but she’s still youngish and – at the moment – single. She’s like the Cora Crawley to Olenna Tyrell’s Dowager Countess of Grantham. Here, the two woman show the differences in their styles and their ages. They’re talking about the impending nuptial of their two children, but in this image Cersei could be the daughter. With visiting delegates in town there’s no time for body chains and exposed arms, so she leans hard into the Lannister red and gold theme – along with a new, McQueen-esque bateau neckline.

While Cersei may have been glad to see Sansa’s removal as Joffrey’s fiancee, she’s less than pleased to have Margaery around. Marg’s (at this point) just as beautiful AND ten times as cunning as Sansa, and leaning heavily to a sexy girlish style that couldn’t be more different from Cersei. Odd how the same woman, clothed so similarly, can look so young next to Olenna and so old next to Margaery, right?

As we learn, there’s a good reason for Cersei’s constant suspicion of younger, more beautiful women.

Season Four: Mine, mine, mine

In retrospect, Cersei’s high point may have been mid-season two, with a constant downward plummet from there on. Tommen’s relying more and more on Margaery instead of his mother, having Tywin around has long lost its appeal, and Jaime’s still off adventuring with his one hand leaving Cersei to turn, as fellow blond socialite Mom Kirsten Cohen did before her, more and more to drink. Her hair even seems flatter, and you can tell just from her facial expressions she’s got a perpetual state of unease.

Still, the embroidered detail on literally every garment is still just staggering. She may be down, but she’s not stopped dressing to impress. I feel like it’s been years since we’ve seen her hands, though. These gowns are like half Slanket.

Annnnnd then Joffrey gets killed at his wedding feast. While Twitter may have been having a champagne popping emoji party, that’s still her son and Cersei is devastated. She’s out for blood, prepared to vivisect anyone involved in the conspiracy to kill him.

She basically starts wearing black at this point and never really stops.

Season Five: Be prepared

Interestingly, after four seasons spent with damaged adult Cersei, season five kicked off with a glimpse at the young woman she once was. We’ve got a child-sized version of her metal belt, wrap dress and formidable facial expression. This show is flaw free in its casting of younger versions of the adults, aren’t they? I’m getting mini Blair Waldorf/Mona Vanderwall vibes off of this gal, which again makes me pretty confident if the story started with teen Cersei we’d have been on her side all along.

The purpose of this L’il Cersei sequence is to show a prophecy she was given back then that basically stated she would outlive all of her children, be supplanted by a younger more beautiful woman, and be killed by her little brother. Suddenly all of her actions make sense from hating Tyrion to fearing Sansa and Margaery to attachment parenting Joffrey, Tommen and Myrcella. This is like the Snow White Wicked Queen prophecy mixed with Reign’s “Francis will die if he marries Mary” prophecy mixed with the self-fulfilling prophecy in Oedipux Rex. Basically, she’s screwed no matter what she does, and chances are she’s misinterpreting at least part of it.

Buuut back to present day, she’s again in mourning, this time for her father (who was killed by her brother). She and her father had their differences, like HUGE differences, but it’s yet another piece chiselled out of the armor of Lannister family that has always been around to protect her. If I say she looks totally gorgeous in her funerary garb it would be true, but I’m sure she’d rather look less gorgeous in basically any other situation than this.

Girlfriend’s got a bigger collection of black dresses at this point than Lorde.

She was in yet another black gown when she took her first fateful visit to see the High Sparrow in a final hail Mary to try and rid herself of the Tyrells. This does not go well for her, ultimately, to say the least. But let’s take one final gaze at the glorious wig that’s brought us all so much joy over these past five seasons.

Because thennnnn this happened. She gets her hair hacked off, her clothes taken away, and is forced to walk naked through the streets of King’s Landing with the now-infamous “Shame” chant following her all the way. That Cersei is being publicly punished is a huge deal, but to do it in this manner really shows the horrifying patriarchy of their society. Cersei’s been forced into a marriage she didn’t want, had her opinions constantly vetoed, was subjugated by her son and nearly forced into another unwilling marriage all because she happened to be born female into this world.

And this happens now when she’s without men around to champion her cause – her father is dead, her brother/lover still AWOL, even Tyrion would have fought for her but she’s left all alone. She’s always been a ruthless woman, but after this, her rage is even more dangerous.

Season Six: Hellfire

So on the plus side, this post-shame growing-out pixie is hella cute. She’s gone from Charlize Theron in Snow White & the Huntsman to Charlize Theron in Mad Max: Fury Road and frankly, it works for her. She’s out of prison and has her own Frankenstein’s monster undead zombie bodyguard who is like eight feet tall, plus Jamie’s come back to town, so she’s feeling a little more powerful. Look at her face though, you can see how she’s been changed.

Have you guys been watching The Girlfriend Experience at all? The lead character on that show, Christine, is prickly and wildly smart, like Cersei. After her public humiliation, Christine engages on a ferocious battle to bring down those she sees as having wronged her. Cersei doesn’t live in a world where wrongful dismissal lawsuits and video sextapes can be leveraged for power, but the look in her eye is similar to Christine near the end of her season. Cersei doesn’t have many people on her side, but those she does have? Includes a dude who may just have the capability to literally burn the whole place down.

I’m so glad to see her with this look on her face. Remember, this woman was ready to kill herself and her son before being taken captive. She has no hesitation in dying herself if it means bringing down her enemies, too. Bring on the finale.