For a show like House of the Dragon, the audience’s expectations are astronomically high—every detail needs to be executed flawlessly. So it makes sense that HBO brought in the big guns: Jany Temime, veteran costume designer. Her IMDb credits stretch back to the 1970s and include more recent blockbusters such as six of the Harry Potter films, Black Widow (2021), Judy (2019), and not one but two James Bond films, Skyfall (2012) and Spectre (2015).
Joining the House of the Dragon crew marks Temime’s first foray into American television, but based on her expertise with billion-dollar franchises and mind-bogglingly complex productions, it’s clear even from the show’s trailers that her work is nothing short of exquisite. Here, we catch up with the legendary designer to talk about her big-picture inspirations and the nitty-gritty that went into creating this instant classic’s immediately identifiable costumes.
What did your research for House of the Dragon look like?
When we started the project, I was in confinement in the South of France. I was thinking, This show is set 200 years before something which doesn’t exist; it’s not specifically historical, so we wanted references to medieval times, but really the sky was the limit. The Targaryens were also extremely wealthy, so I focused on Renaissance and Byzantine elements to show how rich they were. I had to find something before medieval, and I thought that Byzantine was rich enough; it had a sort of decadence.
Which pieces did you love working on the most?
I had lots of fun with all the armor. I love armor because you can really get creative. I love metalworking, leather working. For me, because of the shape, armor is as exciting as designing a corset. It’s something you put on top of your body to create another body. In those times, going to battle was so ornamental, because for them, it was sexy to go to battle and have the best armor. I look at the recent funeral of Queen Elizabeth II, and it’s kind of the same, with all of the uniforms and the pageantry.
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There’s also a great scene in House of the Dragon where young Rhaenyra seduces her armed guard. I couldn’t help but think, How is he going to take all of that armor off?!
That was a tough scene. That was very rehearsed, because you have to take all those pieces off one by one. That was so funny!
One of my favorite looks so far this season has been when Rhaenyra is named as official heir to the realm. She has this gorgeous headpiece.
When we see Rhaenyra’s investiture as the official heir, that is supposed to be an antique costume, something given generation to generation, an historical gown. The headpiece she wears in that scene was my inspiration—it draws on all those ancient mosaics and imagery of big gold halos that you see in Byzantine churches.
How big was this production, and how many costumes did you have to make?
Our crew was between 150 and 170 people. We had two to three units shooting at the same time. I had my little electric car running from one set to the other. For the extras, I created 2,000 costumes. And then, for the characters, 300 or more.
Was it hard to handle the scale of this production?
It wasn’t the size. I did some Harry Potter movies before, and those were big. But what was challenging was to have different directors, different [directors of photography] each episode. You usually start with one director, and you get to know what they like and you work with much more confidence. But on House of the Dragon, because directors were changing, you were constantly backed into a new challenge. The showrunners really helped me through. But now that we’re looking back on the finished show, I think, Oh, my God, it looks good! And you sort of forget the day-to-day problems that you had.
In fact, I worked with many of the cast previously. I knew many of the women, and they were all gorgeous. When you have a beautiful cast, half your work is done.
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What was the hardest part of the production?
The biggest challenge was the men. I wanted to have men in skirts to the knee. I think nothing is sexier than a man in a skirt. I found these amazing Japanese samurai skirts for references, and I put those on Matt [Smith, who plays Prince Daemon]. He started walking with it, and it was fantastic. He was turning with it, moving with it, he loved it. Kilts are very masculine, because they are small on the waist and go right to the knee. Very masculine.
House of the Dragon is such a departure from today’s reality. How do you make clothes that appear lived-in and real, and not like “costumes”?
I had about 20 people helping me with breaking in garments and dyeing. I dye a lot, and I work a lot on the fabrics by hand, and I use lots of embroidery. I like to take a fabric and break it down and work on it. Thank God we started during lockdown and there were also lots of waiting times on set, so we could break down the materials and make the costumes look perfect.
Putting on a fantasy costume must be such a transformation for the actors. How did you witness them change when they went into costume?
Imagine you have men arriving in a pair of jeans and sneakers, you let them undress, you put them in these gorgeous fabrics with a belt on the hips and the kilt and a pair of boots, and suddenly they move differently. They turn around, they show off their back, they start feeling so incredibly strong and sexy. When you give a woman a beautiful dress, you know she will appreciate it, because it’s not so far off from what she might already wear in real life, maybe for a special occasion or something. But to take a guy from his jeans and into historical costume is a much more powerful thing.
The girls were gorgeous. They had those dresses, and suddenly they were walking like a lady. They were also kids—when you have an actress who is 20 years old, they’ve only ever really worn jeans and a T-shirt. I always enjoy working with a young cast, because for them it’s a revelation.
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.
This article originally appeared on Harper’s BAZAAR US.
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