Costume Plot: Agent Peggy Carter from ‘Captain America: The First Avenger’

*SPOILERS AHEAD!*

Damn right she gets her own poster.

I’m sure that most of the audience of Captain America: The First Avenger fell in love with Peggy Carter (and, in turn, Hayley Atwell) as I did. She’s brilliant. Now I have to admit that I’ve never read the Captain America comics so I cannot state whether she’s an accurate portrayal of the Peggy in the comics but I can say that she made a strong impact as a powerful and intelligent woman. Plus, she’s always so damn stylish. Now, most of this needs to be attributed to the costume designer Anna B. Sheppard (currently designing Maleficent) and the 1940s setting. Every outfit is carefully considered and smart. All the time. My re-watching of Captain America made me decide to start wearing red lipstick. And to actually commit to it. Why? Peggy. I won’t go so far as to grow my hair cos I’m too lazy to deal with it long and would never sustain a 40s hairstyle. But I considered it. This love made me decide to create a Costume Plot of Peggy’s costumes within Captain America: The First Avenger. So here we go…

Peggy addressing the new recruits

This is the first time we see Peggy and she’s wearing her standard army uniform: khaki fitted single-breasted jacket with brass buttons (seen in the poster at the top of the post) and worn with a belt at the waist, a khaki pencil skirt (shown above with a high pleat at the back – less risque than just a slit), a white/cream shirt with a khaki tie. The uniform is exactly that. A uniform. It is still 1940s in feel but Peggy’s job comes first. She takes a role in training these boys/men and must look the part.

Further training

Here Peggy wears the same uniform except that her shirt seems to be a light khaki colour rather than white and instead of two SSR (Strategic Scientific Reserve) pins on her lapels she has just one on her tie. This is when the official training starts – there is less ‘procession’ about it.

In this image Peggy is wearing trousers tucked into army boots. Much more down and dirty for serious army training. She still wears the fitted jacket and, to be honest, may be wearing trousers in the above picture (and probably was) but the film never shows us beyond the jacket.

Project Rebirth and Hydra’s attack

For this scene, I have a feeling that Peggy’s original costume has been adjusted slightly for filming purposes. This is the only time that Peggy is seen wearing an A-line skirt – and as she gets thrown to the ground by Steve it makes total sense. Total filming sense, while still not being out of character or too noticeable. Another interesting aspect is the return of the two SSR pins on her lapels. The Project Rebirth experiment was a big deal with many officials present (such as Senator Brandt) and Peggy needs to be as smart as possible.

Post Hydra attack

Peggy has changed out of her khaki shirt and tie into a white silk blouse. I have to say that I don’t really understand the purpose of this. I don’t understand the purpose of the change unless it is a different ‘story day’, although we are led to believe that it is the same day as the attack. I’m going to go with this is the day after the attack and that’s why Peggy’s changed.

USO tour When I was watching the film to track Peggy’s costumes I didn’t think that she was wearing her white shirt in this scene with Steve after his disastrous performance. This picture is much brighter than the light in the film though so it may be that the film makes the shirt appear darker in colour than it actually was. But, again we have Peggy in her standard uniform (complete with pencil skirt) with her two lapel pins.

In Stark’s plane

The first, poorly lit, photo is to show that Peggy is wearing trousers. Wouldn’t you if you were planning an attack? And the second photo shows her khaki shirt (the white shirt from before looking khaki in dark lighting?) with a floral scarf and a leather aviator jacket. I like the feminine touch of the scarf as Peggy tends to be very structured in all of her costumes – this far. And the aviator jacket is incredible. I like to think it’s a riff of Steve’s leather jacket and also the leather jacket he wears at the end of The Avengers/Avengers Assemble. (It’s period appropriate and I might be right about Steve in Captain America but I’m clearly reaching with the Avengers link.)

This is included because I’m making a link. There is a reason behind it. I’m not just using this as an excuse. We clear? Good.

Rogers’ return At this point, everyone thinks Steve is dead. Peggy is still dressed in her army uniform with the khaki pencil skirt, khaki shirt, khaki tie with the SSR pin but instead of her fitted jacket she’s wearing her leather aviator jacket. What she was wearing when she last saw Steve. The only item there she could ‘get away’ with wearing at work. Coincidence? Decide for yourself.

Mapping out Hydra locations Steve’s safe and planning attacks on Hydra. But was meant to be receiving a medal of honour. The reason for Peggy’s extra uniform effort? The two pins, the silk blouse? Trying to make a good impression for the latest war hero?

In the pub

Now. Finally we come to THAT red dress. She looks incredible. The 40s were made for Hayley Atwell and the biggest problem with this dress is that it’s barely on screen. Or maybe thats a bonus. If it was on for a few scenes the audience would forget how brilliant it is. And it’s so simple. (Although, saying that, I’ve been analysing images of this dress for ages trying to figure out how to make it. I can’t seem to see any seams or darts to provide shaping, apart from the hip draping. They MUST be there and I just cant see them. If someone knows where they are please tell me before I go mad. Or lose patience and just invent them.)

Rogers kissing Private Lorraine

This photo shows the soft gathering at the shoulder seams to allow extra shaping and detailing over the shoulder pads (a 1940s staple before ‘Dynasty’ got hold of them). You can also see the darts to create extra shaping and to emphasise the waist.

This photo is just to show the back gathering underneath the yoke. This blouse is just so beautifully constructed.

So, Agent Peggy Carter essentially propositioned you in the pub wearing THAT red dress and you chose to kiss Anne Boleyn. Really? Why? Idiot. Especially when Peggy walks around in a beautifully cut white silk blouse and a pencil skirt. Steve Rogers you are a moron. She was dressing down, loosening up. You ruined that. (That’s how I read it.)

Montage Back to serious Peggy’s uniform. I don’t really have much more to add to this.

Bombed pub We can’t see what Peggy’s wearing under her trench coat (with a nice flare at the waist, again to emphasise her hourglass shape) but I do assume that it is her regular army uniform – we can’t even see if the SSR pin is on her tie or there are two on the lapels!

Planning Hydra attack Serious uniform. This is war.

At Hydra’s base Back to the leather aviator jacket. I think it’s the same as before but this one doesn’t have any fleecing on the collar. So it might be a very slightly different jacket. The more I think about this I think it is a different jacket but probably only very slightly different and meant to be accepted as the first jacket. This “analysis” of Peggy’s costumes is not really that. It’s more of a description of her costume arc with some thoughts sprinkled about. But one thing to take away from this is how few items of costume Peggy has in the film, not taking into account doubles of pieces of course. She has distinct looks and manages to make every appearance look fresh and new. (By “she” I mean Peggy and not Hayley Atwell.) I LOVE her:

For more information on the costume design in Captain America: The First Avenger please read here. Clothes on Film interviews Anna B. Sheppard and does a much better job than I ever could.

(Screenshots mostly taken from http://superheroscreencaps.com)

S x

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8 thoughts on “Costume Plot: Agent Peggy Carter from ‘Captain America: The First Avenger’

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  5. i think the red dress is shaped only by seams at the sides and it looks bias cut to me which would eliminate the need for front darts

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