The Costumes of ‘Agent Carter’ that Already Make it Great

It may not have escaped your notice that a) there is an Agent Carter TV show about to start (but not in the UK because TV schedulers are ridiculously stupid) and b) I freaking love Agent Peggy Carter and Hayley Atwell. Proof to be found here, here,  here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here. Told you. Agent-Carter-poster-570x760 So Agent Carter is set in 1946 after the events of Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) but before those of the Marvel One-Shot: Agent Carter (2013). Peggy is working for the Strategic Scientific Reserve (SSR) dealing with the sexism that accompanied women working in the 1940s. The imdb synopsis for the show is ridiculously inaccurate: Screen Shot 2015-01-03 at 20.01.18 Yes Peggy was involved with Steve Rogers but that wasn’t all that she was. Moving on. This post is mostly to appreciate the costume design work by Giovanna Ottobre-Melton that we’ve already seen in promo pictures. I’m excited and so should you. The images gathered below have been released by Marvel and, I think, are all from the first two episodes.HAYLEY ATWELL Peggy’s blonde! She’s undercover! In a gold low-cut dress – very different from the dresses we’ve seen Peggy wearing so far.HAYLEY ATWELL, DOMINIC COOPER I just included this for the shoes.agent-carter-1-800 Wide lapels with both the blouse and jacket and the blouse lapels are beautifully edged to add structure and focus. Adds a contrast with the stricter tailoring of the jacket.B6RrJ5XIYAAtvni.jpg-large More tailored 40s but with some gathering at the waist to soften the shape and pink detailing to brighten the navy blue.2051104_CA_Agent_Carter_KDM_ A different version of the earlier wide lapelled jacket and blouse but different shapes. My favourite part is the double lapels on the jacket.Agent-Carter-600x450 More blouse and fitted jacket combination but this time – check out those pinstripes! Amazing! The waist dart that finishes just below the bust changes the pinstripes and gives further detailing. The horizontal pinstripes at the centre front are another detail that adds to the suit.HAYLEY ATWELL

Here is a better photo of the edged wide lapelled blouse – reminds me a little bit of Peggy’s blouse in CA:TFA.

Ottobre-Melton is the fifth costume designer to take on Peggy Carter: Anna B. Shepherd in CA:TFA, Ellen Mirojnick and Timothy A. Wisnick in MO-S:AC and, briefly, Judianna Makovsky in Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014). She’s got some big shoes to fill but these images fill me with more anticipation and happiness.

S x


5 Different Costume Interpretations of the… 1940s

Today marks Iron Man 3‘s Blu-ray release and I am beyond excited. Not about re-watching Iron Man 3 but because of the inclusion of the new Marvel One-Shot: Agent Cater (2013). (Director: Louis D’Esposito, Costume Designer: Ellen Mironjick Assistant Costume Designer: Timothy A. Wonsik.) Agent Carter The idea of a new “adventure” with Hayley Atwell dressed up to the nines in her ’40s garb again fills me with great joy. To celebrate the release of the short I thought I’d add to my costume interpretation segment that began with the ’20s with a look at interpretations of ’40s costumes. The films I’m looking at have all been made since 2000 but take very different looks/inspirations for the ’40s. The Aviator (2004) Director: Martin Scorsese Costume Designer: Sandy Powell Best Costume Design

The Aviator

The Aviator wearing a traditional aviator jacket.

The Aviator is the first in a series of biopic films set during the ’40s (or at least partly). Films based on real people can sometimes flit between faithful to the stage of recreating clothing or representing that person’s spirit. In the Sandy Powell talk that I attended a few months ago I made reference to her discussions about dressing “real people” and the overriding detail?

It’s not a documentary, we’re not setting out to make a documentary.

Costume is about character and it is more important that you believe in this character than that you see them wearing something that you saw them wearing in photographs.

The Aviator

The lapel widths on this double-breasted suit showing Hughes’ wealth due to the amount of fabric used. Post-war years and all.

Don’t forget that the big costume “issue” for The Aviator was the colour process used: the three-colour Technicolor palette. This drastically affected the colours of the costumes seen. The whole texture of the film changed but the colours and shapes of the ’40s fit perfectly in the view of ’40s Hollywood. This is the key to the world being created – big personalities living in a big glamorous era. The Aviator Here we have Ava Gardner with the “traditional” ’40s silhouette – shoulder pads, cuff decoration and draping to emphasise the waist. The key with this costume is the colour. The red dress pulls in the red nails and essential red lipstick. The Aviator More pronounced shoulder pads, sharp lines, a big hat and more red lipstick. Gardner at her siren best. The Aviator The widely used still for the film. Another example of wide lapels on a double-breasted jacket. The Notebook (2004) Director: Nick Cassavetes Costume Designer: Karyn Wagner The Notebook The Notebook is a very different film to that of The Aviator – this is a film told based on reminiscences. The story “exists” through slightly rose-tinted glasses. But that’s not to say that the costumes don’t have historical basis in the ’40s. Wagner on Ryan Gosling’s Noah:

He probably gets his clothes from the general store in town

We’re already a world away from Howard Hughes. The Notebook The key to all of these costumes is the wealth separating the couple. Wealth and colours. Brightness, patterns and colours, particularly red, surround Allie whereas darker and plainer colours dress Noah.

The Notebook

Highly co-ordinated period style bikini matched against an undershirt and flat cap. The difference in wealth can be understood instantly.

The costumes in the film are much more small town wealth than high glamour. Allie’s clothes may be custom-made but they wouldn’t compare to Gardner’s costumes in The Aviator. This is more down-to-earth everyday wealth. The Notebook Here we can see Allie’s extended collar on her shirtdress – a very popular shape for Allie in this film. We have the silhouette of the era but in softer lightweight cottons and much more approachable than the fabrics worn by Gardner. The Notebook Another shirtdress, more red, the popular ’40s yoke that help to emphasise the shoulders without the strong use of shoulder pads. The Black Dahlia (2006) Director: Brian de Palma Costume Designer: Jenny Beavan (Read about the talk I attended with Beavan here.)

The Black Dahlia

Elizabeth “The Black Dahlia” Short seen in black and white flashbacks to highlight her pale skin and dark hair. A black silk shirt compounding that image.

Another interpretation of the ’40s – this time to simulate the hard-boiled film noirs of the period like The Big Sleep and The Maltese Falcon. This film is all about the darkness of a murder investigation and its impact on the policemen involved. The Black Dahlia Dark, weather-worn suits. These clothes have seen a lot of use and will continue to see a lot of use. There is no wealth here – this is a uniform of a sort. The key differences are the darker tones Bucky wears compared to Lee. Lee is the “older brother” figure – the three-piece suit adding maturity and the lighter colours contrasting the unhappiness of Bucky’s tones. The Black Dahlia The Black Dahlia At a first glance you may think Johansson is the femme fatale here. Don’t let the red lipstick fool you – this is the ’40s after all. Kay is as much a victim of the story as Bucky, Lee and Elizabeth. She is glamorous but is costumed in soft fabrics and pale colours. The above still is from the boxing match. The veil and large fur are her protection against seeing Lee hurt. The Black Dahlia Ramona exudes wealth and influence at all times. And must seem distant from Madeleine. She has the mature traditional ’40s silhouette – the extreme shoulder pads and cinched waist. But her colours are soft and muted. For the most part. The importance is when those colours change. The Black Dahlia The femme fatale of the piece. Every noir needs one and here she is. The doppelgänger of The Black Dahlia. The complex character who belongs in Ramona’s world but wants to exist in the debauchery that Elizabeth found herself trapped in. The dissatisfied “poor little rich girl”. Fulfilling herself by “slumming it” with the police. Her character of the moment shown clearly through her costumes. The Edge of Love (2008) Director: John Maybury Costume Designer: April Ferry The Edge of Love Another biopic of sorts but The Edge of Love takes the glamour of the ’40s completely away. This is a film about people surviving during the shortages of WWII. This is a film about make do and mend. In Wales. Yes, there’s much more “wealth” here than would’ve been true but put this film against The Aviator and you have two very different interpretations of the ’40s. For a film using poetic license for a story about an iconic poet it seems appropriate that this poetic license spread through the whole film. The Edge of Love We start with performance wear – deceptive Hawaiian setting in an underground shelter. This is the Hollywood glamour section of the film. This is Vera’s own costume. Her escape. Our first view of Vera is here and this is a much different Vera than we see throughout the rest of the film. The Edge of Love The red coat working perfectly to contrast against the khaki of the soldier’s uniforms. The mix of textures showing character and the nature of this world – loose of structure and full coordination. The kind of costume that wouldn’t fit in any of the other ’40s films. Instantly Caitlin is set up as a contrast to Vera – the epitome of ‘the girl-next-door’. The Edge of Love More ’40s structure with more patterns. Checked tweed being a big aspect of this film – belonging to another era. Another time. The red dress has similarities with Allie’s but with fewer detailing and possibly a heavier weight fabric. The Edge of Love The knitwear that overtook Wales. If there was anything to remember from The Edge of Love it would be knitwear – worn by all. The film is full of layers with heavy socks worn with wellies (appropriate for the country) and various knitwear over tea dresses. The tea dresses giving that eternal ’40s feel but the knitwear being weather and location appropriate. Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) Director: Joe Johnston Costume Designer: Anna B. Sheppard Captain America I couldn’t not include Captain America after my introduction to this post. This is the only film listed here to have the majority take place within the confines of WWII – from the perspective of soldiers. Yes, the soldiers we see are are put of the Strategic Scientific Reserve with a super soldier on the hunt for an evil Nazi. So although the story is not exactly rooted in historic accuracy that doesn’t stop the costumes from fitting with the ’40s WWII aesthetic. Captain America We’ve got the traditional ’40s trench coat and Peggy with her war uniform – more detail about that here. Captain America Now we have more soldiers but, more importantly, another aviator jacket. Compare this to Hughes’ in The Aviator and you see a similar structure and practicality just that thus one has survived a battle. The leather is protection and is the best material for use, especially during the war. Captain America More army uniforms. The structure between male and female uniforms are very similar at first glance. These are intended as practical uniforms. Uniforms to remove too much individuality. Captain America Whereas individuality is what Stark is all about. Having started this post with Howard Hughes it seems apt to end on Howard Stark. The influence in the origin of the character is widely known and Sheppard even references Hughes’ influence on Stark’s costumes. When you think about the costumes in Captain America you tend to think about Captain America’s suit but the key interests and depths are within the other characters – particularly in a film so concerned with the war effort and ultimately uniforms. S x

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


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

S x