Sneak Peek at The Costumes of Marvel's Agent Carter!

By Joe Kucharski - January 5, 2015

Agent Carter has been captivating fans since she first appeared in the flesh in Marvel’s Captain America in 2011. A smart, stunning, hard as nails female agent who can talk or fight her way out of any problem. She’s appeared briefly since in a short film, aging in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and a cameo in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Now Peggy Carter returns to the small screen in an 8-episode mini-series full of twists, turns, not to mention terrific style courtesy of Emmy Award winning costume designer Giovanna (Gigi) Ottobre-Melton!

Marvel's "Agent Carter." Costume Designer Giovanna Ottobre-Melton.

 

The late 1940s marks a fascinating time in fashion and culture, as America transitions from World War II to the more manicured world of the 1950s. Practically, women who had entered the workforce in droves and helped carry the country during wartime are being kicked out of jobs they’ve thrived in as men return home. Sartorially, we see a shift in boxy, uniform-inspired fashions with straight skirts and strong shoulders (much to do with rationing and the more masculine role of women during the war) to a far more traditional “feminine” look with nipped-in waists, fuller skirts, and lighter weight fabrics know as the “new look,” created by designer Christian Dior. During this time we also see a relaxing of men’s styles, adopting a more leisure-focused attitude with lighter colors, finer fabrics, and tons of prints!

Marvel's "Agent Carter." Costume Designer Giovanna Ottobre-Melton.(ABC/Eric McCandless)

 

This is the changing world that Agent Carter finds herself in when she returns from WWII, fearing boyfriend Steve Rogers (Captain America) is dead and facing male chauvinism from the other agents. She must work to balance administrative work with the secret missions assigned by Howard Stark. Gigi Melton gives us a sneak peek at the costumes of Agent Carter and her own approach to such dimensional characters.

 

Tyranny of Style: Aside from reading the script and viewing previous Marvel films/TV series, how did you go about researching and designing the world of the Agent Carter television series?

 

Gigi Melton: "From the start I began with a palette based on tinted color photos of 1940's New York, to create an overall tone for the series. Definitely lots of period research and of course many comic books were all blended by the color, style, and fabrics. My research folders are crammed with inspiration. The forties is one of my favorite eras, and I really appreciate the great silhouette and how the style compliments the body.  As for each episode, I read the script first, and then search for historic photos that relate to what the episode is about.  Afterwards I chose the fabrics, and then begin to design the outfits."  

 New York color research boards. Marvel's "Agent Carter." Costume Designer Giovanna Ottobre-Melton.

 

T/S: Agent Carter has really struck a chord with Marvel fans. It is rare to find such a smart, sophisticated, and tough female hero, especially in the time period in which her story is set. Tell us about your approach to costuming such a dynamic character.

 

GM: "For Agent Carter, her character's look has clean lines with a design edge to the style. Because the show hasn't aired yet, I can't really elaborate on tactical gear looks. However I will say it's very much rooted in a WW2  "underground” military look.

Agent Carter costume illustration. Marvel's "Agent Carter." Costume Designer Giovanna Ottobre-Melton.

As for her show closet, new outfits are continually designed and created in multiples because of all the stunt action in the show.  For the overall design silhouette, there is an hourglass style with strength in the tailoring and defined shoulders, but not overly exaggerated.  In some episodes I have created belts to match the outfits, which further define the waist.  The suits and dresses are all designed using textured fabrics of wool, silk, and rayon crepes all so prevalent in post war 1940s. The beautiful fabrics really compliment the whole look and fit. 

Agent Carter costume illustration. Marvel's "Agent Carter." Costume Designer Giovanna Ottobre-Melton.

There are some closet pieces that will be repeated with mixing and matching, and there are a few vintage items too. But for the most part her outfits are created for each episode."

Hayley Atwell as Agent Peggy Carter. Marvel's "Agent Carter." 

Costume Designer Giovanna Ottobre-Melton. (Twitter)

 Hayley Atwell as Agent Peggy Carter. Marvel's "Agent Carter." 

Costume Designer Giovanna Ottobre-Melton. (ABC/Kelsey McNeal)

Hayley Atwell as Agent Peggy Carter. Marvel's "Agent Carter."

Costume Designer Giovanna Ottobre-Melton. (ABC/Eric McCandless)

T/S: Howard Stark is one of the most dapper men in the Marvel world. I mean, that Norfolk-style jacket in the Pilot is just impeccable! He combines intelligence, wealth, and charm in such an eye-catching way. Tell us about your approach to costuming this captivating character.

GM: "Thank you! Most of Howard's look is custom made too.  His style is high-end casual.  The shirts and jackets all have hand stitch detail finish work. For him it's the luxury playboy look. I didn't borrow any looks from the comic books, although I did research them for mood." 

Howard Stark costume illustration. Marvel's Agent Carter. Costume Designer Giovanna Ottobre-Melton. 

Dominic Cooper as Howard Stark. Marvel's "Agent Carter." Costume Designer Giovanna Ottobre-Melton. (ABC/Kelsey McNeal)

Dominic Cooper as Howard Stark. Marvel's "Agent Carter." Costume Designer Giovanna Ottobre-Melton. (ABC/Kelsey McNeal)

T/S: Can you tell us about your approach to developing some of the other main characters that are new to the series?

 

GM: "Jarvis (James D'Arcy) is wearing all custom three-piece suits in tweeds and subtle plaids. He doesn't have a big closet, just a well chosen one for the work he does as Stark’s butler. 

Chad Michael Murray as Jack Thompson, James D'Arcy as Edwin Jarvis. Marvel's "Agent Carter."

Costume Designer Giovanna Ottobre-Melton. (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

Hayley Atwell as Agent Peggy Carter, James D'Arcy as Edwin Jarvis. Marvel's "Agent Carter."

Costume Designer Giovanna Ottobre-Melton. (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

 

For our SSR (Strategic Scientific Reserve) guys Dooley, Thompson, Krzeminski, and Sousa, each have a distinctive look befitting their character. Chief Roger Dooley (Shea Whigham) wears double breasted suits; Jack Thompson (Chad Michael Murray) single breasted with suspenders; Daniel Sousa (Enver Gjokaj) wears sweater vests under his sport coats and pleated pants; and Ray Krzeminski (Kyle Bornheimer) is a bit of a slob with his sport jacket, and open collar shirts.

Kyle Bornheimer as Ray Krzeminski, Chad Michael Murray as Jack Thompson. Marvel's "Agent Carter."

Costume Designer Giovanna Ottobre-Melton. (ABC/Eric McCandless)

Enver Gjokaj as Daniel Sousa. Marvel's "Agent Carter."

Costume Designer Giovanna Ottobre-Melton. (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

Enver Gjokaj as Daniel Sousa, executive producer Louis D'Esposito, Chad Michael Murray as Jack Thompson.

Marvel's "Agent Carter." Costume Designer Giovanna Ottobre-Melton. (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

Colleen O’Brien (Ashley Hinshaw) is a hard working girl making just enough to get by. The war term "Mend and Make Do" really applies to her. She has a few nice pieces in her closet that she scrimped and saved to buy. My guess is she knows how to unravel an old tired sweater to knit herself a new one.

 Ashley Hinshaw as Colleen O'Brien. Marvel's "Agent Carter." Costume Designer Giovanna Ottobre-Melton. (screencapture) 

For "Green Suit" it was important to find the perfect balance of green.  First it needed to memorable, but not over the top cartoon-like.  When it comes to the design, I really put a lot of thought in about who, what, and where the character is coming from. Sometimes the scripts don't reveal to the crew the background of a character, or what the future may hold.  In that case I ask writers for any tidbits. If the story line is top secret, I go on intuition.   As for Green Suit, I was given a few secretive details. 

As always, I start with colors and textures from the era, then source fabric.  As for GS's style, I chose a classic ‘40s style double-breasted suit with a wool tie. In my opinion, a single breasted-suit, or even a switch to a silk tie would have not the mood or design I was looking for the character." 

James Hebert as Green Suit. Marvel's "Agent Carter."  Costume Designer Giovanna Ottobre-Melton. (ABC/Eric McCandless) 

 

Action. Adventure. Disguises. Expertly crafted historic costumes. What more could you want from a television series? Marvel continues to set the bar for comic book entertainment! Tune in for the two-hour premiere on ABC, Tuesday January 6th at 8pm.