Previously: A guide to the 1940s costume design of Agent Carter
Agent Carter combines so many of my favorite things: comicbook adventures, a complex female protagonist, 1940s spy hijinks and, of course, beautiful costumes and set design. The post-war setting is a fascinating period to explore from a fashion history perspective, and I was happy to see that all of the costumes have a strong characterization element as well.
Costume designer Giovanna "Gigi" Melton caught my attention on Twitter with her many behind-the-scenes posts about her work on Agent Carter, and she was kind enough to grant me an interview. Read on for more background on the amazing costumes in this show, plus a selection of Melton's original design sketches.
HelloTailor: How did you go about researching and designing the overall look for the show? Were you influenced by any of the comics, or was it more a matter of exploring the 1940s aesthetic?
Gigi Melton: A combination of much research. For Peggy the influences were Lauren Bacall, Katherine Hepburn, Hedy Lamarr. The smart, strong, fashionable and beautiful women of the era.
For SSR [Strategic Scientific Reserve] agents Dooley, Thompson, Sousa, and Krzmenski I researched government and detective looks. For eccentric Stark it was Howard Hughes and for Jarvis it was a British nod to tweeds. Coupled with comic book research, I took all of my inspiration and tailored it to create the individual looks for the scripted characters.
HelloTailor: I saw that you managed to source at least one vintage dress for Hayley Atwell, which made me wonder how many other costumes are original pieces from the '40s. A lot of historical dramas try to use a mix of vintage costumes and new designs, occasionally with vintage-style underwear to add authenticity to the look. Is this how you worked with Agent Carter?
Gigi Melton: Lots of multiples. As an example: the gold dress in episode one has a built foundation made with cotton trigger [a sturdy type of cloth], all boned so she do the kicking as well as being slammed around. Otherwise the fabric would have ripped. We make blouses and jackets with specific slits to allow for harnesses. For kicks in skirts I have vintage style black silk tap shorts to wear under.
|Carter's disguise from episode 1 was inspired by Veronica Lake.|
HelloTailor: Could you tell me a little about Peggy's red hat? Did you realize at the time that it was going to become such an important part of her image?
Gigi Melton: The red hat was scripted as: A red hat in a sea of gray fedoras. For my design I thought, Peggy is competing in this man's world, and her hat needs to be powerful to match all the fedoras but still be feminine. I truly had no idea it would take off this way.
love to know more about how you differentiated between the male SSR
agents, since they have to wear relatively similar outfits to work each
day. Were you aiming to give Sousa a softer look with his cardigans?
|Note the red, white and blue color scheme!|
Gigi Melton: For our SSR guys Dooley, Thompson, Krzeminski, and Sousa, each have a distinctive look befitting their character. Chief Roger Dooley (Shea Whigham) wears strong double breasted suits; Jack Thompson (Chad Michael Murray) wears single breasted with a fashion edge coupled with suspenders; Daniel Sousa (Enver Gjokaj) wears sweater vests under his sport coats and pleated pants, I chose the sweater vests as a more approachable look, but also one that he could be comfortable with a crutch ; and Ray Krzeminski (Kyle Bornheimer) is a bit of a slob with his sport jacket, and open collar shirts.
HelloTailor: Finally, Jarvis really stands out from the other male characters. Were you going for a particularly British style with his tailored suits, as opposed to a more American look sported by characters like Jack Thompson?
Gigi Melton: Yes -- I wanted his look to reflect his British roots, and the Jarvis look is very distinctive to all the other characters . The script described him as a man in a tweed suit. But I wanted him to have a European style and aesthetic as well. So I felt the direction of a suit and vest, balanced with the casual but beautiful tweeds (which Britain is famous for) created a perfect look for his character as butler and front man for Stark.