I have for some time been enamoured with the idea of fantasy styling Peggy Carter of Marvel's Agent Carter. Not only is it one of the few shows where women are allowed to shine as characters and not just as accessories, it's also dripping with gorgeous 1940s style. That in itself makes trying to recreate Peggy's style with items largely chosen from the British high street an enormous challenge. Forties shapes and cuts simply aren't very fashionable at the moment, so everyone's clothing on the show is very much in period costume territory. You simply won't find a silk blouse cut like Peggy's on the high street.
Keeping that in mind, I've tried to put together a look inspired by Hayley Atwell's season two incarnation of Peggy, with a few modern adjustments, making everything here something you can buy now fairly easily. If you want absolute historical accuracy or if you're looking to create that spot-on cosplay outfit, you're either going to have to shop vintage, make your own items or employ an expert seamstress to get it completely right. My understanding is that the costumes on set were a combination of original vintage pieces and the handmade work of the wardrobe department. I have so much love for Giovanna Melton and the rest of her team.
Season two of Agent Carter takes place in 1947. The world was recovering from World War II, meaning that all of a sudden it was okay to start dressing a little opulently and spending the disposable income that simply hadn't been available to people during the first half of the decade. It was a time for people to start enjoying themselves again, and that was often expressed through clothing. In terms of fashion, it was an elegant period in history. It was just before the 1950s bombshell look completely took over, before teenage culture began to emerge. Though you see signs of the former beginning to move in during season two.
The biggest change to Peggy's clothing specifically comes as the result of her relocation from New York to Los Angeles. Not only does she have sunshine and that 'dry heat' she mentions to contend with, that change in light means her clothes get that little bit brighter and more colourful too. Though she still regularly nods to the historically important red and navy blue.
What's key with Peggy is that she's notably different to the other women in the series, and her personality is reflected in her clothing. Ana Jarvis is adorable and her wardrobe is filled with hyper feminine jewel-toned florals to match. Whitney Frost, all Hollywood starlet and expensive glamour, never looks anything but elegant and flashbulb ready. Well... no, I can't spoil it for you. Opponent Dottie Underwood isn't too far from Peggy, especially now she's joined her in the brunette club. She has all the practicality needed of Secret Agent clothing, but always a little darker and more daring. Watch out for her black and orange party outfit in season two. It's spectacular!
Peggy, however, is almost always about practicality unless the situation calls for her to blend into her surroundings differently. A glamorous event or going to the races, for instance. Apart from the odd floral tea dress or some lattice work on her dresses, Peggy likes block colours and simplicity. The only flourish she likes are the cuts on her blouses, which add some interest. She loves tailoring. Everything nips and cuts tightly to give her a defined silhouette, but generally it's not about looking deliberately sexy... unless events call for exactly that. The skirts here are probably a little tighter and less A-Line than Peggy's as she would often need to run with ease. You can adjust as you see fit. The point is to keep a tight shape to everything. You have to tuck in your shirt or blouse and keep your waistline high.
Jewellery-wise, Peggy hardly wears any. The selection that appears most regularly is a pair of stud earrings, floral shaped with a pearl in their centre. She only changes them for something else when they don't match the rest of the outfit or she needs more pizzazz. She also wears a medallion necklace, which I'm told holds the Carter crest on it. She wears this most days. Any coin-shaped pendant would have the same effect. Sticking with accessories, her bags tend to be Frame Bags, heavily structured and more likely on the small side. There is the odd wide waist belt and shoes tend to be T-Bar Mary Janes with a sturdy heel as was favoured at the time, unless something more dainty fits the outfit better. If what I've read is correct, the red shoes here are the exact style she wore in the show.
As I mentioned before, Peggy's dabbling with detail tends to be subtle. When she puts on her red dress for the races it's embellished with some additional stitching and a cross of red fabric across the neckline. When Ana persuades her to put on a purple dress to meet with a gentleman, that looks different to her day clothes because of the lattice work on the sleeves and neckline. Here is where you'll have to use your sewing skills if you want to recreate them. Even looking in the classic mother-of-the-bride collections it was hard to find those kind of details. I've chosen a couple of dresses inspired by the originals.
In the first series, Peggy's red hat became her trademark. Out in California, she hands it in for a pair of bold red sunglasses and gets a new calling card. Well, what else would you wear in Howard Stark's convertible? Her races outfit was a classic example of compromising her personal style to fit the case. Peggy Carter would never wear glitzy red earrings for everyday, but here she did. Though she did voluntarily switch too some dark floral studs to match her purple dress. These red shoes are the only overseas item I've listed, but as I believe they're the exact ones she wore, I had to put them in with the absence of anything similar here.
Secret agents need to stay in shape and keep their wits about them, so this requires some physical and combat training. In the 1940s, ladies didn't go to the gym in sports bras and leggings. When Peggy heads outside for some sword work, she wears a belted burgundy jumpsuit over a teal shirt. An outfit that wouldn't look out-of-place on Leia in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Clothing fit for a general, you might say. Peggy's jumpsuit had buttons on the outside but, you know, I'm working with the high street here.
Dresses and Training
The only place where Peggy willingly allows herself some print and lace is in her nightwear. In season two she wears the most stunning black satin robe with a coral pink feather print and collar to match. We don't see much of what's going on underneath, but there appears to be a satin and lace nightgown. You may not be able to buy the exact items she wears on set, but you can recreate the feel of that elegance. If it gently grazes your skin, if it slips, slides and shines, you're on the right track.
When it comes to make-up, simplicity is crucial. When we think of Peggy we think of that iconic red lip and in season two it remains her preferred look. Though it's important to remember that it's a softer day-look most of the time. If you've gone Marilyn you've gone too far. She does sometimes switch her lip colour to a blue-toned pink where red seems too bold, occasionally she appears in a coral pink colour, usually when she's wearing peachy or orange tones. Her eye make-up is generally just a wash of light brown with a little bit of shading. You could use some soft brown liner to define the eyes, but nothing too harsh. Lashes have to look natural, too. A defining and separating mascara should do the trick, but if you wanted something more noticeable, some soft false lashes should add some volume without spoiling the look. Peggy's nails are almost always a bright red. Both the name and the shade of this Mavala nail polish fit perfectly. There's almost no blush at all to Peggy's cheeks, especially when she first arrives in LA, but there's a gentle flush to give her some health. The key to everything here is to use a light touch.
This post has been what I believe they call a Labour of Love. I hope you've enjoyed it as much as I've enjoyed putting it together.