The second season of ABC's Agent Carter brought a couple of major changes for our favorite Secret Agent. First and foremost, it changed settings; moving from cold and blue New York to bright and sunny Los Angeles.
Which, at first look, it might seem irrelevant to what we are talking about here: designs. But it couldn't be farther away from the truth. This change of location brought with it a rather substantial change both in the look of the show and the look of the characters. And it was substantial enough that it was reflected in every single one of the promotional images.
And the character that's the most affected by this change is our leading lady; Peggy Carter. So let's have a look and see exactly how and why it affects her.
PEGGY'S MOVING ON
Season 2 marks a rather important change for Peggy, both professionally and personally and, narratively, that change is underlined by her transfer to L.A to help Agent Sousa in a new brand mystery. But it is also marked by several visual changes both in the overall look of the show and the personal look of Peggy herself.
Whilst season 1, at a character level, was defined by her sorrow and guilt towards Steve and her defiance towards the male status quo, this second season is, instead defined by her new-found confidence and determination. "She knows her value", as she claimed at the end of Season 1. And that clearly transpires through her new wardrobe.
The style is still pretty consistent; most of her office wardrobe still mainly consists of the late 1940's A-line skirts and blouses that follow closely the mid-1940's fashion (read Part I for more on post-war fashion). True, she ditches the long sleeves and suit jackets, but that's only a logical change given the change in location. California's climate is hardly appropriate for long-sleeves and thick jackets.
But the main change in style is, actually, not so much a radical change, as is an evolution. Whilst in season 1 she only wore the pantsuits and tracksuits when she was not on official duty, now she wears them whenever she feels like it, even during office time. This is logical, considering her job, but at the time it would have been a gigantic defiance towards the male Status Quo.
And that's why this is probably the best way to show how much more confident she feels about herself in her job after the events of the first season. If she has to go kick some ass she WILL change into pants no matter what or who will see it. She doesn't hide that part of herself anymore, and it feels so good to see her so confident in herself in a way that she wasn't before.
Hand in hand with this subtle shift in the style comes a rather notable change in color. Her new confidence and hopeful optimist is clearly shown by a shift towards a brighter palette and lighter tones for her wardrobe.
Whilst the red, white and blue combo is still essential to her character, there is a considerable addition of new brighter and merrier colors: purple's, greens and oranges are particularly prominent, even pink at some point!
At first glance, the inclusion of brighter colors might seem exclusively related to her being in L.A instead of New York. And while it's true that that is relevant in her new look (lighter and brighter clothes are a good fit for fashionable L.A) it's not the real core reason.
This is also another way to highlight that new found confidence in her job and herself that we were talking about earlier. She's not worried about calling attention to herself anymore and so she wears colors that pop up even more.
Also, the change in color palette helps underline the idea that, somehow, her sadness towards Steve has somehow been lifted. That's not to say that she doesn't care about him or that she has forgotten him, but she's certainly moving on somehow. She's certainly trying to find a balance between respecting his memory and having a life of her own.
Last but not least, there is another element that defines this newfound value in her character. And it's easily overlooked. Whilst in the first season her defining complement was the red fedora, now it's a glamorous pair of red sunglasses that she sports confidently throughout the season, and that also played a big part in the promotional images.
It might seem like an insignificant addition, but it says a lot about her and how much more confident she is in her status as a female agent. What do I mean by that? Well, if you remember the first part of this article, I talked about how that fedora signified her intentions: she is no less than the men around her, that's why she purposefully sported something that was uniquely associated with her male counterparts.
But, sunglasses, and particularly these sunglasses, are unequivocally feminine. And it's a great way to codify that she knows now that she is no less than the men around her because she is NO MAN. She is not trying to visually assimilate herself to her coworkers. She is a good agent not despite being a woman, but because of it. It's a strength, not a handicap. She knows her value.
I know that I've really hammered in that line, but that single idea is the main drive behind all of the changes done to her wardrobe for the new season. And it makes it really interesting to watch that change in the costumes as well as in the character itself. It would have been so easy to reuse the whole wardrobe, and it makes me so happy to see that they did not take the easy route.
THE HOLLYWOOD CIRCUS
Character development aside, the design also takes the most out of the location change. Peggy is now working in the most glamorous city of the country; she is at the center of the Hollywood Golden Age. And that means that, whenever she needs to blend in or go incognito, we have the perfect excuse to see her in gorgeous fashionable Hollywood outfits.
And what's best; it's not gratuitous eye candy, it makes a lot of sense in the narrative. If she needs to blend in the Hollywood crowd, she needs to look as good as them. And so, this season brings us an unending list of form-fitting dresses, in bright colors and fabulous shoes.
Also, her undercover missions around Hollywood allows for some truly glamorous hairstyles as well. I particularly adore the Veronica Lake waves she sport in the picture below.
The intention for her undercover looks, according to the designer, was to give her a more "film noir" vibe and feel. And she certainly did. And it's a nice look on her. But more on that when I get around to talk about Whitney Frost (the villain for the season) in future articles, which will come, I promise.
PEGGY BEFORE AGENT CARTER
Last but not least, this second season allowed us a small glimpse of Peggy's old life, allowing us to see how she was before the war and her work on the S.S.R. These flashbacks take place during 1940 and, historically speaking, are very accurate.
Character-wise, they show us a more modest and "conformist" Peggy. She still plays along with what a "lady" is supposed to do and, therefore, look like. Modest clothes and modest colors are the standard for the clothes for pre-war Peggy.
We also get to see her in a beautiful late 1930's wedding dress that looks amazing on her. That dress is the visual image of the life she refused to have after her brother died in the War.
All in all, the designs for her pre-war life are meant to pose a stark contrast with her current look, which allows us to see where she came from and just how much she has changed.
The new season managed to make the most out of the new setting and the character changes in a great way. Which allowed for really interesting ideas and developments in the look of the character. It maintained a really high standard for period-accuracy whilst allowing room for character personality to shine through. And in a world that often considers period-accuracy to be a handicap rather than a strength, it feels like a breeze of fresh air to see such an approach.
It really saddens me to think that I won't be able to talk about any more designs for Peggy, but, luckily for me, there are plenty more characters to talk about throughout the two-season run of the show. And I will! You can count on it.
See you next time when I will dive back into Agent Carter to talk about the designs for the male characters of the show during season 1.
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