Marvel’s Agent Carter is one of the best-dressed shows on television right now. Vintage dresses, stylish sunglasses, and dapper suits are all just a day in the life of Emmy Award winning Costume Designer Gigi Melton who has the privilege of dressing the stunning Hayley Atwell and cast every week. I had the chance to ask her a few questions for Talk Nerdy with Us this week while we were hanging out at Emerald City Comicon in Seattle.
Marvel’s Agent Carter, in particular, has a huge Twitter fan base and they all seem to know a lot about you. Ten years ago, not a lot of people would think to ask the costume department questions. I think you are as integral to the success of Marvel’s Agent Carter as the script and the actors. Does that put more pressure on you?
Being interactive with the fans is another facet of my designing. It’s wonderful to hear/read what the show has done for them.
As far as pressure – my feeling is the whole crew are all equal parts of a big delicious pie. We all need each other. Without the great acting, scripts, scenery, make-up, hair, camera, music, etc…it would all be a different story. We are all in it together as a team.
Word on the street is that you are very accessible and always willing to answer fan questions. Does knowing that your fans have such immediate access to you via Twitter impact the way you think about your current projects?
For many women Marvel’s Agent Carter has brought empowerment. I feel blessed to be part of a project that brings that to the fans. For me, It makes me happy to share info when possible. Twitter is great for that. Sometimes the schedule gets crazy and I can’t answer questions – but know if I have a moment, I will answer them.
You’ve done features and television and had success in both. What is next? What is your dream project?
Marvel’s Agent Carter has been a dream project. But I love designing for fantasy futuristic or storybook so that would be great to design for in the future. From a design standpoint, I enjoy both television and film.
What has been your favorite project to this point?
Agent Carter / Mob City
Where do you go for your research on the costumes in Marvel’s Agent Carter?
My intensive 40s research started about two years before Agent Carter for a Frank Darabont TNT series Mob City which has an entirely different look than Agent Carter. Not easy to do when designing for the same era.
The costume houses have amazing, huge libraries to gather research from. In addition, I watched a noir film from the era almost every night for several months before starting Mob City (I still do – but now more like once a week). As far as magazines and catalogs, fashion shots are beautiful but they don’t capture the real look of what the everyday person was wearing – and how they were wearing it. It’s much different from the magazines. Episode to episode – I will always search for actual historic photos that relate to the subject we are about to embark on.
Do you design a wardrobe for one character for an entire season or do you go one episode at a time?
For the men, I build a closet at the top of a season and add more each episode depending on what is needed for the action/script. As for the women, it’s designing and building every episode.
Does each character have a closet that you go to for everyday stuff and then create special pieces based on the script?
The cast have closets that I re-use pieces from. We also destroy many pieces so it’s important to keep adding and or repairing – if possible.
Does each character have their own designer or are you the designer “overlord” and you have final say on all character looks?
Everything is 40’s vintage or custom. So I guess I’m the “overlord”. (laughs). However, everything is approved by Marvel and ABC. I always make sure everyone is happy and comfortable in the fittings.
Any broadway aspirations? What about a Peggy Carter on Broadway? That would be kind of awesome!
Never thought about designing for Broadway! That would be fantastic Marvel’s Agent Carter on Broadway.
Do you think programs like Project Runway help or hinder people wanting to break into the fashion/design business?
It’s definitely highlighted designing as a career choice. I think it has helped.
What advice do you have for kids trying to get into this business now?
As a career choice you have chosen a very challenging, exciting, creative, competitive, grueling and sometimes very stressful field. So keep grounded. It takes backbone, patience, flexibility, and tenacity to stick it out. Most people are surprised at the long 14 hour days and how difficult it is to break into the business in LA. Costumes are up there with one of the most challenging and competitive jobs. However, that said, not a day goes by that I don’t feel fortunate to be in this business.
Peggy Carter Cosplay is pretty popular so I asked a few girls that design their own costumes what they wanted to know from Gigi.
Do you have a favorite costume that you have designed?
For season one – of course, the blue suit and red hat. Season two Peggy’s two-tone teal dress she wore in the final episode.
Are the costumes on Agent Carter based on vintage patterns or do you design them yourself?
All the patterns/designs are made for Peggy/Agent Carter. For season two there was one light blue vintage suit and blouse I used for Peggy in a flashback – she changes into the suit from her wedding dress to leave.
Why does Haley have so many tulip sleeves?
(laughs). A couple of reasons – A beautiful 40s style, that allows for free arm movement/action because of the tulip sleeve split. I always try to incorporate a sleeve detail/finish.
And finally, just because it is Emerald City Comicon, here are my fast-five silly questions:
1. What is your favorite ride at Disneyland? Pirates
2. Batman or Superman? I like them both when they are not fighting with each other
3. Marvel or DC? Marvel
4. If you could be any character from Gilligan’s Island, who would you be? The professor
5. PBJ or Grilled Cheese? PBJ 🙂
Thanks Gigi for your patience in putting this together. And remember everyone #RenewAgentCarter