Sartorial: Dottie Underwood
Agent Carter’s Dottie Underwood is a secret. She was introduced as a small town girl come to the big city but was soon revealed to be a Russian spy, conditioned since childhood to be a killing machine. Those familiar with the comic book backstory of The Avengers’ Black Widow recognized the arc and Dottie’s clear connection to Natasha Romanov.
I want to start with the first promotional image of Dottie, with Peggy, because it is actually perfect.
Peggy is styled in her traditional red and blue. It not only describes her as a) a member of Captain America’s team and b) a patriot, but also makes her stand out in a crowd, or against the muted late 40s color scheme. Contrast that with Dottie, who is styled in the same colors as the background. She literally blends in.
This is a recurring theme.
Dottie in green to match the Automat.
Her blouse references the curtain, tablecloth, and milk — note her companion is not wearing any white.
Here she is dressed in the same color palette as the wallpaper and lamp.
And here she matches the city, subway rails and dark suited men. Later the dentist’s office walls are painted the same green as her dress.
Dottie doesn’t have a signature color because “Dottie” is not meant to be remembered. But as a Black Widow:
Her signature colors are black, white, and most importantly red. In fact there is a splash of red in every scene where Dottie is working:
“Dottie” is also “Ida” in order to seduce Howard Stark. Howard dates movie stars so that’s what Ida references.
Lauren Bacall made her film debut in To Have and Have Not (1944). Unlike Dottie, Ida is meant to catch our — or more specifically Howard’s — eye. Becoming a movie star knock-off in perfect: she draws attention, but is a copy, not an individual. I find it intriguing that later she’s bothered Howard doesn’t remember her, despite it being in her best interests, and what she’s trained for. Though the sequence is more likely meant to comment on Howard than Dottie, I like to think it’s because she loves Ida’s look as much as I do, and doesn’t want it to be forgotten.
Underneath it all is a little girl who can’t sleep without being handcuffed to her bed.
We don’t know her name. It’s a secret.
Costumes for ABC’s Agent Carter are designed by Giovanna Ottobre-Melton.