WCW: Hayley Atwell


Hayley Atwell kind of crept up on me. I didn’t much notice her until she played Bess in The Duchess, and I thought she was the perfect foil to Keira Knightley (even if Georgiana and Bess actually looked a lot alike in real life). I KNOW a lot of you loved her as Agent Carter, and now she’s starring in the rebooted Howards End. Let’s take a look through her surprisingly long historical costume TV/movie resume!


The Sally Lockhart Mysteries: The Ruby in the Smoke (2006)

She’s a supporting character in this 1870s-set, female detective mystery.

2006 Sally Lockhart Mysteries- The Ruby in the Smoke


Mansfield Park (2007)

As materialistic, manipulative Mary Crawford – out to steal Fanny’s MAN y’all! – in the horrible, Billie Piper-led TV miniseries. Thankfully they found their hairpins for Hayley’s character!

2007 Mansfield Park 2007 mansfield park


The Sally Lockhart Mysteries: The Shadow in the North (2006)

The sequel!

The Shadow in the North (2007)


Brideshead Revisited (2008)

I quite enjoyed this updated adaptation, in particular, because I thought Atwell was a better choice for Julia than Diana Quick, who played her in the 1981 version (Quick just seemed TOO old/mature for the role).

2008 Brideshead Revisited 2008 Brideshead Revisited


The Duchess (2008)

Atwell’s Bess is the quiet bystander who occasionally stands up and makes a strong decision.

2008 The Duchess 2008 The Duchess 2008 The Duchess


The Pillars of the Earth (2010)

Strong acting, great story, cheesy costumes!

The Pillars of the Earth The Pillars of the Earth (2010)


Any Human Heart (2010)

Matthew Macfadyen and Jim Broadbent play a writer in 1920s Paris, ’50s New York, and ’80s London. I think Atwell may play the love interest? I don’t know, they lost me at Matthew Macfadyen.

2010 Any Human Heart


Restless (2010)

Atwell plays a World War II spy — hmmm, good training!2010 Restless


Testament of Youth (2014)

Alicia Vikander and Kit Harington get all World War I-y. Atwell must play a war nurse.

2014 Testament of Youth


Agent Carter (2015-16)

Okay, y’all LOVE her in this TV series. She plays Peggy Carter, a secret agent in 1940s America. I saw the costumes on exhibit and thought they were great! It’s based on a Marvel comic, and her character also turns up in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Avengers: Secret Wars, but I’m not a comic book person, so you’ll have to tell me if she wears period or modern costumes for those.

2015-16 Agent Carter 2015-16 Agent Carter Agent Carter


Howards End (2017)

Why remake such a classic? She plays bohemian Margaret Shlegel, who gets engaged to a stuffy guy.

2017 Howards End 2017 Howards End


Christopher Robin (coming soon)

Ewan McGregor plays an adult Christopher Robin, who rediscovers his childhood friend Winnie the Pooh. Atwell plays his wife.

2018 Christopher Robin

I feel like she bought all of this at Contempo Casuals (do they still exist? Editor’s Note: No, they do not! Read Trystan’s CorpGoth blog for details!).


Which is your favorite of Hayley Atwell’s historical movie/TV roles?

16 Responses

  1. elizacameron

    I love Hayley Atwell, particularly as Agent Carter, and I thought she wiped the floor with Keira Knightley in The Duchess. I stopped watching Any Human Heart after the 1st 2 episodes for reasons (I don’t want to spoil the story). I totally forgot she played Mary Crawford in Mansfield Park but that might have to do with how much I hated Billie Piper as Fanny. I know the girl was poor but I’m sure the Bertrams could have given her some hair pins!

  2. ladylavinia1932

    She first portrayed Agent Carter in 2011’s “Captain America: The First Avenger”.

    Not a fan of any version of “Mansfield Park”. Well, I can somewhat tolerate the 1983 version.
    I guess I just don’t like the story. Or Fanny Price.

  3. ladylavinia1932

    Why remake such a classic? She plays bohemian Margaret Shlegel, who gets engaged to a stuffy guy.

    I thought this new version of “Howard’s End” was not a remake. I even looked it up myself. There was another television version that aired in 1970.

  4. mmcquown

    Carter was Capt America’s love interest in WWII IN the first movie she loses him when his plane crashes. But in the 2nd movie, he’s revived in current times. Alas, she’s now a dying old woman and he just has time to say goodbye before she dies. I think most of her other appearances are in the relevant period she operated in. No luck for her, her next series as a lawyer didn’t stick. As for Billie Piper, I thought she was the worst Dr Who companion ever.

  5. kellycb

    Love this round-up! Now I have a new list of stuff I want to see! Although, it was not mentioned that Atwell was in the 2015 Cinderella remake as Ella’s mother. Would this count has a historical costume flick?

  6. kellycb

    Oh – and yes, Atwell’s costumes are for the most part pretty darn authentic to the late 1930s through the end of 1940s in both seasons of Agent Carter. I have been able to find a historical base (sewing pattern, fashion drawing, or old photo) for most all of them! I do use these sources to sew my own re-makes of them… ;) Lucky dog for getting to see some of them in person!!!

  7. kellycb

    Darn! Sorry for the trio of comments. Still didn’t answer your question, tho! From what I have heard and read, just a few of Atwell’s costumes are vintage original pieces – the rest are designed new using old fabrics.

  8. JennyME

    I love Hayley Atwell! She was great in Brideshead, although I don’t think 20s costumes are very flattering on her. Also loved her in the Duchess and Agent Carter. One of my streaming services keeps recommending the Sally Lockharts to me and I’m like, where is the “no Billie Piper ever” setting?

    Still laughing over “I don’t know, they lost me at Matthew Macfadyen.” I seriously don’t get that guy’s appeal.

  9. allie

    Not sure if its counted, but she has a short role as the mother of Ella in Kenneth Branagh’s Cinderella (2015), where she wears old-timey costumes.

  10. SarahV

    Any Human Heart was wonderful. She was wonderful in her role. That movie also features Gillian Anderson as an acidic Wallis Simpson, FYI.

  11. Allison Caylor

    Poor Mansfield Park has just never been done well yet. However, that awful version of which you spoke (which is actually less awful than that other awful modern version) did one thing smashingly right — casting Haley Atwell as Miss Crawford. She was utterly perfect. If anything could’ve saved it from Billie Piper and that cringy guy who played Edmund, she would have done it.

    I disliked Matthew Macfayden greatly until I saw him in Little Dorrit. Instead of trying to make him all serious and sexy like P&P (which he just… isn’t) they played him as just a kind and wonderful person and who cares about his looks/charm. I loved him in that.

  12. mjsamuelson

    Oh man, favorite Hayley….Agent Carter stands out, but I loved her in Howards End. Why make it again? Because you can cast Hayley Atwell!


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