Outerwear and symbolic costumes in 'The Falcon and the Winter Soldier'

Sebastian Stan, Daniel Brühl, and Anthony Mackie in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.
(Image credit: Disney+)

This post contains spoilers for The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.
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New Netflix docuseries Worn Stories explores the meaning behind certain items of clothing and how this shapes identity. One episode focuses on uniforms and the role they play, from a Met Museum security guard to politician Frederica Wilson. Symbolic garments are central to the conflict at the heart of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier that has given rise to a new figure wearing Steve Rogers’ (Chris Evans) old uniform. Acquired from the Smithsonian exhibit in the premiere episode, the item that holds the most weight is the iconic red, white, and blue shield that was given to Sam (Anthony Mackie) by a much older Steve during the final moments of Avengers: Endgame. His supposed ease at gifting this item has been a sticking point between Sam and Bucky (Sebastian Stan) since John Walker's (Wyatt Russell) name was first uttered. The shield is an extension of the Captain America identity and it is now literally covered in blood.

Anthony Mackie as Sam Wilson in 'The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.'

(Image credit: Disney+)

Since Captain America: The First Avenger, the uniform has undergone some changes but has always stayed within the patriotic color palette. Generally, the MCU has a well-defined house style that doesn’t stray too far from muted neutrals and block color: the boldest red is on Cap’s shield. There are exceptions to this rule that include Mayes C. Rubeo’s out-of-this-world work on Thor: Ragnarok and the recent WandaVision. The latter takes a lot of cues from sitcoms, which typically favor a brighter range to match the comedic tone. The comics also provided inspiration but told through a sitcom lens before switching to more traditional MCU attire in the finale. In the TV realm, Agent Carter also had an elevated style that was bolstered by the midcentury time period coupled with the espionage backdrop. Designer Giovanna Ottobre-Melton served up Hollywood visuals in the second season when Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) relocated to the West Coast and this is still the sartorial benchmark to beat.

The Westview bubble is the perfect arena for whimsical attire that wouldn’t normally feature in the MCU, however, the return of Zemo (Daniel Brühl) in “Power Broke” gave Bucky and Sam space to step outside the hoodie, leather jacket, and muted shirts when they are off duty. A world dealing with the chaos of the post-blip population increase doesn’t have much time for fashion but the trip to Madripoor is an opportunity to sartorially inject opulence. Designer Michael Crow keeps to the house style with some fun flourishes and strong outerwear that step outside the grey neutral costume zone.


Considering the wings Sam wears, his standard clothing typically sits in earthy browns and greens with the occasional blue injection. Yes, his Avengers attire includes red, but the only time he steps outside his comfort zone is when he has to embody another persona. Instead of embracing his undercover threads, Sam bristles saying, “I’m the only one who looks like a pimp.” Zemo blames his lack of fashion-forward understanding on viewing this through an American lens and also reminds him that he looks “exactly like the man you are supposed to be playing.” The Smiling Tiger doesn’t adhere to unadventurous suiting and this gives Crow a chance to flex a strong patterned tailored ensemble. Lucky for Sam, Sharon Carter (Emily VanCamp) has a rack full of alternate options, and the choice of a snug brown turtleneck and leather jacket delivers a ‘70s cop show aesthetic that I can get on board with.

His relationship with his sister Sarah (Adepero Oduye) is an extra detail that hasn’t previously been explored and there is cohesion in their closets. At the bank, Sarah’s eye-catching mustard is bolder than anything her brother sports, but he does wear a more muted version of this shade during his impromptu therapy session with Bucky. Subtle shifts throughout the season can be seen in Sam’s costumes and his leather jacket courtesy of Sharon is a high point so far.   


For a guy who is over 100 years old, Bucky has sure found his comfortable clothing zone of mostly blacks (with a dash of dark grey and blue) in easy to blend in attire. Everything he wears when not in his uniform is pretty much a hoodie and leather jacket. Considering his uniform also features a lot of leather — it’s durable and fits his moody aesthetic — it wouldn’t surprise me if he slept in this material (the first episode revealed he slept shirtless but revealed nothing else under the covers). This point is made even more valid by the lapels of his borrowed Madripoor suit jacket and this particular detail makes so much sense. As per IMDb, designer Eric Daman also worked on the series but so far he has not featured in the end episode credits so how much involvement Daman had is unclear. However, It is worth noting that Daman is the man behind the many iconic Gossip Girl (and Gossip Girl 2.0) costumes and if he did work on the Disney+ series then this is a reunion between the designer and Stan. Stan played recurring antagonist Carter Bazien in the CW series and his one major fashion takeaway from collaborating with Daman was to avoid belts. Bucky might not have the same sartorial cred as those on the Upper East Side, but his timeless capsule closet is minimalist heaven.  


Sure Cap’s shield is the symbolic key to the series but no one understands fashion more than Baron Helmut Zemo and he shines in his signature garment. The first thing he grabs post-prison break is his focus-pulling fur collar coat (and mask). He quickly ditches a hoodie — he’s no Bucky — for outerwear excellence and for that we have to salute him. His awkward dance moves have rightly been lauded but can we also celebrate the plum twist on a turtleneck he sports in this scene (both the coat collar and purple top are nods to the comic). Daniel Brühl’s commitment to a performance full of flair means that whether he is in his military-meets-Cruella coat or a bathrobe, all eyes are on him. Just beware of how long he spends soaking in the tub.    

Sharon Carter

Sharon Carter has been shopping at the same store as Bucky for her leather and hoodie options, but the longer jacket has a militaristic edge. While it doesn’t exactly mirror her Aunt Peggy’s iconic brown version, it does read like a tether to her relative. Her stash of outfits for any occasion and the sleek black number emphasize the Carter covert outfit genes.


When the Dora Milaje come for Zemo they do so in a version of the Academy Award-winning red uniform as designed by Ruth E. Carter. But when Ayo first approaches Bucky at the end of Episode 3, she does so in a look similar to this character’s first appearance in Captain America: Civil War. As Wakanda’s first line of defense, the black attire is worn when the Dora Milaje is on the job typically outside of Wakanda. Ayo (Florence Kasumba) can also be seen alongside Okoye (Danai Gurira) in the final Black Panther scene in this sleek diplomatic uniform twist, and this ensemble keeps in line with this motif.  

John Walker 

The Cap suit looks off on John Walker, and not just because he lacks anything that made Steve a great hero. Out of the suit, the costume choices are similar neutrals to the other military-leaning characters that ensure he doesn’t stand out (or look like he has any interest in fashion). This week marks a major turning point for John and nothing says anguish like an unshaved face. Steve’s sadness beard deviated from his clean-cut look in Infinity War, but John’s stubble is nowhere near this level of groomed perfection (and lacks the bushy excellence that star Wyatt Russell sports). How his facial hair will face now his rage has taken over is unclear. 

Emma Fraser

Emma Fraser spends most of her time writing about TV, fashion, and costume design; Dana Scully is the reason she loves a pantsuit. Words can also be found at Vulture, Elle, Primetimer, Collider, Little White Lies, Observer, and Girls on Tops. Emma has a Master’s in Film and Television, started a (defunct) blog that mainly focused on Mad Men in 2010, and has been getting paid to write about TV since 2015. It goes back way further as she got her big start making observations in her diary about My So-Called Life’s Angela Chase (and her style) at 14.