Arts, Culture & Media

Looking Marvel-ous: Designing costumes for 'Black Panther'

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Marvel Studios’ “Black Panther.” L to R: Nakia (Lupita Nyong'o), T'Challa/Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) and Okoye (Danai Gurira).

Marvel Studios’ “Black Panther.” L to R: Nakia (Lupita Nyong'o), T'Challa/Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) and Okoye (Danai Gurira).

Credit:

© Marvel Studios 2018

Costume designer Ruth E. Carter builds characters and worlds with fabric, jewelry and paint, and has been nominated twice for an Oscar. She’s made a career of recreating historically accurate clothing for period pictures like “Malcolm X,” “Selma,” “The Butler” and “Amistad.” 

Ruth E. Carter in her design studio for "Roots."

Ruth E. Carter in her design studio for "Roots"

Credit:

Steve Dieti

But in her 30 years as a Hollywood costume designer, she has never dressed a character anything like “Black Panther.”

Marvel Studios“Black Panther.” Black Panther Conceptual Character and Costume Design Sketch. Costume Design and Art by Ryan Meinderding and VisDev Team.

Marvel Studios' “Black Panther.” Black Panther Conceptual Character and Costume Design Sketch. Costume Design and Art by Ryan Meinderding and VisDev Team.

Credit:

© Marvel Studios 2018

Marvel Studios' “Black Panther.” Black Panther/T'Challa (Chadwick Boseman).

Marvel Studios' “Black Panther.” Black Panther/T'Challa (Chadwick Boseman).

Credit:

© Marvel Studios 2018 

“Everything about setting up 'Black Panther' was new. The script, for example, was secret. They sent me some pages pulled out of the Black Panther comic book and I was like, 'Is this what I had to prepare for this?' And I understood the story of the Black Panther and the world of Wakanda by reading the pieces that they sent me. But I also had to go on and do my own research, and so I decided that, you know, with it taking place in a fictitious place in Africa that I could take from all of the elements of Africa and infuse it into the costumes.”

“So I looked at the Surma stick fighters and how the men draped cloth around their bodies, and I was inspired by that. I looked at the Tuareg people and how they used these beautiful purples and gold and silver. And I looked at the Maasai warriors and infused that red color into the costumes of the Dora Milaje, Black Panther's elite female bodyguards.”

Marvel Studios' “Black Panther.” Dora Milaje Conceptual Character and Costume Design Sketch. Costume Design by Ryan Meinderding and VisDev Team. Concept Artist: Anthony Francisco.

Marvel Studios' “Black Panther.” Dora Milaje Conceptual Character and Costume Design Sketch. Costume Design by Ryan Meinderding and VisDev Team. Concept Artist: Anthony Francisco.

Credit:

© Marvel Studios 2018

Marvel Studios' “Black Panther.” L to R: Nakia (Lupita Nyong'o) and Shuri (Letitia Wright).

Marvel Studios' “Black Panther.” L to R: Nakia (Lupita Nyong'o) and Shuri (Letitia Wright).

Credit:

Matt Kennedy/© Marvel Studios 2018

And when it came to the costumes for those female warriors, Carter and director Ryan Coogler decided to take a radically different tack than what's come before.

“The women in the Dora Milaje don't need to be scantily clad. These soldiers need to have protection. They need to have arm rings and neck rings that are not only paying homage to ancient tribes, but also really practical for protection as a fighter. I want the women to have split-toed, flat boots, not have on heels like we see a lot of superheroes. We can do something different, something more realistic, and it will still be appealing.” 

Marvel Studios' “Black Panther.” Nakia Conceptual Character and Costume Design Sketch. Costume Design: Ruth Carter. Concept Artist: Keith Christensen.

Marvel Studios' “Black Panther.” Nakia Conceptual Character and Costume Design Sketch. Costume Design: Ruth Carter. Concept Artist: Keith Christensen.

Credit:

© Marvel Studios 2018

Marvel Studios’ “Black Panther.” L to R: Nakia (Lupita Nyong'o) and T'Challa/Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman).

Marvel Studios’ “Black Panther.” L to R: Nakia (Lupita Nyong'o) and T'Challa/Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman)

Credit:

Matt Kennedy/© Marvel Studios 2018

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Tagged: Ruth E. CarterartsfilmcultureMarvel comicscostume designcomic booksBlack Panther.