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The Black Panther Costume Designer On Making Wakanda Fashion

Photography by Entertainment.

Witnessing all the hype and support behind Black Panther is really exciting 1) because I’m a comic book kid at heart and 2) it’s the first Black superhero to have his own movie. With that being said, the Marvel Comics franchise had to bring in a talented and well-versed costume designer to help manifest the land of Wakanda and the Black Panther suit.

Side note: I studied costume design in college which heavily influenced my decision to become a wardrobe stylist.

Now here’s what you need to know about the fashion in Black Panther the movie.

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When Ruth E. Carter agreed to take on the costume designer role for Black Panther, she was a little nervous. She’s worked on the set of Roots and Selma, two films that showcased Black lives, so how was Black Panther a challenge?

In Carter's interview with Forbes Magazine, she talks about Wakanda as this utopia untouched by early colonialism and what would that look like in the 21st century. She executed each costume focusing on each character’s personality, their lifestyle and how fashion could thread the story together. And because Wakanda is high-tech, the textiles aren't antiquated which presented another challenge.

Carter did an excellent job of appreciating African culture and without making the costumes too campy or gaudy. She was inspired by African tribes, which served as the foundation for designing each character’s wardrobe.

She explains how this assignment wasn’t about exploring superhero fiction, it was very real for her to imagine this type of civilization and their environment. From the colors of the cloths to the jewelry, Carter didn't want the fashion to distract the audience from fully immersing into Wakandan culture. Her designs were about making a statement and to change perceptions. By practicing freedom of speech and expression, Carter was able to synthesize visually Black Panther and the kingdom from which he ruled.