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This is the week of Marvel's Black Panther movie debut based on the comic book series and my immediate focus has been on the fantastic look and feel of the futuristic African warrior inspired costumes provided by Oscar and Emmy winning costume designer Ruth Carter.
Black Fashion Icon: Costume Designer Ruth Carter
Even if her name sounds unfamiliar, I'll bet you have seen Ms. Carter's work in some of Hollywood's most iconic black films- especially if you have seen any Spike Lee movies including School Daze, Do the Right Thing, Clockers... How about the period pieces Malcolm X, Amistad, Selma or the vibrant more recent hip hopera Chiraq? At least three members of your family has seen and can recite verbatim AT LEAST five lines from The Five Heartbeats and Crooklyn, right? Carter has provided the costume for those films too. And who could forget the ghetto fabulous B.A.Ps which she outfitted a young Halle Berry in some of the most outrageous colorful pleather hoochified pieces that have ever graced a Hollywood screen lol. She's costumed remakes to Sparkle and Roots, and has also costumed television episodes of Seinfeld and Being Mary Jane.
A costume designer designs costumes for film, television and plays to help tell the story and create memorable characters on screen. With a great costumer you won't notice a Gucci shoe, or a Dior dress, but you will notice how the costume plays a part in the character's recognition, personality and likability. Glamorous, stylish, gangstafied, cool, disheveled, evil, innocent, poor... you can tell a lot about a character through costume before an actor ever opens their mouth to speak the first lines.
Using references from Kenya's Masai, Himba, Dogan, and Tuareg tribes, Lesotho's Basotho people, and more honoring African culture in this important film, you can tell that Ruth is inspired by black history, current events and political movements which adds a much needed depth to her characters and films.
A graduate of Hampton University, the Massachusetts native has had a career spanning over thirty years in costume and continues to work in movies and television. Below is one of my favorite scenes from "I'm Gonna Get You Sucka", watch and think about how important costume (in this case, not just clothes) are to film!
What's your favorite movie costumed by Ruth Carter? Leave your comment below!
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