The much-anticipated film adaptation of Black Panther is finally here.
It’s the first Marvel film, and superhero film in general, to feature a black lead. There’s a lot of amazing things to praise about the film, including its stellar cast (Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Sterling K. Brown to name a few), but perhaps my favorite thing? The incredible costumes. And it’s all thanks to Ruth E. Carter.
The costumer recently opened up about how she went about creating the looks for Black Panther and the importance of avoiding the stereotypical African look. She told Glamour,
“I felt a lot of pressure, every day, to not do a stereotype. Is this going to look common, or is it going to look great? Is it going to look like something we’ve seen before? Is it being crafted in a way that looks like it’s a play or a cartoon? Or a fake thing? Or is it being crafted in a way that’s going to look like it’s real and has a real function? Does it have fashion and beauty? The overall ideal is beauty. We want it to be beautiful, because we’re honoring it if we show it in a beautiful light. We’re dishonoring it if we show it in the light it’s been shown in, which is ugly and dark.”
The entire team took the costumes extremely seriously and Ruth told TIME,
“We had an enormous number of boards that outlined the costume looks of each district of Wakanda.”
She added that they were determined that Wakanda remain “a place that was never colonized by the Dutch or the English.”
And even though the costumes were inspired by the looks of various indigenous African tribes, she also faced the challenge of bringing the looks into the 21st century. She said,
“We have an African aesthetic here, and we also have a futuristic, modern aesthetic. This is a place that’s advanced in technology, more advanced than the rest of the world, so you take those elements and you have to discover a culture. You have to put them together and make up your own.”
The looks Ruth has created are a breath of fresh air. There are so many designers who continue to appropriate signature African patterns and fashion and to have a costumer do the Afro-futurism style justice is a welcome change of pace.
“Afro-futurism is taking Africa and African American culture and looking at it with a twist of future and fantasy. You could look at images from AfroPunk and see a little bit of Afro-futurism. But also, it’s thinking about culture, anyone’s culture. You could be in Mexican traditional garb or a hanbok and be kind of Afro-futurist because you’re honoring tradition while modernizing it. You’re combining the two.”