On the Shelf
The Art of Ruth E. Carter: Costuming Black History and the Afrofuture, from Do the Right Thing to Black Panther
By Ruth E. Carter
Chronicle: 152 pages, $40
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Earlier this year, legendary costumer Ruth E. Carter made history as the first Black woman to take home two Academy Awards.
Her win for 2018’s “Black Panther” was the first in costuming for a Black person and the first Oscar for Marvel Studios. Her second, for “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” marked another record: the first repeat in the category for an original film and its sequel.
Safely in the record books, Carter’s three-decade-long career is finally between hard covers too. “The Art of Ruth E. Carter: Costuming Black History and the Afrofuture from ‘Do the Right Thing’ to ‘Black Panther’” was released this week.
The slim volume offers rare photos, film stills, illustrations, sketches and mood boards from some of Carter’s 70 film gigs, including “Dolemite Is My Name” (2019), “Marshall” (2017), “Roots” (2016), “Selma” (2014), “Sparkle” (2012), “Four Brothers” (2005), “Baby Boy” (2001), “B*A*P*S” (1997) and others.
Ruth Carter makes history as the first Black woman to take home two Academy Awards
Veteran costumer Ruth E. Carter is now the first Black woman to win two Academy Awards, and the first person to win in the costume design category for an original film and its sequel
“Ruth Carter is a storyteller,” Danai Gurira writes in the book’s foreward. “She uses her craft to elevate a narrative, giving it an entirely richer and more potent delivery.”
Carter got her start in costume making through the theater department at Hampton University. There was no curriculum in costume design at the time, so she designed a program herself.
Her experience at the historically Black college came in handy during work on her first film, Spike Lee’s “School Daze.” “I knew how to do plays and how to get everything all organized, so I knew what the rhythm of making a film felt like,” she told The Times during a telephone interview from Atlanta, where she had been working on the upcoming “Blade.” “And then I did like 2.5 movies every year for 10 years.”
From film to film, Carter added, the budget doesn’t necessarily change the job. “I don’t think the process gets more sophisticated the bigger the film gets,” she said. “Like if I want a costume in there that we can’t spend a great deal of money on, I have to come up with a way to do it old school. I did a Maasai headdress out of a Pier 1 Imports beaded place mat. I think there is a core aesthetic that you keep and hold onto and that’s what makes you unique.”
In a conversation edited for length and clarity, Carter shares her favorite creations, looks she wishes she were responsible for and the ways she keeps her creative juices flowing.
Your two Oscars put you in the company of Denzel Washington and Mahershala Ali. How does it feel?
I feel that I’m with family. My first nomination was for “Malcolm X” with Denzel Washington. I was working [at the time] with Mahershala Ali on “Blade.” I feel a part of a wonderful family of artists who have achieved greatness and I’m accepting of their invitation.
Is there anything you can tell us about your work on “Blade” so far?
I sure can’t! But we got shut down because of the writers’ strike.
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In your acceptance speech, you honored your mother, who died between your first and second win. How did she react the first time?
Winning the Oscar and thanking her just gave her so much joy. I know that she was proud of me. She was up there in age at that time — I think she was 97 — and kind of losing a little bit of her memory. I just know the mother that I’ve had my whole life. She’d be immensely proud.
What do you think is the hardest part of the job?
The pressure to get it right. When you’re representing cultures and you’re representing yourself — it’s never a burden, it’s a joy — but the pressure to get it right is like a calling. You have to do a deep dive, you have to ask questions, you have to not be afraid to ask for help.
After everyone had seen the first movie, there was no one that I could hire that didn’t feel that they knew Wakanda already. But I was showing another side of Wakanda and I was introducing [Talokan] so I still had to redirect all of those minds that were fixated on “I know what this is.” No, you don’t. We’re showing the river province and therefore we want to maybe bring in some other elements of design here. So it’s tough to guide and direct. I sometimes in my core feel insecure or shaky, and I have to ignore that and just push through and believe in myself. Because people talk all the time about appropriation but we’re honoring culture. And that’s why it’s important for me to retrain the eye to see beauty in new forms, new standards.
How do you replenish your creativity?
The whole time we were shooting and prepping “Wakanda Forever,” I had a life coach because the film was four times bigger than the first “Black Panther” and we’d lost our hero. We grieved through the process and we did a story about grief. And so through my life coach I did breathing exercises, yoga, weights, burpees... Anything to get out the energy that sometimes blocks creative thinking.
I also paint. I love the feeling of being in flow. Once you have your process of painting, it’s no different than working on a costume. It keeps me exercised with color theory, how to highlight, how to add shadows. It helps me communicate with my team when we come back together.
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What are some of the most marked changes you’ve seen in the industry?
The independent filmmaker is now the Hollywood filmmaker. Before, the independent filmmaker was kind of obscure in a way. I did these films that were written, directed, produced by Robert Townsend and Keenan Ivory Wayans and I think they were by us and for us. Now the independent filmmakers are Hollywood icons. And you’ll see a film like “Moonlight” or “Everything Everywhere All at Once” win the Oscar, these smaller films that have so much heart. I think the independent film has grown up.
Do you have a favorite film that you’ve created a costume for?
I would say my favorite costumes were for “What’s Love Got to Do With It,” the story of Tina Turner. I could watch that film and watch Angela [Bassett]’s performance in that film and really love the journey. I forget that it’s a brutal story because I’m watching the costumes that I love so much!
Do you have a favorite costume of all time?
One is the beaded gold tier dress that Angela wears in the “Proud Mary” performance. It’s exactly a replica, bead for bead, of the dress that Tina Turner wore. And fortunately, Disney still has it. They don’t have anything else from that film, but they still have that costume. And I think the zoot suits from “Malcolm X,” because I studied the zoot suit in great detail in all of my menswear books and I feel like I nailed it.
Is there a film whose costumes you wish you made?
I loved “Elvis.” I loved “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.” And I love films like “Judas and the Black Messiah” where I can immerse in the story and don’t care about evaluating anybody’s costumes because they’re so great I just want to be an audience member. That’s how I felt with those films, that they gave their heart and soul to costume design.
What is the ratio of things you create from scratch to vintage or pre-made garments?
Well, sometimes it’s so vintage it can’t be worn but it can be recreated. So the percentage now, I would say, [compared to] when I did “Malcolm X” in 1992... It was 90% collection, rental pieces. Now, because vintage just keeps getting more scarce the older it gets, I would say that my latest films are 90-99% made from scratch.
‘Black Panther’ costume designer Ruth E. Carter is Hollywood royalty — with or without the awards
Ruth E. Carter wasn’t supposed to be an Oscar-nominated costume designer.
What happens to costumes after a film ends? There doesn’t seem to be a cohesive process for costume preservation.
We costume designers could be picketing for better preservation of costumes. I know that they do have costume houses that get them through bartering after a film is finished. I have walked through costume houses in my career and said “Oh my God, that’s a zoot suit from ‘Malcolm X!’” I walked into a Hard Rock Cafe and saw Tina Turner’s dress from “What’s Love Got to Do With It” in a case on display and I go “Whose idea was that?” I have an exhibition that travels around of my work, but I had to cobble it together. I had to ask for costumes at the end of the films and pay to borrow a costume for the exhibition. I feel like I’m shedding a light on how we need to honor these garments. We didn’t look at costumes as an art form when I first started in this industry, and I think now more than ever there’s more attention to it.
How would you describe the difference between theater costumes and film costumes?
Well, theater costumes are larger than life. There’s a distance between the stage and the audience member where the optical distance creates the loss of detail. In film, the small details and the textures really add to the telling of the story. I have this wonderful example in the film “Goodfellas.” Ray Liotta tells his babysitter — he’s all paranoid that the cops are looking [for him] — “I’ve got to go out. I’ll be right back. Don’t use the telephone.” And so of course when he leaves, she picks up the phone and calls her mom. And her fingernail polish is all chipped. And it was such a fantastic character choice.
What’s the biggest misconception about your job?
Because I’m a Black woman, they think I’m sewing. [People] immediately picture me behind a sewing machine. In many ways I am an art director. We’re storytellers and artists and we’re in charge of a big world. It’s a business, there’s a budget and we have deadlines and a lot of people involved that I have to manage. I think that people don’t realize that I have to have vision, I have to make all of the design decisions, but I collaborate with amazing artists.
Is there anything you wish people asked you more about?
It wasn’t until my first nomination that people started asking me about my filmography. And there are so many films in my filmography but people want to stick to the big — the “Black Panther” — but they don’t want to ask me about “Black Dynamite,” which I had a good time doing. I did “Yellowstone” for the first two seasons, I did “Seinfeld” and “In Living Color.” I’ve been doing this a lot longer than a lot of people. I’ve been doing this long before they invented Spanx, we’ll just put it that way.
What is Ruth E Carter known for? ›
Ms. Carter won 2 Oscars for Costume Design for Black Panther and Wakanda Forever, making history as the first African-American in that category. She also made history being the first African-American woman to win multiple Oscars in any category.Is Ruth Carter in a sorority? ›
Iota Lambda Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.What nationality is Ruth Carter? › Who did costume design for Black Panther? ›
Carter made history as the first Black woman to win an Oscar for costume design in 2019; she had received earlier nominations for Spike Lee's “Malcolm X” and Steven Spielberg's “Amistad.” Denzel Washington was the first Black man to win two Oscars — one in 1990 for “Glory” and another in 2002 for “Training Day.”Who won the Oscar for costume design? ›
Ruth E Carter has made history again by winning her second Oscar for Best Costume Design at the 95th Annual Academy Awards.Who has the biggest sorority house in America? ›
Chi Omega– University of Missouri
Chi Omega is the largest sorority by membership in the entire country with more than 300,000 members, so it makes sense that their house at the Rho Alpha Chapter is massive. The house is three-stories, has dual chimneys and makes up 33,557 square feet of nothing but sorority goodness.
- The largest: Chi Omega. ...
- Most historic: Alpha Kappa Alpha. ...
- Most famous former members: Kappa Alpha Theta. ...
- Most devoted to public service: Delta Sigma Theta. ...
- Oldest: Alpha Delta Pi. ...
- Best sorority house: Phi Mu. ...
- Most undergraduate chapters: Alpha Omicron Pi.
|Rank||Size||Fraternity or Sorority|
|1||55,500 sq ft (5,160 m2)||Phi Gamma Delta|
|2||46,356 sq ft (4,306.6 m2)||Kappa Kappa Gamma|
|3||43,000 sq ft (4,000 m2)||Delta Delta Delta|
|4||42,000 sq ft (3,900 m2)||Pi Beta Phi|
Hampton, Va. (March 13, 2023) – Ruth E. Carter, a Hampton University alumna, has made history as the first Black woman to achieve two Oscars after winning best costume design at the 95th Academy Awards for the Marvel sequel “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.”
How old is Ruth Carter? ›Where was Ruth Carter born? › Who owns the Black Panther suit? ›
In 2009, T'Chaka's son, Prince T'Challa, adopted the mantle of the Black Panther as his father retired from the role. T'Challa then designed his own Panther Habit, taking inspiration from his father's Habit.Why wear white to Black Panther? ›
The wearing of white can symbolize peace or baptism — a rebirth. The wearing of white in certain cultures also symbolizes a veneration of the dead or the ancestors.”Is Ruth E Carter black? ›
Ruth E Carter, the costume designer best known for her work on the Marvel blockbuster Black Panther, has made history as the first Black woman to win two Oscars. Carter won her first Oscar in 2019 for Black Panther, then becoming the first Black person to win the costume design category.Who was the first actress to wear pants to the Oscars? ›
In addition to the historic tie, Streisand's outfit was one of the most controversial and iconic outfits in Oscar history. The Arnold-Scaasi-nude-illusion ensemble made her the first actress to wear pants to the Oscars, and the first woman to win in pants shortly after.Who was the second black woman to win an Oscar for Best Actress? ›
Norma Shearer won for The Divorcee (1930).Do celebrities pay for their Oscar dresses? ›
It has to be noted that the actresses do not pay for their dresses, as famous designers such as Dior, Versace or Armani are willing to pay for them themselves.Has anyone ever worn the same dress to the Oscars? ›
Mindy Kaling explains why she wore 2 versions of the same dress on Oscar night. “Last night was a fashion dream for me,” "The Office" alum wrote on Instagram.
Who is the only woman of color to win an Oscar? ›
Halle Berry remains the only Black woman to win an Academy Award for best actress. In 2001, Halle Berry became the first African American to win an Academy Award for best actress for "Monster's Ball."What is the largest sorority in the USA? ›
Chi Omega has 181 active collegiate chapters and approximately 240 alumnae chapters. Since its founding in 1895 at the University of Arkansas, the sorority has initiated over 355,000 members with more than 28,000 undergraduates added each year, making it the largest women's sorority organization by membership.What is the most expensive sorority house in the US? ›
Take a look inside the new $13 million Phi Mu sorority house at the University of Alabama.What is the most expensive sorority at Alabama? ›
Phi Mu. Perhaps the most outrageous of the bunch, the Phi Mu house cost a whopping $13 million to build.Which sorority has the richest girls? ›
Kappa Kappa Gamma (“Kappas”) are known for being rich girls. Their reputation varies from campus to campus, but they are universally considered top-tier. Maybe because of the money they bring with them, their houses tend to be one of the nicest on campus. However, many consider Kappas materialistic.What sorority has diamonds? ›
|Alpha Delta Pi|
|Mascot||"Alphie" The Lion|
Kappa Alpha Theta became the first organization established as a Greek-letter women's fraternity in 1870, and in 1882 Gamma Phi Beta was the first group to refer to themselves as a sorority.What is the fastest growing sorority? ›
With over 2,400 members nationwide, Delta Phi Omega is the largest, strongest, and fastest growing sorority of its kind.Who pays for fraternity houses? ›
All fraternity members are required to pay dues as set by their chapter. Payment can be monthly, quarterly, each semester or annually. You aren't typically required to live in the fraternity house, so you may not have to pay housing costs, but these costs are often cheaper than living in on-campus dormitories.What is the largest black sorority? ›
Today, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., is one of four college sororities for African American women, and is the largest African American Greek-letter sorority in the world. Since its founding, more than 350,000 women of all racial and ethnic backgrounds hold membership in Delta Sigma Theta.
What did Ruth E Carter study in college? ›
Carter was born in Springfield, Mass. She attended the historically black college Hampton University, graduating with a bachelor's degree in Theater Arts. Initially, Carter pursued acting, but her work in the college wardrobe department led her to discover the art of costume design.What awards did Ruth E Carter win? ›
As of 2022, Katharine Hepburn maintained her lead as the actor with the most Oscar wins of all time. While the "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" star scored four acting accolades during her career, six fellow actors tied for the second spot with three wins each.How many siblings does Ruth Carter have? ›
Carter has seven siblings and originally studied special ed
Born in Springfield, Mass., Carter is the youngest of eight (five brothers and two sisters) and was raised by a single mother.
Ruth E. Carter holds the Oscar she won for costume design for “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” backstage at the 95th Academy Awards at the Dolby Theatre on March 12, 2023, in Hollywood. With her win tonight for her work designing the costumes for “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” legendary costumer Ruth E.How many Oscars did Wakanda win? ›
List of accolades received by Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.
|African-American Film Critics Association Awards||5||5|
|Alliance of Women Film Journalists Awards||0||2|
|Art Directors Guild Awards||0||1|
Carter got her start in costume making through the theater department at Hampton University. There was no curriculum in costume design at the time, so she designed a program herself. Her experience at the historically Black college came in handy during work on her first film, Spike Lee's “School Daze.”How old was Ruth Roman when she died? › Who is the costume designer for Wakanda forever? ›
Just weeks after collecting her second Oscar, costume designer Ruth E. Carter is coming to the Triangle. Sunday, Carter took home best costume design at the 95th Academy Awards for the Marvel sequel "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever."What country owns the Black Panther tank? ›
The K2 Black Panther (Hangul: K2 '흑표'; Hanja: K2 '黑豹') is a South Korean main battle tank designed by the Agency for Defense Development and manufactured by Hyundai Rotem.
Where is the original Black Panther suit? ›
Smithsonian's African American Museum Will Feature Chadwick Boseman's Iconic 'Black Panther' Suit.What is Black Panther's suit made out of in real life? ›
Mined only in Wakanda, the metal is associated with Black Panther, who wears a suit of vibranium and Captain America, who bears a vibranium/steel alloy shield. An alternate isomer of the material known as Antarctic Vibranium or Anti-Metal has appeared in the Savage Land.Can my white son dress as Black Panther? ›
This is what I am reminded of every time I hear someone ask if it's OK for a child who's not Black to go as Black Panther for Halloween. The answer is yes, but there's an important caveat: there can be absolutely no Blackface.Why does Black Panther wear a necklace? ›
The Black Panther's main piece of jewelry is his Claw Necklace. Conceived by his genius sister Shuri (Letitia Wright), it has the power to make his super hero suit and mask cover his body in an instant. The most iconic jewel in the movie, the Claw Necklace appears alone on the cover of the Black Panther album.Why did the Black Panthers dress like that? ›
The uniform reflected African Americans' desire for their demands of equality to be taken seriously. Conversely, the Black Panther Party's uniform shifted from this ideology because members did not aim to conform but challenge white standards and respectability politics.Who was the first Black woman to win more than one Oscar? ›
USA. At the 95th Academy Awards, American costume designer Ruth E. Carter made history becoming the first Black woman to win two Oscars.Who was the first Black woman to win multiple Oscars? ›
Ruth E. Carter won her second Oscar for best costume design for her work on "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever." She's the first Black woman to win multiple Oscars. Costume designer Ruth E. Carter just became the first Black woman to win two Oscars.Where did Ruth E Carter attend college? ›
Hampton, Va. (March 13, 2023) – Ruth E. Carter, a Hampton University alumna, has made history as the first Black woman to achieve two Oscars after winning best costume design at the 95th Academy Awards for the Marvel sequel “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.”Who is the black actress with two Oscars? ›
Carter made history becoming the first Black woman to win two Oscars. Four years after winning Best Costume Design for Marvel's “Black Panther”, on Sunday she took home her second award in the category for its sequel, “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever”.Who won the Oscar for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever? ›
At the 95th annual Academy Awards, held Sunday night in Los Angeles, California, Ruth Carter took home the Oscar for Best Costume design for Marvel Studios' Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. Carter previously won the same Oscar back in 2019, for Black Panther.
Who has the Best Costume Design for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever? ›
Ruth E. Carter won the Best Costume Design for Black Panther Wakanda Forever at Oscars 2023. Interestingly, she had collaborated with Indian designer JJ Valaya, who designed costumes for Queen Ramonda.When did Ruth Carter graduate from Hampton? ›
(April 26, 2023) — Hampton University announced today that Ruth E. Carter, a 1982 Theatre Arts graduate, will address the class of 2023 at the 153rd Commencement Ceremony on Sunday, May 14, 2023, at 10 a.m. at Armstrong Stadium.