Since the first reveal of Marvel’s Black Panther, fans have talked on social media about the wardrobe. The Wakandan garb, designed by Oscar nominee Ruth E. Carter, are all inspired by real African history, with each character’s individual look designed while keeping the film’s overall costuming consistent with an uncolonized African nation.
Carter’s research was extensive, with her pulling influence from every tribal faction in the continent. “I wanted to bring that aesthetic to their costumes so that we knew when we saw them that they are from Africa,” she told Entertainment Weekly. Take, for example, Lupita Nyongo’s Nakia; in the film, she wears a green dress during a mission in a casino. According to Carter, the fabric for her dress is inspired by the African kente cloth, and thanks to its flexible nature, it allows her to fight without worrying about being restricted. Carter designed the dress so Nakia had something that would let her blend in while feeling part of the “James Bond-feeling atmosphere but also would still connect her to the idea that [she is] a princess from Africa…the green was part of the river tribe that she belonged to.”
Similarly, T’Challa’s mother Ramonda (Angela Bassett) wears a headpiece that owes its shape to traditional Zulu hats. Since Wakanda is the most technologically advanced nation on the planet, its royalty needs to look sleek and futuristic. Carter used a 3D printer from Belgium for Ramonda’s headpiece that had the technology able to create a perfectly flexible and perfectly symmetrical hat. “I felt that there would be people who would make beautiful pieces for her, and they would be the most forward-thinking pieces in the whole universe — because she was the queen!”
You can see all of Carter’s work when Black Panther comes to theaters on Feb. 16. The film stars Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Guira, Letitia Wright, Winston Duke, Martin Freeman, Daniel Kaluuya, Forest Whitaker, Andy Serkis, and Angela Bassett.
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