Ruth E. Carter

“During Black Panther, I came to the table with a knowledge of history, and I did research. Even with the latest technologies in costume design, there’s still that root of storytelling where you should ask— what is the raised print, and how do we express that in this African motif? In many ways, I brought myself into Afrofuture.

-Ruth E. Carter, episode 341 of Talk Easy with Sam Fragoso

For over three decades, legendary costume designer Ruth E. Carter has created the looks of our most era-defining films. Today, we’re celebrating those pieces chronicled in her new book, The Art of Ruth E. Carter: Costuming Black History and the Afrofuture.

At the top, we discuss the current labor movement in Hollywood (5:03), Carter’s upbringing in Massachusetts (8:50), and a formative Langston Hughes poem (12:56). Then, she reflects on her early years in Los Angeles (19:45), the night she met a lifelong collaborator in director Spike Lee (21:52), and the process of making School Daze (25:49), Do the Right Thing (29:06), and Malcolm X (37:42).

On the back-half, Carter describes her innovative work on the Black Panther films (50:40), which earned her two Academy Awards (54:33), the enduring influence of her mother, Mabel Carter (1:03:10), and how she continues to tell the story of the Black experience through design (1:04:35).

School Daze, 1988
“Da Fellas”

Do the Right Thing, 1989
Radio Raheem Love/Hate Jewelry

Do the Right Thing, 1989
“The hottest day of the summer”

Malcolm X, 1992
Spike Lee and Denzel Washington wearing Zoot suits

Malcolm X, 1992
The softened color palette in Mecca

What’s Love Got to Do with It, 1993
Angela Bassett as Tina Turner

Black Panther, 2018
Angela Bassett as Queen Ramonda