Earlier this year, Black Panther shattered comic book movie stereotypes on its way to record-setting numbers at the box office. Director Ryan Coogler was passionate about delivering a unique movie that avoided many age-old superhero tropes, even telling the film's costume designer Ruth Carter that there should be “no capes."
When Carter relayed this “no capes” requirement during a SDCC panel about the film’s fashion, the crowd’s response was perfect: a cacophony of laughter, snorts, and knee-slaps. After experiencing the rich and meaningful costume design of Coogler's film, imagining the people of Wakanda walking around with capes like Superman sounds ridiculous.
This was just one of the many memorable moments during the "Designing the Costumes of Wakanda" panel at Comic-Con. The immensely talented designer was joined on stage by her fellow crew members, and they regaled fans with engaging stories about the design process.
The first step of the design process was developing the concept art. Anthony Francisco, a concept illustrator on Marvel Studios’ Visual Development team, started working on the Dora Milaje months before Carter was even hired. Once Carter joined the team, she made tweaks to the concept and brought it to life in the film.
“We didn’t want them to be these sexy girls walking around with a guy in a bulletproof catsuit. We wanted them to be serious fighters,” Carter told Fast Company.
To bring Wakanda's clothing to life, Carter drew inspiration from indigenous people across Africa. The lip plates in the film were one of the most memorable fashion statements made by Wakanda. Here's the inspiration for that unforgettable design:
The monumental task of designing costumes for a film like Black Panther would have overwhelmed most people, but Carter isn't just any costume designer. She's a two-time Academy Award nominee for Best Costume Design (Malcolm X and Amistad). More recently, she designed the costumes for Selma and the Roots remake.
As the panel was wrapping up, someone mentioned that Carter deserved to finally win an Oscar for her work on Black Panther. A fan in the crowd let out a Jabari grunt, and everyone went wild.
After the applause died down, the Black Panther crew surprised Carter with an exclusive Erik Killmonger claw necklace. As Carter put the necklace on, it sure felt like foreshadowing of how an award-winner accepts their trophy onstage. And, because it's Comic-Con, it also felt like the medal scene at the end of New Hope.
Carter's designs are certainly destined to be as iconic as that scene. And I'm certainly predicting an Academy Award in her near future.