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Costume Designer on Black Panther Reveals How To Make a Super Hero Suit

Designing a superhero costume is an intensive process, so it’s great to get some insight from the costume designer on Black Panther. 

The type of job where you get to be super creative and let your ideas flow is always one which most people aspire to. So designing a costume for a superhero is definitely up there on the ‘dream jobs’ list. 

Costume Designer on Black Panther
Black Panther’s skin-tight supersuit. Credit: Marvel Studios

Better still, bagging yourself the position of costume designer on Black Panther has got to be one of the most sought-after jobs out there.

Which is why Vox spoke to the hugely successful film’s costume designer, Ruth Carter, to get the lowdown on how she created the iconic look. 

Job of a lifetime…

Although the designer has been in the industry since the 80s, this is her biggest gig to date. And what better challenge to get stuck into than designing an outfit for a new superhero movie. 

She said: 

“I’ve always been curious about just what goes into designing a superhero suit so that it won’t be too claustrophobia-inducing for those who have to wear it.”

As this was her first ever ‘supersuit’, Ruth enlisted the help of experienced assistants to help her. 

Get the stretch…

They introduced her to a four-way stretch fabric known in the industry as ‘Eurojersey’, which seems to be the ‘go-to’ place for super stretchy fabrics.

She explained how this industrious fabric comes as a plain white material to start and then can be dyed and printed to suit the designs. 

The designer then explained how they brought in the head cutter- who also works on the Boston Ballet- to cut ‘special gussets.’ These allow the stunt guys to ‘fight’ and ‘move’ in a similar way to performers in the ballet.

Ruth clearly learnt a lot from the process and picked up on a few tips and tricks along the way.

She said:

“It was a huge learning curve for me, and I had really experienced people behind me that said, ‘Okay. You’re on’.”

Facing the challenge…

Another challenge Ruth faced was costuming the women in the film who played the fictional Wakanda’s most fearsome fighters.

It seems it was a collaborative effort, as Marvel’s Head Illustrator Ryan Meierding and his team drew up the initial design.

She said:

“My first reaction was, ‘Oh, hey. I’m surprised. There’s no skin showing.’ And [director] Ryan Coogler was the one who said, ‘You know, the Black Panther’s walking around in a catsuit. We don’t want to have naked ladies following along behind him, talking about how they’re here to protect the king.’ He didn’t quite say it like that, but I’m saying it like that.”

The design team then went on to create the costume with the suit offering full coverage, suitable for warriors.

The costumes included intricate armour plates and a beaded body harness, which took inspiration from the Masai tribes. Ruth was keen for the costume to look like an ‘honour’ to wear. Afterall (for those who have seen the film), these warriors were one of the highest ranking in the fictional Wakandan kingdom, requiring an important uniform to reflect their status.

Costume Designer on Black Panther
Wakanda Warriors. Credit: Marvel Studios

The designer wanted the costumes to ‘evoke’ emotion within her and was keen to incorporate a ‘handmade’ element. So she brought in a jewellery designer to really give the costumes the ‘wow’ factor she desired.

One of the most intricate aspects to these impressive costumes is the front, beaded panel which Ruth calls the ‘tabard’.

She described how she felt the tabard should have some sort of mystical power or ‘significant meaning’. 

She explained: “That tabard became a canvas for this message that this uniform was going to convey and make it even more glorious and special.”

And here at Kozzii HQ, we can safely say this was achieved. The dramatic costumes for the imposing characters were nothing short of spectacular. Fitting for what is sure to be an iconic film, which designers will draw inspiration from for years to come. We can certainly see why Ruth Carter was hired as the costume designer on Black Panther by Marvel Studios. 

To listen to the whole podcast interview with Ruth Carter, the costume designer on Black Panther, visit:

Seen the film? Love the costumes? Leave us a comment below and let us know your thoughts! 

Perhaps you design costumes for film? We’d love to hear from you, drop us a line here.

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