The Costumes of Black Panther

The Marvel film Black Panther has been widely celebrated since its release in 2018. One well-loved aspect of the movie has been its imagery, particularly the costumes! Oscar nominated Ruth E. Carter has spent over 30 years of her career as a costume designer for African American movies, including Do The Right Thing and Selma. Her work designing the costumes for Black Panther has been the subject of many interviews and articles due to its incredible detail and backstory! Because the storyline for the movie was so secretive, Carter didn’t even have the fully story before she began the 6 moth long pre-production journey of designing the costumes. She decided to take certain aspects of regions of the fictional African nation of Wakanda as inspiration to draw from cultures of actually existing African regions and countries for the costumes. She sent her team on a mission to find and source jewelry, clothes, and accessories from different parts of Africa to use as inspiration for her work. Most of the costume elements, down to even her use of color, was inspired by what they found! The deep and vibrant reds of the costumes for the Dora Milaje, the elite women warriors, were inspired be Maasai warriors, and the beading of their costumes was inspired by the Turkana and Maasia. Their leather harnesses were crafted in South Africa. While the costume for the Black Panther was mostly done by Marvel, as they design all superhero costumes, Carter added the raised, triangular silver motif, which she refers to as “the sacred geometry of Africa.” The wrap W’Kabi wears drew from Lesotho blankets. Queen Ramonda’s crown was based on hats that Zulu women wear. Carter’s inspiration was based in indigenous African culture, but she also wanted the costumes to have a futuristic feel to them. Thus she also drew on the field of Afro-Futurism in her designing! All together, Carter’s work came together to create an incredibly detailed, thorough, and beautiful set of costumes for Black Panther that brings her life work portraying Black history and culture through costume into the future.



Alleyne, Allyssia. “How ‘Black Panther’ Costume Designer Ruth E. Carter Wove an Afrofuturist Fantasy.” CNN, Cable News Network, 21 Feb. 2019,

“Looking Marvel-Ous: Designing Costumes for ‘Black Panther’.” Public Radio International, 2AD,

Ryzik, Melena. “The Afrofuturistic Designs of ‘Black Panther’.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 23 Feb. 2018,