Ruth Carter’s Wakanda Wonderland

When I went to see Marvel’s Black Panther  movie, I went with a mission…. to see and be inspired by Ruth Carter’s creative manifestation of  Marvel Studio’s  artistic concepts in all its masterful glory.  I was not disappointed. From the alluring grandiosity of Zulu-inspired headpieces worn by Wakanda’s queen mother Ramonda (Angela Bassett) and the eye-poppingly ornate armor adorned with chevron print worn by the all-female based warriors, to Nakia’s (Lupita Nyongo) sumptuously textured, kente cloth-inspired green gown that seemed to mold to her form, the creative collaboration of both visionaries left theater goers in awe and aspiring designers wanting more from Ruth.

Ruth E. Carter…a name synonymous with such costume credits as Marshall, Malcom X, Selma, Amistad, Roots, and numerous Spike Lee movies, has an unparalleled ability to develop an authentic story through costume and character. Her consistent attention to detail and eye for design have left a legacy of  accolades  that spans over her 40+ year career. When interviewed regarding the painstaking production process, strategic textile selection, and dedication to her vision used to create the look for Black Panther character Zuri (Forest Whitaker) in particular, she had this to say:

Creating this look for Forest Whitaker was not simple. Modeled after the “Agbada” found amongst the Yoruba of Southwestern Nigeria and the Republic of Benin, West Africa, this garment consisted of four layers: Awosake, Awotele, Sokoto, and an Accent layer.

The top layer, consisted of 200 silk tubes joined together in a successive order that allowed it to have this orderly yet free flowing drape. I mixed in rope that was dyed to match to give it dimension. It was crafted by the sewing together of silk bias strips for  a period of 4 days. Made similar to a poncho, we repeatedly put it on the form to examined it. This resulted in adding more loose silk strips down the back of the garment to allow it have movement and to blow.

The next layer is the undercoat or the “awotele”. It too is made of silk and was pressed in pleats in the Issey Miyaki style. Underneath that coat, the character is wearing a light weight black tunic with long sleeves and large cuffs. The black cuffs can be seen on the outside of the coat. I then used small silver metals made by the Tuareg people of the Sahara desert. Using Tuareg pieces highlighted their intricate use of design in their silversmithing. Each piece of Tuareg jewelry has a special meaning. Combining the different cultures made Forest one that did not represent just one culture. 

To create the accent layer, a long beaded front piece was made of tiny beads. The neck piece was crafted out of rope wrapped in leather and joined in the back by magnets.

The final layer is are a pair of long red trousers, the “sokoto”… And of course, there is the Black Panther himself, armed with a new and improved bulletproof Vibranium-woven suit. Lol. “

Had a chance to see Marvel’s Black Panther yourself?

Inspired by the Afro-futuristic fashionings of Wakanda’s mystical wonderland as well?

We invite you to take the first step towards bringing your own wonderland vision to life….one piece of fabric at a time!

Stop by J&O Fabrics and check out our vast fabric selection today!


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