Charmed Life

Costume Design in Black Panther Inspires Local Movie Goers

From regal to traditional African attire, fashionable fans showed up for opening weekend.

By Michelle Harris | February 20, 2018, 5:00 pm

Lupita Nyong'o as Nakia and Letitia Wright as Shuri -Walt Disney Pictures
Charmed Life

Costume Design in Black Panther Inspires Local Movie Goers

From regal to traditional African attire, fashionable fans showed up for opening weekend.

By Michelle Harris | February 20, 2018, 5:00 pm

Lupita Nyong'o as Nakia and Letitia Wright as Shuri -Walt Disney Pictures

Marvel’s latest blockbuster Black Panther has already broken records during its opening weekend, topping the charts and earning more than $200 million. The film has not only received accolades for being Marvel’s first film with a black director, an almost entire black cast, and featuring a black superhero—but also for its fashion.

The black community had been anticipating this moment since the trailer dropped in June showcasing colorful, ethnic designs worn by the cast. Veteran costume designer Ruth Carter can be cited for the uproar it created on “black Twitter” with the hashtag #BlackPantherSoLit, everyone asking “What are you wearing to Black Panther?”

Not only are the costumes fashion-forward, but they blend traditional and contemporary African styles from across the continent. From cold-shoulder, floor length gowns to Afropunk stylings to authentic African, hand-dyed robes, the film’s costumes have sparked up discussions about embracing African culture vs. cultural appropriation.

“I wanted to show the world the beauty of tribal dress and move that forward in a more modernistic way,” Carter told The Atlantic. “I have seen some really bad African depictions of costumes where there’s a bone in their nose and they’re wearing some kind of hide and cross-strap.” 


#WakandaForever

A post shared by UNKLE LULU (@goddm) on

Local musician DDm raved about the film in a Facebook live video to his followers. He praised Carter’s juxtaposition of traditional and modern African fashions. He also relates to the fashion in the film on a personal level, how it empowers the women in the film—reminding him of his grandmother.

“I grew up in a family ran by matriarchs who were tough, but unapologetically feminine,” he said. “The way Okoye can go from a military uniform to an evening gown to a cocktail dress is everything I love about the women in my life." 

Because she wasn't basing her costumes off actual historical periods—as she did with Selma, Malcolm X, and Amistad—Carter had the creative freedom to come up with original designs for the fictional country of Wakanda.


“The choice of wardrobe in the movie represented freedom,” says Ashley Sidney, who saw Black Panther at CinéBistro at the Rotunda. “The freedom to be who we are, freedom to represent our culture, and freedom to embrace our beauty, power, and talent.”

Although moviegoers did not have Carter at their disposal to create handmade Wakandan garb, many showed up to the theaters dressed as though the plane to Wakanda was leaving after the showing and their attire was the boarding pass.

“I felt like it was important for black Americans to connect to the Pan-African identity,” said Le’Nay Maye, who saw the movie with her husband at the AMC in White Marsh. “Seeing the Black Panther premiere photos and seeing how the actors and director really exemplified black royalty, it was the least we could do.”




Meet The Author

Michelle Harris is the digital content producer for Baltimore, where she covers news, community, sports, and beauty.



You May Also Like


On The Town

How To Make The Most of Your Student Discount in Baltimore

Thanks to these college discounts, completing your Baltimore bucket list has never been easier.

Health & Wellness

In The Bag

Get pumped for the gym with this stylish, yet workout-ready, gear.

Style & Shopping

Cool For School

On-trend looks to ensure your kids head back to class in style.


Style & Shopping

Game On

Cheer on your favorite team with these sporty and trendy looks.

Food & Drink

My Top Ten By Nick Schauman

The Local Oyster co-owner shares his favorite things.

Arts District

Newly Opened Maker Practice in Catonsville Makes Crafting Accessible

Friends Mary Thomas and Amy Isler turn "crafternoons" into community business.

Connect With Us

Most Read


Are the Orioles and Adam Jones Headed For a Bad Breakup?: Fan favorite benched again last night as forgettable season nears end.

Gundalow Juice Stops Production to Focus on Catering Services: CEO and founder Dana Sicko discusses the next chapter with Gundalow Gourmet.

Baltimore Police Mounted Unit to Add Horses and State-of-the-Art Stable: City officials broke ground on $2.5 million stable at B&O Railroad Museum.

Governor Larry Hogan Tops Ben Jealous by 22 Points in New Poll: More than half of likely voters say they support the incumbent Republican governor.

Maryland Film Festival's Jed Dietz to Retire: Dietz shepherded the growth of the festival and the launch of the Parkway Theatre.