Black Panther's Costume Designer Breaks Down the Real World Inspiration Behind Key Looks

Queen Ramonda (Angela Bassett) wears an isocholo that was created using a 3D printer.
Queen Ramonda (Angela Bassett) wears an isocholo that was created using a 3D printer.
Image: Disney

Black Panther’s costumes weren’t just the garb of King T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) and the people of Wakanda. They were also a loving tribute to the art, history, and culture of several African nations. Now, the film’s costume designer Ruth Carter is giving an inside look at how she mixed tradition and technology to bring the film’s Afrofuturist vision to life.


In a video for Vanity Fair, costume designer Ruth Carter dove deep into the costumes for two of Black Panther’s key scenes: T’Challa’s return to Wakanda, and the Warrior Falls sequence. The clip is about 13 minutes long but definitely worth staying through the end. Carter goes through every major character and tribe featured in the scenes, showing where the inspiration for their outfits came from... as well as how they modernized them to fit within Wakanda’s world. For example, the traditional hat, called an isicholo, and “shoulder mantle” for Queen Ramonda (Angela Bassett) were created with a 3D printer.

Black Panther is currently out on digital and will get a Blu-ray release May 15.


Video Editor and Staff Writer at io9. My doppelganger is that rebelling greeting card from Futurama.


Data Chandler

I’m still struggling to understand a lot of creative decisions they made about Wakanda and its customs. They could have turned it into a hypertechnological utopia, decades past what modern industrialized countries are like, with rich, wise citizens and a healthy (form of) democracy.

Instead, they made it seem like everything was tribal. The ruler of Wakanda is not elected, oh no. Bloodlines, and trial by combat. Trial by combat, for god’s sake! Granted, for the character and movie to work, T’Challa is the king, but still.

The market square didn’t look like all of Wakanda’s citizens are well off. It looked like any market in any random African country.

The tech and wealth looked like it belonged to and was used by the royal family, at their discretion.

The army wasn’t state of the art, it was shields and spears with some gizmo’s thrown in, like the Gungans in Phantom Menace.

I know this is an unpopular opinion but I just don’t understand why they didn’t make Wakanda a country every other country on the planet should aspire to be like, in every single way, once they discover it.

To be frank: it just seemed like Wakanda was like any other African country, except with some fancy skyscrapers thrown in, and a royal family that’s extra rich, extra smart and extra strong.