Ruth E. Carter

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Ruth E. Carter
Ruth E. Carter by Gage Skidmore.jpg
Carter in March 2018
Born (1960-04-10) April 10, 1960 (age 62)
Alma materHampton University[1]
OccupationCostume designer
Years active1982-present

Ruth E. Carter (born April 10, 1960) is an American costume designer for film and television, with over 40 films to her credit, who is widely regarded as having mastered the look of multiple periods and genres in envisioning the clothing and overall appearance of a character or performer.[2] During her nearly-30-year film career, Carter has been nominated four times for the Academy Award for Best Costume Design, for her work on Spike Lee's biographical film Malcolm X (1992), Steven Spielberg's historical drama film Amistad (1997), and her most recent work on Ryan Coogler's Marvel superhero films Black Panther (2018) and Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (2022);[3] for her work on Black Panther she won the award and became the first African-American to win an Academy Award in that category.[4]

Early life[edit]

Carter graduated from Hampton Institute, currently known as Hampton University, Virginia, in 1982 with a Bachelor of Arts Degree.[5][1]


Carter began her career working as an intern in her hometown of Springfield, Massachusetts and at the Santa Fe Opera. She moved to Los Angeles in 1986.[6] While working at the Los Angeles Theater Center, Carter met director Spike Lee, who hired her for his second film, School Daze (1988), and with whom she worked on a number of films thereafter, including Do the Right Thing (1989), Mo' Better Blues (1990), Jungle Fever (1991), and Malcolm X (1992).[7][8] Carter has continued to work on films for Spike Lee, including Oldboy (2013), Da Sweet Blood of Jesus (2014), and Chi-Raq (2015).

In addition to designing costumes for the films of Spike Lee, Carter has worked with legendary directors such as Steven Spielberg and John Singleton, and has dressed actors from Denzel Washington to Josh Brolin, and actresses from Angela Bassett to Jane Fonda.

Carter is also known for her work on What's Love Got to Do with It (1993), Serenity (2005), Four Brothers (2005), Sparkle (2012), The Butler (2013) directed by Lee Daniels, and Selma (2014) directed by Ava DuVernay.[2]

Carter's most recent work was on the Afrofuturist superhero Marvel Cinematic Universe film Black Panther (2018), directed by Ryan Coogler. Her costumes were inspired by many traditional African garments, including those of the Maasai and Ndebele people.[9] She traveled to southern Africa to draw aesthetic inspirations and received permission to incorporate traditional Lesotho designs into the film's costumes.[10] For her work on this film she received the 2019 Academy Award for Best Costume Design, making her the first black woman to win the Academy Award in that category.[11]

In 2021, Carter received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in the film category.[12]

Carter is currently designing costumes for the American television drama series Being Mary Jane on BET Networks, created by Mara Brock Akil and starring Gabrielle Union.[13]


Year Title Director
1988 School Daze Spike Lee
I'm Gonna Git You Sucka Keenen Ivory Wayans
1989 Do the Right Thing Spike Lee
1990 Mo' Better Blues
1991 House Party 2 Doug McHenry
George Jackson
Jungle Fever Spike Lee
The Five Heartbeats Robert Townsend
1992 Malcolm X Spike Lee
1993 What's Love Got to Do with It Brian Gibson
1994 Cobb Ron Shelton
Crooklyn Spike Lee
Surviving the Game Ernest R. Dickerson
1995 Money Train Joseph Ruben
Clockers Spike Lee
1996 The Great White Hype Reginald Hudlin
1997 B*A*P*S Robert Townsend
Rosewood John Singleton
Amistad Steven Spielberg
1999 Summer of Sam Spike Lee
2000 Price of Glory Carlos Ávila
Love & Basketball Gina Prince-Bythewood
Shaft John Singleton
Bamboozled Spike Lee
2001 Baby Boy John Singleton
Dr. Dolittle 2 Steve Carr
2002 I Spy Betty Thomas
2003 Daddy Day Care Steve Carr
2004 Against the Ropes Charles S. Dutton
2005 Serenity Joss Whedon
Four Brothers John Singleton
2009 Spread David Mackenzie
2012 Sparkle Salim Akil
2013 Teen Beach Movie Jeffrey Hornaday
Oldboy Spike Lee
The Butler Lee Daniels
2014 The Best of Me Michael Hoffman
Selma Ava DuVernay
Da Sweet Blood of Jesus Spike Lee
2015 Chi-Raq
2016 Keeping Up with the Joneses Greg Mottola
2017 Kidnap Luis Prieto
Marshall Reginald Hudlin
2018 Black Panther Ryan Coogler
2019 Above Suspicion Phillip Noyce
Dolemite Is My Name Craig Brewer
2021 Coming 2 America
2022 Black Panther: Wakanda Forever Ryan Coogler
2024 Blade Yann Demange


Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Award Category Nominated work Result Ref.
1992 Academy Awards Best Costume Design Malcolm X Nominated [16]
1997 Amistad Nominated
2018 Black Panther Won
2022 Black Panther: Wakanda Forever Pending
2015 Costume Designers Guild Awards Excellence in Period Film Selma Nominated
2018 Excellence in Fantasy Film Black Panther Won
2019 Excellence in Period Film Dolemite Is My Name Nominated
2021 Excellence in Contemporary Film Coming 2 America Won
2016 Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Period Costumes for a Limited Series Roots Nominated
2018 Black Reel Awards Outstanding Costume Design Black Panther Won
2019 Dolemite Is My Name Won
2021 Coming 2 America Nominated
2022 Black Panther: Wakanda Forever Won
2018 Critics' Choice Movie Awards Best Costume Design Black Panther Won
2019 Dolemite is My Name Won
2022 Black Panther: Wakanda Forever Won


  1. ^ a b "Hampton University Alumna, Ruth E. Carter, to Receive Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame : Hampton University News". Retrieved 2021-03-13.
  2. ^ a b James, Kendra (November 23, 2016). "Radical Fashion: An interview with the costume designer Ruth Carter". Lenny Letter.
  3. ^ Bradley, Laura (2018-02-16). "The Secrets Behind Black Panther's Spellbinding Fashion". Vanity Fair. Retrieved 2019-02-25.
  4. ^ "The Best and Worst Moments of the 2019 Oscars - The New York Times". The New York Times. 25 February 2019. Retrieved 2019-02-25.
  5. ^ "Hampton University Alumna, Ruth E. Carter, to Receive Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame Feb. 25 : Hampton University News". Retrieved 2021-03-13.
  6. ^ Sarah Platanitis, "Hollywood costume designer Ruth Carter talks about her roots in Springfield and Oscar nods", The Republican, February 22, 2015.
  7. ^ Deborah Nadoolman Landis, "Ruth Carter" in Costume Design (Focal Press, 2003), ISBN 978-0-240-80590-0, pp. 37-45. Excerpt available at Google Books.
  8. ^ Pat Kirkham, Women Designers in the USA, 1900-2000: Diversity and Difference (Yale University Press, 2002), ISBN 978-0-300-09331-5, pp. 142-143. Excerpt available at Google Books.
  9. ^ Retrieved 2019-05-14. {{cite web}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)
  10. ^ "Clarks brought out Black Panther's costume designer to celebrate their new sneaker collab". The FADER. Retrieved 2018-03-03.
  11. ^ "Ruth E. Carter Becomes The First Black Woman To Win Oscar For Best Costume Design".
  12. ^ Tangcay, Jazz (February 24, 2021). "Ruth E. Carter Makes History With a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame". Variety. Variety Media, LLC.
  13. ^ "BET Networks Announces New Programming at Annual Upfront Presentation". The Futon Critic. April 2, 2013. Retrieved April 20, 2013.
  14. ^ "ARTICLES & VIDEOS". Retrieved 2021-03-13.
  15. ^ Blauvelt, Christian (2020-08-28). "Ruth E. Carter Preserves Black History Through Fashion". IndieWire. Retrieved 2021-03-13.
  16. ^ "Ruth E. Carter". IMDb. Retrieved March 29, 2022.
  17. ^ a b "Actor Mekhi Pfifer and Costume Designer Ruth E. Carter Honored at American Black Film Festival", Jet, July 22, 2002.
  18. ^ "ESSENCE Black Women in Hollywood". Essence. Retrieved 2021-06-04.

Further reading[edit]

  • Kirkham, Pat; Stallworth, Shauna (2000). "Chapter 4: "Three Strikes Against Me": African American Women Designers". Women Designers in the USA, 1900-2000: Diversity and Difference. New York: Bard Graduate Center for Studies in the Decorative Arts. pp. 141–143, 258. ISBN 978-0-300-09331-5. OCLC 48628173.
  • Landis, Deborah Nadoolman (2003). Screencraft. Costume Design. Burlington, MA: Focal Press. ISBN 978-0-240-80590-0. OCLC 718593913.

External links[edit]