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 61)
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 has mastered the look of multiple periods and genres in envisioning the clothing and overall appearance of a character or performer.[2] During her near 30 year film career, Carter has been nominated three 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 film Black Panther (2018),[3] for which she won the award and became the first African-American to win an Academy Award in that category.[4] That win was also the first Academy Award win for Marvel Studios.[5]

Early life[edit]

Carter graduated from Hampton Institute, currently known as Hampton University, Virginia, in 1982 with a Bachelor of Arts Degree.[6][7]


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.[8] 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).[9][10] 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 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.[11]

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.[12] She traveled to southern Africa to draw aesthetic inspirations and received permission to incorporate traditional Lesotho designs into the film's costumes.[13]

In 2021, Carter received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in the film category.[14]



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
2020 Coming 2 America



  1. ^ "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". Retrieved 2019-02-25.
  5. ^
  6. ^ "Hampton University Alumna, Ruth E. Carter, to Receive Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame Feb. 25 : Hampton University News". Retrieved 2021-03-13.
  7. ^ "Hampton University Alumna, Ruth E. Carter, to Receive Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame : Hampton University News". Retrieved 2021-03-13.
  8. ^ Sarah Platanitis, "Hollywood costume designer Ruth Carter talks about her roots in Springfield and Oscar nods", The Republican, February 22, 2015.
  9. ^ 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.
  10. ^ 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.
  11. ^ "BET Networks Announces New Programming at Annual Upfront Presentation". The Futon Critic. April 2, 2013. Retrieved April 20, 2013.
  12. ^ Retrieved 2019-05-14. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  13. ^ "Clarks brought out Black Panther's costume designer to celebrate their new sneaker collab". The FADER. Retrieved 2018-03-03.
  14. ^ Tangcay, Jazz (February 24, 2021). "Ruth E. Carter Makes History With a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame". Variety. Variety Media, LLC.
  15. ^ a b "Actor Mekhi Pfifer and Costume Designer Ruth E. Carter Honored at American Black Film Festival", Jet, July 22, 2002.
  16. ^
  17. ^ Petski, Denise (24 February 2019). "Ruth E. Carter Makes Oscar History As First African American Woman To Win Best Costume Design". Deadline. Retrieved 4 March 2021.
  18. ^ Schaffstall, Katherine (24 February 2019). "Ruth E. Carter Dedicates Best Costume Design Award to Her "Superhero" Mother". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 4 March 2021.
  19. ^
  20. ^ "ARTICLES & VIDEOS". Retrieved 2021-03-13.
  21. ^ Blauvelt, Christian (2020-08-28). "Ruth E. Carter Preserves Black History Through Fashion". IndieWire. Retrieved 2021-03-13.

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]