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story.lead_photo.caption For Ramonda's (Angela Bassett) hat and "shoulder mantle" in her Black Panther opening scene with T'Challa/Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), costume desgner Ruth E. Carter made use of a 3D printer in Belgium.

So now I'm back to wanting everything Angela Bassett's character wore in Black Panther, the 2018 Marvel Comics movie about an African superhero.

As Queen Ramonda, she was totally rocking those Zulu-inspired, crownlike headdress, based on the South African married woman's hat, and that high-rise shoulder mantle that went over her outfit in the first scene of the movie.

Well, I'm still shoulder mantle-less, but now I can say I had the pleasure of interviewing the woman who on Feb. 24 won an Oscar for designing those and other ensembles in the movie.

And hey, I can wonder what might have been had I kept hand-making doll clothes and tried to go on from there.

Along with Yours Truly and those who tried to copy the fashions in the movie, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences voters were spellbound by the thought-provoking, culture-honoring designs of Ruth E. Carter, who'd lent her costume-creation talents to more than 40 films and who'd been previously nominated for the Oscar twice for her work on Malcolm X and Amistad. ( Like those beauty and scholarship pageants, it took several tries before payoff came.)

Designer Ruth E. Carter won the Oscar for best costume designs for "Black Panther."
Designer Ruth E. Carter won the Oscar for best costume designs for "Black Panther."

"I dreamed of this night," said Carter, whose Oscar-night outfit was itself queenly ... a shimmery, full-skirted, deep blue off-the shoulder creation set off by a brocade-look overdress with voluminous sleeves and topped with an epic silver jeweled collar. "I dreamed of this night and I prayed for this night, honestly, not only just for being a hardworking costume designer but what it would mean for young people coming behind me because ... this came from grassroots.

"Marvel may have created the first black superhero but through costume design, we turned him into an African king."

In "Fashion FORWARD: Black Panther costume designer calls her creations Afro-futurism," which ran March 6 of last year, I shared Carter's backstories on creating the different looks worn by the five different tribes inhabiting Wakanda, the fictionalized, never-colonized African country over which the Black Panther ruled. (I first expressed my covetousness concerning Queen Ramonda's attire in this space a little over a week before the story ran.)

Carter, a friendly, down-to-earth sort, looks like the effortlessly glam-but approachable seamstress aunt who'll fuss at us for waiting until several weeks out to tell her we need a killer outfit for a big event, then hunker down and create a masterpiece for us. She admitted that even with all the movie work under her belt, she felt the weight of intimidation when tasked with setting the sartorial scene for Black Panther. She took the time and trouble to borrow attire and accessory elements from real-life ethnic groups in Africa and the meaning behind them. My favorite backstory of hers concerned the vibranium-infused shield-blankets worn by the Wakandan border tribe and the effort it took to silkscreen the vibranium effort onto them, then get them to drape appropriately. And there was the fact that Bassett's shoulder mantle was created via 3-D printer.

OK, so all that is a pretty big leap from my hand-sewing Barbie tube dresses as a child who didn't always have the allowance bucks to buy the fancy little store-bought outfits made to fit my doll.

And instead of dwelling too much on that "What if," I'll just be happy that I switched from my Barbie clothes making (and, by the way, comic-strip drawing) to someone who shared, in writing, an Oscar winner's genius.

Don't get me wrong. I'm just as happy to have shared the stories of the Joe or Jane Blows who may not have clutched Oscars, Grammys or Emmys, but have certainly earned virtual medals as each toiled to make his or her section of the world a better place.

But I loved seeing this particular story subject go on to get her just deserts.

And I wish I could get that Queen Ramonda attire.

And that neck gear worn by the Dora Milaje, the king's female guards.

And for that matter, the necklace King T'Challa wears as the Black Panther.

And the Fulani earrings worn by Dorothy, the Merchant Tribe elder in Wakanda (although I couldn't handle the versions that are bigger than my head.)

And that cute white sheath that Shuri, King T'Challa's sister, wore in the lab.

And the black sheath with the asymmetrical neckline worn by Okoye at the end of the movie.

And ...

hwilliams@arkansasonline.com

Style on 03/03/2019

Print Headline: Panther's costumer is enviable

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