Double-Academy Award Winner Ruth E. Carter is the genius behind the costumes of both Black Panther and its sequel, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. Throughout her career, Carter has worked with film directors like Spike Lee and Ryan Coogler, as well as networks like BET for the series Being Mary Jane. Whenever she’s the costume designer, Carter brings layers of elegance interwoven with history into every piece, whether it’s streetwear or elegant gowns fit for a queen. Her work in Marvel’s Black Panther put her on a global stage, and won the Academy Award for Best Costume, becoming the first Black woman to win the award.
Carter uses Afrofuturism for the suits T’Challa and Shuri wore in both Black Panther installments. According to the National Museum of African American History and Culture, Afrofuturism is how the past thought about the future. Carter also drew on inspiration from over one dozen tribes throughout the continent of Africa to represent the different tribes of Wakanda. She also paid special attention to the materials used for the Dora Milaje’s new outfits. From funeral attire to streetwear, Carter’s brilliance shines through in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. These are the best costume designs in the film.
15 The Cast’s Funeral Attire
Chadwick Boseman’s passing rocked Marvel fans, and with a sequel of Black Panther in production, director Ryan Coogler chose to center the collective grief with a funeral procession much like a second line in New Orleans. The entire cast wore white or mostly white from head to toe. According to In Style, the funeral procession pays homage to the tribes throughout Africa who view death as a celebration. Furthermore, in the Afro-diaspora cultures around the world, white is worn when communing with ancestors. Since Wakandans do ancestral work, T’Challa’s passing means he is now an ancestor.
14 M’baku’s Outfit
The Jabari Tribe became one of T’Challa’s greatest allies in the first Black Panther film. Each Wakandan tribe is represented by an animal, with the Jabari Tribe being represented by a gorilla. In the first film, the Jabari leader, M’Baku (played by Winston Duke) wore a mask and armor mimicking the gorilla. Carter expanded upon this for the second installment. M’Baku’s new costume updated the breastplate and added more spikes to his forearm guards. Compared to his first costume, M’Baku is more covered, indicating his role in Wakanda is more active.
13 Shuri’s Black Panther Suit
Marvel fans have seen several forms of the Black Panther suit in the MCU. From King T’Chaka to King N’Jadaka, aka Killmonger, the Black Panther suit was a technological innovation that even Tony Stark couldn’t dream up. While T’Chaka and T’Challa’s suits had purple in them, Killmonger’s suit was lined with gold. Shuri’s success in artificially replicating the Heart-Shaped Herb allowed her to possess the power of the panther, with her suit being lined with gold. Screen Rant postulates that the gold in Shuri’s suit means that she agrees with her cousin’s pursuit of revenge.
12 Ramonda’s Vibranium Gown
As Queen of Wakanda, Ramonda (Angela Bassett) was never subservient to her husband or son when they ruled. She held her own and was held in the same regard as the king. Yet T’Challa’s death left a chasm in Wakanda that Ramonda had to fill. As her son built a bridge between Wakanda and the world, she was left to maintain and even fix the damage. Being the life force of her country, Ramonda’s wardrobe physically placed her as an equal to her husband and son. Cater told Hollywood Reporter that the vibranium gown was a physical and emotional representation of Ramonda taking up space as Queen.
11 Namor’s Huipil
The antagonists of the Black Panther franchise are not necessarily at war with Wakanda, but with the entirety of colonialism and its lasting impact. Namor is no different from Killmonger in his pursuit of justice for his people. He is the savior of his people, the Talokanil, and will lead them to victory over colonizers. Carter revealed that her deep dive into MesoAmerican culture led to Namor’s Huipil, a traditional hand-woven garment worn by those in Central America. Each piece Namor adorns was intricately researched and crafted to honor MesoAmerican culture, both pre-and post-colonial eras.
10 Riri’s Prototype Suit
In Marvel Comics, Riri Williams (Ironheart) is a mentee of Tony Stark, a friend of Spider-Man Miles Morales. She is a tech prodigy attending M.I.T. and an ally to Shuri in Wakanda Forever. Though she didn’t get her superhero name in the film, her introduction into the MCU was nothing short of inspiring. Her prototype suit is clunky and in need of massive upgrades. Though Tony has been at rest, his influence can be seen as Riri’s suit is red and gold.
9 Namora’s Head and Chest Pieces
Namor being the leader of the Takonil means his outfits are more intricate and gem-laden than his generals and people. Of the Takonil warriors, Namora has the most intricate headdress and chest pieces. Much like Ramonda takes up space with her colorful gowns and headpieces, Namora’s massive headpiece is a means for her to take up space among the Takonil warriors. As explained by Comic Book Resources, Namora’s armor is more organic in nature with elements of leather, bone, and jade in the head and chest pieces.
8 Valentina Allegra’s LBD With Chest Slit
Introduced in the end-credits of Black Widow, Valentina “Val” Allegra (played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus) is the MCU’s next major antagonist along with Kang. She typically wears all black or nearly all black, conveying her villainy, yet it remains hidden from her ex-husband, Everett Ross until she wants to reveal herself. Val wears a little black dress, an elegant choice, with a slit across the chest.
7 Okoye’s Streetwear
While loungewear is the latest fashion trend, it all began with streetwear in the 80s when Baby Boomers started mimicking rappers’ and hip-hop stars’ clothing of baggy pants and sweatshirts. As it has evolved, brands like Yitty have taken shapewear and merged it with streetwear for everyday comfort with style. Okoye (Danai Gurira) wears a red one-piece that hugs her body and is completed with a black blazer. This look is meant to be elegant but easy to move in, like the Dora Milaje warrior uniform, just in case she has to fight.
6 Shuri’s Streetwear
Marvel has become infamous for its partnering with automobile brand,s but Wakanda Forever reminded audiences that clothing brands are also part of their legacy. Shuri wears a lavender and black Adidas tracksuit on a mission to locate Riri Williams at M.I.T. While her tracksuit was custom-made, Carter wanted to give audiences some foreshadowing via costume. In an interview with In Style, Carter revealed that she wanted the jacket to billow in the wind, like a superhero cape.
5 Nakia’s Yellow Flower Dress
The popularized Oaxacan dress that is off the shoulder with embroidery of flowers or birds on a plain colored dress has a much deeper meaning to Mexican traditions. As described by National Geographic, traditional Oaxacan dresses are specific to the region of Mexico while remaining fairly unchanged over hundreds of years. On her mission to find Shuri and Riri, Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o) wears a yellow Oaxacan dress embroidered with flowers. The yellow indicates warmth, something Nakia must convey while gathering information.
4 Aneka’s Blue Warrior Outfit
MCU fans were given more than a geopolitical thriller with Black Panther Wakanda Forever, they were introduced to two key players from the comics: Riri Williams and Aneka. Though Aneka (Michaela Coel) isn’t the captain in the MCU, yet, she serves as a formidable warrior against the Takonil. Instead of the warriors wearing their traditional red outfits, they wear blue warrior outfits. Blue often symbolizes wisdom and stability, hinting at the Dora Milaje’s future in the MCU as spies and political revolutionaries.
3 Killmonger’s Ancestral Garb
Each ruler of Wakanda travels to the ancestral plane for their ancestors’ blessing in a special place. T’Challa saw his father and a huge Yoruba tree, N’Jadaka (Michael B. Jordan) saw his father in their Oakland apartment, and Shuri saw Killmonger in the Wakandan throne room. In a relaxed seated position upon the throne, N’Jadaka is in all white, like the other ancestor. Yet his outfit is a white knitted open sweater and relaxed white pants, nothing like his father’s or his uncle’s ancestral garb.
2 Everett Ross’ Running Outfit
CIA Agent Everett Ross (Martin Freeman) is the most informed Avenger-ally on Wakanda. He protected Nakia on a mission as well as Wakanda from an aerial attack in Black Panther. Though he is an outsider, he provides a political link for Shuri and Okoye to find Riri. Everett meets with Shuri and Okoye on a run, somewhat deep in the Virginia forests. Though Steve Rogers has the tightest running shirt collection in the MCU, Everett Ross’ running outfit is just as impressive.
1 Dora Milaje Suits
The fictional country of Wakanda was introduced to comic fans in 1998. Rulers of Wakanda were protected by the Dora Milaje, who were inspired by the Dahomey Amazons, an elite warrior force complete with intelligence agents and a royal guard. Ayo and the rest of the elite guard, wear a red and black fitted outfit with boots that allow them to run, jump, and engage in combat. In an interview with NPR, Carter explained that in designing the Dora Milaje’s uniforms, they created a harness similar to the one used by the Himba tribe that honors the chest and waist of a woman’s body.