Ruth E. Carter

Costume Designer

“The mistakes are more of a learning tool than the successes. There will be hurdles. There will be stumbling blocks. There will be naysayers. You just gotta keep your focus.”


Santa Monica, CA


United States Flag American

Average Work Week


When Black Panther won near universal acclaim and earned $700 million (US) upon its release in early 2018, most people credited director Ryan Coogler as the storytelling presence who gave the Marvel film a different kind of weight, creativity, and perspective. But Coogler wasn’t the only storyteller working on the film. Black Panther costume designer Ruth E. Carter is a storyteller too — only she doesn’t use a script, a captivating image, or a telling line of dialogue. Carter let audiences explore the fictional world of Wakanda through armor, robe, and headdress.

“Clothing is an emotional experience,” Carter tells Find Your Grind, adding that the costumes she’s designed for films like Selma, Malcolm X, and others reveal character histories and cultural roots. Black Panther necessitated Carter researching ancient African peoples and combining those visions with the futurist, technologically advanced aesthetic of the Marvel comic. Hear more from the Oscar- and Emmy-nominated designer in the video above.

Ruth E. Carter is 59 years old and grew up in Springfield, Massachusetts. Carter graduated from Hampton University with a Bachelor of Arts Degree. Carter began her career working as an intern in her hometown of Springfield, Massachusetts at the Santa Fe Opera. She moved to Los Angeles in 1986. 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). 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.

Sign up for our waitlist to be the first to access this content.

FYG is launching brand new learning experiences to meet you where you are. Sign up below to find out what’s next:

My Advice

I think it’s important for dreamers to know that you can be successful and it starts with your dream. And it’s that dreaming that just makes everything blossom into the rest of your life. I don’t want them to dream as if they are going to be something in the future. I want them to dream about who they are right now and empower themselves with that dream.

Want to unlock more of Ruth E.'s profile?

Sign up for our waitlist to be the first to access this content.

Featured Article

5 Makers On Honing Their Crafts Outside The Studio

From costume designer Ruth E. Carter to videographer Shelby Parks, some of the world’s most creative Makers share advice on connecting with the world — online and off.

Keep reading More Articles

Similar Mentors

Are you an educator or a teacher?

Find Your Grind has a variety of educational products in schools across North America.

learn more