Filed in: Awards, Contender Portfolios, Costume Design, Featured, Film, News
|

Contender – Costume Designer Ruth Carter, Selma

December 4, 2014 | By

LR-Ruth Carter-email

Ruth Carter

Ruth Carter

Ava DuVernay‘s Selma documents the civil rights marches that shaped America. On hand to dress all the thousands of people involved was costume designer Ruth Carter. Known for her work on Serenity (2005), as well as her Oscar-nominated costume designs for Malcolm X (1992) and Amistad (1997), Carter is no stranger to historical dramas.

Carter was tapped to design the costumes years ago, as the film began taking shape. It went through the hands of several directors before it landed under the direction of DuVernay. Throughout the different manifestations of the film, Carter was researching and developing her ideas for the costumes. She explored the research available from many different elements, through biographies of Martin Luther King, documentaries, YouTube videos, magazines, photographs and more. “Once you start looking, you are compelled to go deeper,” said Carter of her experience.

Selma

Selma

The film tells a personal story, so Carter sought to make the costumes more specific rather than generalized. She noticed that the people in the marches appeared to be dressed for winter but really they were dressed to go on a long journey. “The march at Selma differed from more popular marches like the march at Washington, this was a local march that was a real protest deep in the south where people were adorning themselves with trench coats and some were wearing layers under their trench coats as if they were expecting some physical violence at some point,” Carter explained.

Carter designed the costumes for some of the main characters, but many of 1960s’ costumes were pulled from Western Costumes and moved to Atlanta where 75 to 100 people were fitted every day and dressed for all the background scenes. A particular image Carter wanted to project came from the stories her brother told her about the civil rights marches from their hometown of Massachusetts. “My brother remembered seeing the marchers and people wearing the overalls with the white shirt and the black tie. Also there was a railroad jacket that went along with it.” This outfit was incorporated into the film and held special meaning for Carter.

SELMAAnother outfit that was favorited by the costume designer was a suit that Martin Luther King (David Oyelowo) wore in Atlanta. Carter studied the actual suit and designed one to match for the film. She was tireless in recreating King’s every look. “King was an elegant man and also very modest. He was a fine dresser but not ostentatious. So I worked really hard to play him down and also give him that little bit of the elegance that I noticed in the research.”

Working in 100-degree weather, (in the shade), was a particular strain on costuming process. Carter and her team did what they could to help the situation. “We were constantly rolling racks of coats around so people could get a break from it. Also I took the lining out of the coats wherever I could.” Collaboration and doing everything that could be done for the film was on everyone’s mind though. “But everyone wanted to portray the story as it was and they knew part of being in this film meant they had to do their part and suffer a little with these overcoats,” Carter said.

BTL Production Listings

Video of the Day

The PA 101 for Military Veterans workshop is a 3 day free workshop created by Navy Vet Mark August.