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Ruth E. Carter

Ruth E. Carter

American costume designer
Ruth E. Carter
The basics

Quick Facts

Intro American costume designer
A.K.A. Ruth Carter
Is Fashion designer Costume designer
From United States of America
Type Fashion
Gender female
Birth 10 April 1960, Springfield, Hampden County, Massachusetts, U.S.A.
Age 60 years
The details


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. During her near 30 year film career, Carter has earned three nominations for an 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 superhero film Black Panther (2018), for which she was awarded the Oscar for Best Costume Design at the 91st Academy Awards. She is the first black woman to win the Oscar for Best Costume Design.

Early life

Carter graduated from Hampton Institute (1868 -1983) currently known as Hampton University (1984 - Present), Virginia, in 1982 with a Bachelor of Arts Degree.


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. 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.

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.

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.

Carter's most recent work was on the Afrofuturist superhero Marvel Cinematic Universe film Black Panther (2018), directed by Ryan Coogler. For the film, she traveled to southern Africa to draw aesthetic inspirations and to receive permission to incorporate traditional Lesotho designs into the film's costumes.


  • 2002: American Black Film Festival, Career Achievement Award
  • 2015: Essence, 2015 Black Women in Hollywood Award at the 8th Annual Black Women in Hollywood Luncheon
  • 2019: Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Best Costume Design


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
TBA Dolemite Is My Name Craig Brewer


  • Being Mary Jane (2013–Present)
  • Roots (2016)
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