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‘Sparkle’ Fashion Exclusive with Costume Designer Ruth Carter

‘Sparkle’ Fashion Exclusive with Costume Designer Ruth Carter


Sparkle, the story of 3 sisters chasing their dreams in the music industry is in theaters today! The film is set in the late 60’s  and to our surprise some of these fashions are still around today. Check out some of the pieces from Sparkle that you may have in your closet and keep scrolling for an exclusive interview with Ruth Carter, the costume designer for the new film, Sparkle.


Love Sparkle fashion? Check out this exclusive interview with costume designer, Ruth Carter, whose worked on sets including BAPS , Love & Basketball, and more.

What exactly does your role consist of?

A costume designer is a people person. I’m a designer of people and that’s different than a fashion designer, because people are different than fashion yet they wear it. So I have to know fashion and know how to recreate a fashionable person. Also as a costume designer I have to understand the story of the script and I have to be able to communicate that story with clothing and that’s what makes me a costume designer.

Can you describe the creative process before designing?

I have to talk to our creative leader, that’s the director. He gives me what his vision is of the story. If says that he want to bring realness or truth to the story then I have to think in terms of that when I read the script and design. After I have that conversation, I sit down with my illustrator and we comb through research. I have a fashion library, I have a research library at home. I also do a lot of research on the internet, fashion magazines; you name it. Sometimes it’s just about going out to a particular place and people watching. I notice all kinds of things about people. I think that because of the work I do I look at things sometimes differently than most. So I sit down with the illustrator at that point and we illustrate the actors. Sometimes we have the actors and know who is playing which role, and sometimes we don’t. When we do we illustrate their physique and I try to dress them in the character based on their size. If I don’t know who the actor is I truly go from the research that I’ve collected. That’s the beginning part of the process.


Do you get any influence from the actors playing the roles?

Sure, I get influence from them, but a lot of times actors are very busy people and they go from one project to the next. So, they really want you to have a clear understanding of the character and them as the character visually before they get there, because they have a very limited amount of time. They really want to spend the maximum amount of time that they can working on the role that they’re playing. They have a lot of work to do as well in a short span of time. So it’s actually refreshing to walk into a fitting that is like an experience for them. Obviously, they are in front of the hot camera, not me, so they will offer tips for dressing their individual body. Possibly a line or two about what they are planning to do with the character. We motivate each other, we inspire each other by giving little tidbits of information to the creation of this character, because they are not playing themselves. So they walk into my fitting as themselves and while they are there we create the character that they are playing.

How was the process of recreating some of the original “Sparkle” pieces and were you able to add any personal flair to the outfits?

As you may not know, the original “Sparkle” took place in the 1950’s and our “Sparkle”, the new “Sparkle” takes places in the late 1960’s, it’s a completely different time in fashion. Because it was a new era, I had to take the general inspiration from “Sparkle” in that there were these gorgeous girls on stage, performing in beautiful gowns. Also, being inspired by recreating the new era of the late 1960’s and bringing new fashions to “Sparkle” to the stage. So that inspired me. I had to put the old “Sparkle” away and create the new “Sparkle” and that was one that partly obvious, I was motivated by the name itself to make sure that when the girls were on stage they just lit up the stage. Also, to really show people how much fun the 60’s were. I think people kind of knew that already, because the fashion in all the magazines there was so much famage to the 60’s already, I felt like it was my job to take that and just expound upon it and I did. I created dresses out of gemstones, I created earrings out of phone cord, I did cut-outs. There were so many great things that were fun to do. I had so many icons, that I used like Twiggy, other fashion models, Balenciaga and The Beetles. It was great fun. I felt blessed and honored and thankful that I got that job, because it was an explosion of fashion.

Delores (Tika Sumpter), Sister (Carmen Ejogo) and Sparkle (Jordin Sparks)

What was your favorite scene from the movie, fashion wise?

Well, I haven’t seen the movie yet. I just know what I worked on, so I feel like I’ll have a new favorite when I finally do see the movie. There are several favorites, but I think the jewel dress. I went to downtown L.A. and I found these big huge stones that were like diamond in white, black and red. I linked them together and made mini-dresses for the 3 girls, so that when they stood on stage the dresses were all made out of gems and they sparkled everywhere. They were really heavy and it was hard to film them, because they were just refracting light all over the place, but I felt like it was the quintessential sparkle.

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