Costume Designer Ruth Carter on Scenes From 'Sparkle'

Costume Designer Ruth Carter on Scenes From 'Sparkle'
ESSENCE.COM Aug, 14, 2012

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“Those dresses were inspired by pink baby doll dresses that were longer than the dresses that The Supremes wore – they were longer and they were pink. And because I was doing the late 60s I was able to shorten the hemline,” Carter explains.
“The beading I took from an actual beaded dress that I found in a thrift store that had beautiful canary and silver beads all over, and in the picture you see Tika Sumpter she’s wearing the top of that vintage dress I found. We added the silk chiffon and the bow like The Supremes were seen in. Jordin is wearing the middle part of that beaded dress, that I put on the top of her dress and we added the same silk chiffon to it. Carmen is wearing what they call fish scale sequins – or larger sequins than normal. The inspiration came from a fashion model named Donyale Luna, big in the 60s. You’ll see her wearing that dress, and when I saw that picture of her I knew I had to duplicate that dress in some way for Carmen.”

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“The black and white dresses were inspired by Rudy Gernreich of the late 1960’s. Originally Carmen’s dress had a black and white Pucci pattern all over a la Diana Ross and the Supremes but it was too overwhelming so I kept it solid white.”

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“The jewel dresses were inspired by Pacco Rabanne’s poker chip dress. And also modeled by Donyale Luna of the late 60s, " says Carter.

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“These were what we called the finale dresses,” Carter reveals. “Lillie Rubin and Rudy Gernreich in the 60s did cut-outs and because of the 60s, still today, it’s just all the rage in fashion. People like Stella McCartney and myself both want to bring back some of those images that people like Rudy Gernreich and Lillie Rubin did in the 60s with their sexy back – revealing back and sides, creative necklines and cutaways.”

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“The dress that Carmen has on was completely different. It had more cut-outs than you see right there,” shares Carter. “Because they were doing so much movement in the routine, Carmen felt it was going to be really hard to hold the pieces of the dress in place. The dress was already made, so I had to come up with ways of closing it in some places. You notice under her left arm there’s some nude fabric there. And you can’t notice but across her belly there is some more fabric.”

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“The original Sparkle had these red dresses and it was one of the requests of the producers that we include either red gowns on all of the girls or the red gown somewhere in the show,” explains Carter. “It took us the entire pre-production and shooting production to figure out what that dress was going to be. There were several designers that I pursued who wanted to do that dress for me. I looked at collectors, I went to look at Valentino who was famous for the red dress and it wasn’t until Jordin visited a show room of somebody who had clothing that she was going to wear for a separate red carpet event that she’d found the red dress. It’s an Italian designer – Marco D’Angelo and we contacted him to get the dress and he sent it to us.”

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“Jordin has curves so when we got the dress I was concerned because we did not have time to bead the dress like that, nor did we have the money – that dress was a $10,000 dress from the designer,” Carter tells We put it on her and there was a problem with the neckline. It was more open than you see it in the picture. So what I did – I contacted the designer again and I asked him to send me some beads. And we also went to a local beader and brought a few of the bugle beads in the red. And we actually beaded the neckline about an 1 1/4" into her neck so that it will cover her chest a little bit more than it did. But that was a small dress and that girl was doing so well with her weight loss and her workout that she got in it."


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