The costume designer for Spike Lee’s film BlacKkKlansman took inspiration from real-life female leaders from the Black Power Movement of the ’70s.
Designer Marci Rodgers curated the looks for Lee’s film, which tells the true story of Ron Stallworth, the first African American detective to join the Colorado Springs Police Department in the ’70s. Based on his book, Black Klansman: A Memoir, the film follows Stallworth, played by John David Washington, infiltrating and becoming a card-carrying member of the Ku Klux Klan.
“I did a lot of historical research,” the costume designer told Fashionista. “(Patrice) wears black because that was her uniform, if you will.”
Rodgers stayed authentic to the time period, combing through ’70s-era ads in vintage issues of Essence, Jet and Hustler magazines, and shopping at vintage stores as well as making custom pieces for Laura Harrier’s character, Patrice.
She referred to iconic ’70s images of civil rights activists, such as Kathleen Cleaver, former Black Panther member and current senior lecturer at Emory University School of Law, and Angela Davis, political activist, feminist and humanities professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz, who wore long, leather jackets, turtlenecks, knee-high boots and wore their natural hair in afros, like Patrice.
“I used different types of black fabric to give her dimension,” added Rodgers, who designed many of Patrice’s coat and A-line minidress ensembles.
For Ron’s looks, her job was made easy by the fact that the costume designer had access to the real-life former cop.
“Obviously, we had his book as a reference,” she said. “But I was able, thankfully, to have a conversation with him about what he felt made him, you know, jazzy when he went undercover.”
Rodgers came up with idea of not putting him in a suit in a key scene during the movie, which would make him stand out from the clan during initiations, as their own dress code was their version of Sunday’s Best.
“So artistically, I just stuck to that and added Ron’s version of his suit, a walking suit (a matching shirt and pants) – which was obviously a trend for men in the ’70s – and insert that into that world,” she explained. “Therefore, there was a stark line of how he walked in and what he looked like (compared to) what the banquet attendees looked like.”
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