Why does Lupita Nyong’o’s Nakia only wear shades of green in Black Panther?
Good in Green
Black Panther's record-breaking $218 million box office take wasn’t the only green related to the movie — you may have noticed Nakia (Lupita Ngonyo) wears the shade throughout the film. Panther’s costume designer, Ruth E. Carter, says it was definitely a deliberate choice. “Every character has a specific color — it’s a nice way of giving people their own identity,” explains Carter, who credits director Ryan Coogler with the idea. “We use color like comic books do, with each character staying in their lane as far their palette goes: T’Challa is purple, Okoye is red, and Nakia is green.”
Inspired by Location
“She is the No. 1 warrior in the River tribe and her look was inspired by the Suri tribe in Africa,” says Carter. “Green signifies water, a coastal community, leaves and plants — they live in a lush area, as opposed to the perception that Africa is arid and dry.”
The Warrior Look
Carter relished the opportunity to highlight different parts of Nakia’s personality through her clothing: “She is not just a warrior — she’s a war dog, a spy, and an African princess,” says Carter. "There are so many layers to her, I treated each one like a different character." Nakia’s military dress was made in Los Angeles, and Carter decided to have the gold chevrons embroidered — as opposed to sequins or beading — in order not to interrupt the lines of the design.
The Casino Dress
“This is her Bond girl look,” says Carter of the glamorous, slit-to-there dress Nakia wears in the casino scene. “The geometry in this pattern was inspired by Kente cloth. The fabric is hand-painted and we used a little bit of iridescent paint, so when the light hit it in a certain way it lit up.”
The Leather Look
For Nakia’s look at the CIA block scene (not pictured), Carter overdyed a jean jacket (found at Jeffrey’s in Atlanta) green, paired it with green leather pants, then sprayed leather boots with green paint. “Her costume was dealt with in a theatrical way, but it still had to feel natural,” says Carter. “There’s not a lot of green clothes out there that also fit perfectly and work for the story.”
Green Goes Great
Nakia’s not the only character where green was integral to the persona. Gwyneth Paltrow’s Estella in 1998’s Great Expectations wore clothing by Donna Karan, who was asked to design the wardrobe only in shades of green. “Green is the only color I understand,” the film’s director Alfonso Cuarón told The New York Times. “I know how to work with it. I see other colors and they feel alien.”
There are several reasons why the vibrant green dress Keira Knightley wears as Cecilia in 2007’s Atonement is so memorable: “Because it has such a pivotal moment — or she’s wearing it at such a pivotal moment — and Seamus [McGarvey, DP] and [director] Joe Wright have shot it in a way, and Keira looks so good in it, I think it’s just this perfect storm of things all going right at the same time,” the film’s costume designer Jacqueline Durran told EW.
La La Land
The green dress Mia (Emma Stone) wears in 2016’s La La Land was meant to straddle the line between reality and fantasy. “We did have to make these dresses, but I didn’t want to make them fancy,” the film’s costume designer Mary Zophres told EW. “The green dress, for instance, we made it, but in my mind, I’m like ‘Okay, she could’ve bought it in a vintage store.’”
Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol
Jane’s (Paula Patton) one-shouldered floaty number in Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol may have looked delicate, but it had to do some serious acrobatics in a chase scene: “They had to make a special ball gown for that scene with a little bit of Velcro in the back,” Patton told Vanity Fair. “We’re on our way to our next mission, and I’m in this huge green ball gown, and we have to get to our next place where I have to do a lot of physical activity. I’ll tell you, changing in a car while it’s speeding through the streets of Mumbai is quite a challenge.”