David Ruffin of The Temptations inspired Mike Epps' fur coat and glasses, and the younger fashions today with their preppy styling and skinny pants inspired Derek Luke's sweater combos. Tika Sumpter could wear a miniskirt like nobody else could and inspired a micro mini, and Paco Rabanne's jeweled '60s dress inspired the jewel dresses in one of the dance numbers.
Whitney Houston was inspired by the fashion styling of b michael. His line is classic, retro-chic but fresh.
The Finale dresses were inspired by the cut outs of Rudi Gernreich. And finally, the choir was a result of watching countless hours of 1960s gospel choirs on YouTube.
StyleBistro: Tell us a little bit about the elaborate necklines on the costumes. They're so beautiful.
Ruth Carter: Rudi Gernreich was a forerunner in fashion in the 1960s. By cutting away the fabric and showing skin and natural silhouettes, he took fashion to a new frontier that I thought would root the fashions in Sparkle in the era.
StyleBistro: What was the biggest challenge you faced while styling the characters?
Ruth Carter: The biggest challenge was getting the dresses I designed out of large, round glass-colored stones to: A) Not weigh a ton—Impossible! And B) Not fall apart when wearing them, as they ultimately did. We were repairing the dresses between takes on the set. Luckily, the day was scheduled to allow a bit of time and our amazing crew was very patient.
StyleBistro: Silhouettes of women today differ drastically than they did 50 years ago. How did you adapt ’60s fashion to contemporary body types and shapes?
Ruth Carter: It wasn't easy. The cast wore mostly real vintage pieces, and that means without any stretch that we have grown to know and love today. We adapted by remaking key pieces and luckily we shot the film during the colder months, so I was able to use some of the heavier knits from the period.
But fashion today has come back to the '60s. I know the period so well now that I am a little amazed by what I see people wearing on the street. Some look as though they stepped through a time tunnel. Jordin [Sparks] wears a pair of J Brand jeans with a flair leg in one scene.
StyleBistro: Who is your all-time dream character or actress to work with?
Ruth Carter: There are lots. I am working with YaYa DaCosta right now for The Butler, and that’s pretty exciting. But I'd also love to dress really iconic actresses like Vanessa Redgrave.
StyleBistro: Whitney Houston was such an icon not only in the music industry but also in fashion. What was it like working with her?
Ruth Carter: She was open and accepting of my aesthetic. I really was nervous about presenting clothes to such a fashion icon, but she just let me take the lead with her. I loved our relationship!
StyleBistro: Amazing! Tell us more...
Ruth Carter: She gave me good advice on a costume that was not hers when we had a late-night fitting on the set for one of the musical numbers. It was a dress that was completely covered in gold sequins. She was excited about it even though it was not for her. She suggested that I test it in front of the camera because she wore one similar to it in the past and found out that the reflections can be an issue for the camera.
StyleBistro: And finally, since '60s style is here to stay for awhile, what is the one must-have item from the era that every woman in 2012 needs?
Ruth Carter: A must-have '60s-inspired item would be a classic pencil pant (long or capri) with a low pump (pointed or square) or kitten heel. It's very wearable, dresses up or down, and looks good on every body type.
(Photo courtesy of Ruth Carter) Costume designer Ruth Carter styled celebrities in Sparkle, which hits theaters on August 17th.
See Ruth Carter's costume work when Sparkle opens in theaters nationwide August 17th.