The highly-anticipated film Judas and the Black Messiah has finally dropped on HBO Max and if you haven’t watched it yet, you reaallllly should.
Being a period piece, Judas and the Black Messiah features some *chef’s kiss* costume design. So, BuzzFeed attended a virtual summit and then chatted with the film’s costume designer Charlese Antoinette Jones to learn more. Here’s what we found out about her amazing work on the film:
Jones started researching for the film about a year before it was even greenlit.
And she relied on several documentaries during her research.
However, the actual prep time Jones and her team had was very short — roughly 5 weeks.
Jones and her team sourced roughly 90% of the clothing for the film, so it’s almost entirely authentic ’60s clothes you see in the movie.
Various chapters of the Black Panther Party had their own versions of a uniform and sets of rules about what members could and couldn’t wear.
And there were specific reasonings behind the Black Panther Party uniforms. For example, the iconic berets were meant to be symbolic of being revolutionaries…
…and the black leather jackets and sunglasses were simply practical — these were readily available clothing items and also useful for security reasons.
The Illinois chapter had their own unique look — the green camo WWII jackets, as featured in the film.
There really were several groups using different colored berets at that time in Chicago.
For example, in real life, the Young Lords really did wear purple berets…
…and the Young Patriots wore coyote brown berets.
And there were a couple reasons why groups at that time wore berets.
Deborah’s look evolves throughout the film to help signify change.
When Deborah and Fred are reunited after he gets out of jail, Jones said she wanted Deborah’s costume to be warm and welcoming.
And you’ll note a complete tonal shift overall in the cast’s clothing after Chairman Fred gets out of jail.
The robe Deborah is wearing the night of the raid and Hampton’s murder was recreated by Jones and her team by referencing archival footage.
Jones and her PA would literally print out every photo of Fred Hampton and lay them out on the floor to track the progression of Hampton’s look in real life.
Throughout the film, O’Neal’s looks are meant to represent how confused he is as a character — he doesn’t know if he’s a Panther or a Fed. So, he often copies others, like Palmer.
O’Neal slowly starts to wear “flashy” accessories as the film progresses like green boots, a fancy belt buckle, and green-tinted sunglasses.
Speaking of green, the color green is often used on O’Neal to symbolize greed and capitalism.
The Eyes on the Prize 2 suit Stanfield wears as O’Neal in the film was actually built for the movie.
The last time we see O’Neal, you’ll note his outfit is a kind of hybrid Panther-Fed look.
And finally, after working on Judas and the Black Messiah, Jones actually established a program through the Boys & Girls Club of Cleveland to help disadvantaged children in the community where they filmed through fashion.
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