We were going to do the traditions that we missed the first time around, says Earl aka Pops (Laurence Fishburne), the patriarch of the Johnson family on Blackish, about his impending marriage to ex-wife Ruby (Jenifer Lewis). Then in true Pops form with perfect comedic timing and a mischievous smile he adds, including keeping our vows.
Of course, the Johnsons remake the wedding, which has been slow in coming, takes place in the next episode of the hit ABC comedy. But Pops’ sentiment applies to real life as well. Because recall weddings, whether to a former spouse whose boat you may or may not have blown up or to a partner to embark on a new stage in life together, provide an optimal opportunity for an expression of self-confident and a full celebration of heritage and culture. Now is the time to be fully yourself, without all of that extra pressure the first time around.
For the proud black Americans, Ruby and Pops who lived through the civil rights movement and raised their son Dre (Anthony Anderson) to be a successful advertising manager, now raising his own family with his wife doctor Bow ( Tracee Ellis-Ross) a celebration of legacy through the wardrobe was integral (and scripted) to their second marriage.
In the episode, Ruby orders a Kente wedding dress with angel wings from a designer who allegedly created looks for a famous celebrity (hint, hint: Black is king). In real life, the Rubys set was created by a veteran costume designer Michelle cole. Obviously, his overzealous idea of angel wings was dropped, but the final look was something really special.
For seven seasons, the show was hailed and loved by fans for its continued mission to teach an important story, often overlooked in school curricula, and to deal honestly with the issues black Americans face today. The Johnson family’s micro-marriages both remotely and outside also reflect the realities of celebrating life’s major moments during the unprecedented Covid-19 pandemic.
In the midst of it all, these two are getting married, Cole says. The newlyweds on an early morning call while driving to settle. With all the trials and hard times and everything that came through life continues to move forward. In magazines and on my Instagram, I saw people getting married again!
However, planning fake weddings is always a colossal undertaking, especially when it comes to the wedding dress. Usually a bride has six months to a year to find, purchase, and customize a wedding dress. But Cole and his team had about two weeks to build the stunning Kente Rubys African fabric set. Fortunately, Cole, who simultaneously designs creator Kenya Barriss two other shows, Cultivated and #BlackAF, with its key customer and Project track season 11 finalist, Stanley hudson, are used to excelling under extreme time pressure.
Cole, who earned three of his seven Emmy nods for Blackish, first dove into research on African weddings and traditional clothing. She also drew on her past experience designing costumes for heritage-speaking ensembles and citing The Bernie Mac Show and In living color, on which she received her first four Emmy nominations. We’ve always celebrated culture on my black shows, says Cole.
We’ve always celebrated culture on my black shows.
As in real life, she also needed to consult the bride. Cole and Hudson, armed with his pencil and sketchbook, therefore met Lewis for his contribution. She loves little pantsuits, says Cole, who wanted Lewis to feel most about her (and her character) on Rubys’ big day. Lewis preferred a sleeve protruding from the elbow and a neckline to show off her cleavage.
Because she has a very pretty breast and a very pretty neck, says Cole. The pinched waist and pant silhouette also highlight the triple threat Lewiss Broadway bonafides. So we underlined all of this.
Next step: find the vibrantly printed Kente fabric, which native in the 17th century with the Asante people of West Africa, in what is now the country of Ghana. Worn by royalty in Africa throughout history, the Kente fabric continued to have political and diplomatic significance in the 20th century and special significance for the African diaspora, especially for celebrating milestone events, such as college degrees. Colors in beautiful patterns convey meaning: red for passion, gold for status and blue for pure spirit and harmony.
Cole and Hudson turned to a bold orange-red for the bride-to-be. They picked up a few options from an African Kente fabric supplier in Los Angeles only to finally land on the gold and blue accented print, which is just stunning on Lewis. Cole also used his early musical theater design experiences to add a bright orange liner. The rich hue appears on screen and amplifies the sculptural ruffles of the detachable ball gown skirt with a flowing cathedral train. The extra weight of the silk on the Kente cotton fabric helps give extra bounce to the drama as Ruby walks down the aisle. Plus, the voluminous ruffle at the cuffs and waist made it look a little sexy and still cute, Cole says.
To let loose on the dance floor at the reception, Ruby (or Team Coles, rather) took off the skirt from the ball gown and dragged it down to transform the wedding look into a ready-to-basque high-low jumpsuit. for the party. The micro-wedding featured Bow, in chic Rachel Comey, who proved that a metallic pink pantsuit would make for an inventive bridesmaid look. Dre wears a bespoke suit and mint stockings from his extensive sneaker collection. Pops stunt in a royal blue African wedding suit, featuring a royal stand-up collar and asymmetric fit. Chic glasses with a slight tint of blue and matching velvet tassel loafers complement the groom’s dapper look perfectly.
It’s a process, says Cole, looking back on the Whirlwind Project, which was a true collaboration with the bride, Lewis, and her fellow planners, i.e. the producers and the production designer. You still do the same thing that you would in your real marriage.
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