The making of The Handmaid's Tale's iconic red and white costume that has dressed feminist protests around the world

The making of The Handmaid's Tale's iconic red and white costume that has dressed feminist protests around the world

A lot has gone into making Gilead, the dystopian world in which 'The Handmaid's Tale' is set. One of the most significant things about the show is the costumes, especially that of the handmaids. The red robes and the white wings have now become a uniform/costume of choice for many women-related protest marches. Many women have been seen dressed in red robes and the white wings in Women's March that have taken place in different parts of the world as they shouted slogans about equality. So what went into the making of this iconic costume that has come to mean so much?

A still from the first season of 'The Handmaid's Tale' season 1. (Source: Hulu)

Ane Crabtree, the show's costume designer once said at an exhibition of her Handmaids clothes held at SCAD Museum of Fashion and Film in Atlanta, "I knew I wanted the clothing to look like something people could wear every day, to make it just like a normal dress they have to put on every day like a prison uniform."

Elaborating on her plans for the handmaid's dress in the book 'The Art and Making of The Handmaid's Tale', she said, "I started thinking about what would unnerve someone if they were looking at a Handmaid. Gilead is a pious society with rules that were put down by men who have decided to utilize their religious and political ideals to harness and control a population that is dwindling, and, most especially to control women... So, I thought, what if we took away visible buttons and zippers, so people were kind of encased in their clothes? So that it became kind of a trap or kind of imprisonment of self."

Activists dressed in the red garb of 'The Handmaid's Tale' protest the Trump administration's immigration policies outside of the Department of Homeland Security's Cybersecurity Summit on July 31, 2018, in New York City. (Source: Getty Images)

One must also remember that Margaret Atwood, the author of the book had already set a great foundation when it comes to the set up of what Gilead would look and feel like, but Ane's attention to detail has added a new dimension to the costume to make it what it is today. 


She also had immersive early fittings with actors such as Elisabeth Moss to ensure that she felt the costume was right.  "Here we are. Creating a whole new world and asking Elisabeth Moss to put on a bright red dress with a long red cloak and opaque wings like it was a pair of jeans and sweatshirt," said Ane and added, "If the actor doesn't feel that the costume is real to them, it'll show. It'll be an impostor on the screen, it won't be someone you are afraid of or you're rooting for or you're compelled by or that you hate... It won't happen, because it's false."

Ane's costume, which is now synonymous with feminist protests around the world, won her the 2018 Costume Designers Guild Award. While she may have had help from Atwood's book as her palette, it is the simplicity of it all that hooks us right in.

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