Every element of the television series The Handmaid's Tale is top-notch. The writing is fantastic, the character development is amazing, the acting skills are unparalleled, and the production value is some of the best that television has ever seen. The Handmaid's Tale is visually stunning, and the intricate details in the production of the show leaves a never-ending amount of Easter eggs to discover and explore.
One of the most visually compelling and impressive aspects of The Handmaid's Tale is easily it's costume designs. The costume designers for the show have to create unique looks for a veritable army of cast members and extras, but there are a lot of subtle details that go into the designs that make them all seem unique and well thought out. There are almost too many details to even appreciate on the first, fifth, or tenth watch, but here are 10 details of The Handmaid's Tale's costume designs that you probably didn't notice.
10 Some Of The Clothes Are From Before
The costumes on The Handmaid's Tale look unlike anything that anyone would see in their day to day life in America today. However, looks can be deceiving. One of the major pros of Gilead is supposed to be their environmental friendliness, which means that a lot of the clothing that is seen on the show is meant to be re-purposed or recycled from clothing that existed in the pre-Gilead era. And when it comes to that there are even pieces of clothing that haven't been retrofitted in the Gilead style at all, so long as they match with the color dress code then Gilead will let its citizens wear it.
9 June's Sweatshirt Is A Holdover From The Past
One of the most distinct costume pieces in the entire series has got to be June's red sweatshirt. It's a piece that is featured in a lot of different scenes and seems to be of particular importance to June. And it seems that way because it is.
Gilead has a pretty strict dress code for people like handmaids, wives, or commanders, but when the handmaids were first conscripted into their slavery they were given the option to choose one red garment to keep that existed from before. June's choice was her red sweatshirt, and it seems like it's meant to denote a level of comfort and ease for June.
8 Red Means Blood
A lot of thought and consideration went into creating The Handmaid's Tale, both the book and the television show, so every detail tends to have some meaning and weight behind it. That's certainly the case when it comes to the vibrant red uniform of the handmaids. The handmaid red color seems to have a bit of a double meaning, in the eyes of Gilead it's meant to symbolize the fact that handmaids are literally the lifeblood of their society and are the ones ensuring their survival, but in the eyes of the handmaids it obviously symbolizes their own bloodshed and war with Gilead... and of course, it is the color of the literal menstrual blood that shows that these women are fertile.
7 The Color Coding Was Outlined In The Books
The stark and vibrant colors that are worn by every aspect of Gilead's society makes for a very striking visual in the TV series The Handmaid's Tale, but it's not a creation of the TV series itself. In Margaret Atwood's original book there were already divisions based on class and those divisions were denoted by the colors that each individual person wore. The television series has rearranged some of Margaret Atwood's original color-coding assignments and there are obviously more creative nuances and interpretations of the original text to make for a more visually stunning picture, but the bulk of the idea has remained the same in the translation from book to screen.
6 But Adjusted For The TV Show
The fundamentals of the Gilead color coding has remained the same for the TV series, but there are some notable differences too. In the books, the wives are assigned blue clothing at all times, but in the series it's more of a teal or a bluish-green color.
In the books, the Marthas are supposed to wear green, but in the series their clothes look more gray than anything. And the econopeople in the books are supposed to wear multicolored clothing as a way of signaling their multiple roles in their own home, but in the show, their clothes look like a drab gray color.
5 The Bonnets Are A Big Production Problem
The bonnets that the handmaids are forced to wear in Gilead, colloquially called wings, are a very interesting image with some sound reasoning behind it. They're meant to act essentially like blinders would on a horse, it's supposed to shield the handmaids from view and prevent them from seeing what's around them as well. But the bonnets themselves have apparently been a bit of an annoyance to the production. Getting a good angle on the actors when 75% of their face is being intentionally obscured is no easy feat, and the actors often times have trouble hearing or seeing one another as well.
4 The Aunt's Uniforms Have Some Real-Life Inspirations
In the book The Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood explains that Aunts are always to wear brown, but details about their actual outfits are few and far between. That gave the costume designers for the TV series a lot of room to play with, and play they did. When they were designing the costumes for the Aunts they drew inspiration from a few specific ideas, the first being an almost monk-like religious look to their costumes, and the second being the color of early 20th century English military uniforms. And it seems like the intention behind the designs reads very well, as the Aunts certainly look pious and severe.
3 Wife Clothing Still Denotes Class
Although every class within Gilead has their fashions pretty severely restricted, it's clear from the series that the wives have the most freedom to play, even if the differences are barely perceptible.
The wives are constantly outfitted in their recognizable teal color and their clothing is free of any embellishments or artistic variations, but the structure and seam detailing on the garments demonstrates their superiority over the rest of society. Many of the wives are seen wearing distinct styles with different silhouettes, and the construction of their garments simply takes more time and effort, which goes to show their high status.
2 Marthas Fade Into The Background
Although Marthas are tasked with doing most of the work to support the households of Gilead's upper class, they're clearly meant to get their work done in the background and essentially make the lives of the upper class more comfortable without being seen or heard. And that is very clear when it comes to their costume design as well. In the books, the Marthas were supposed to wear green, but the bland gray of their clothing in the series forces them to almost literally fade into the background. Ironically, it seems like their invisibility is what made them the most dangerous too, they could do something like sneaking out dozens of Gilead's children simply because no one was looking at them.
1 Darkness Denotes Power
When it comes to most of the male characters and even many of the female characters, the darker the clothing is the more powerful the character is. It's actually the easiest to see this trend when there are many wives together, because the variations of darkness and light are the easiest to spot. But the same holds true for the Commanders, the darker the clothing is the more powerful they are. That also seems to say a lot about Nick as a character, because despite the fact that he was only recently promoted to Commander he is always in all black, and as one of Gilead's Eyes he is presumably a very powerful member of Gilead's government.