Terrifying in their simplicity. Complicated in their creation.

You would have had to have stayed off the internet for the past year to miss the iconic red costumes from Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Tale.”

In the show’s all-too-close-to-home dystopia known as Giliad, where most women are infertile, those who can still bear children wear a haunting red dress and white cap. That getup has so thoroughly permeated the international scene that real women have adopted the look to protest those in power, in particular President Donald Trump.

People dressed as characters from “The Handmaid’s Tale” and people holding anti-Trump posters and banners
Michal Fludra/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Ane Crabtree is the woman you have to thank for creating this iconic look. She’s the costume designer behind Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Tale” and she came to Recode’s Code Media conference to give us a behind-the-scenes look at her inspiration and process for creating the costumes.


George Kraychuk
Ane Crabtree, the costume designer for Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale

“The idea was to always think on making this world not a period rusty-dusty costume drama,” said Crabtree, “but to make it so poignantly, perfectly modern and current that you would be worried — looking at these people in the costumes — that it could be your mother, your sister, your aunt, your best friend. Women with no rights.”

Every piece of clothing that Crabtree designed, she modeled on herself first. The first costume she sketched was one for Aunt Lydia, who oversees the fertile Handmaids:


Ane Crabtree

Ane Crabtree
Costume designer Ane Crabtree

Although some costumes were inspired by religious cults or — in the case of Joseph Fiennes’ character, Commander Waterford — the hip men’s fashion of the 1950s and 1960s, Crabtree said it was important that she incorporate “a bent or an edge of modern fashion design.”


Ane Crabtree
Actor Joseph Fiennes

Ane Crabtree
Actress Elizabeth Moss

And in some cases, making those iconic costumes meant breaking from conventional wisdom.

“In essence, you should never use hats to film with because they hide the real estate of the face,” she said. “Ultimately, they became a beautiful lightbox for the actors.”


Ane Crabtree
Actress Samira Wiley

Ane Crabtree

Watch Crabtree’s entire presentation, including a look at Season Two’s handmaids, below:




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