- The “Unwomen” were shown for the first time on season two of Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Tale.”
- INSIDER spoke with costume designer Ane Crabtree about how she designed their outfits.
- A song mashup she accidentally found served as the inspirational catalyst.
When viewers first get a glimpse of the Unwomen in the Colonies on Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Tale,” they see a group of women toiling in a dismal wasteland. The women are all wearing layers of faded grayish, blue garments covered in dust, dirt, and grime.
Costume designer Ane Crabtree spoke with INSIDER about how she came up with the designs for the Unwomen, women who break Gilead’s rules or are infertile, on season two of the Hulu series.
“With the Unwomen being so new in season two, I was pretty terrified to visualise that,” Crabtree said.
But a song mashup of Dinah Washington’s “This Bitter Earth” and composer Max Richter’s “On the Nature of Daylight” that Crabtree accidentally found on YouTube was the inspirational catalyst for her final designs.
“What came out through that song is really haunting,” she said. “That song felt like it was the Unwomen speaking.”
From listening to that song on repeat, Crabtree began to find more inspiration in the past.
She turned to old wartime Russian propaganda and Van Gogh’s paintings of farmers, as well as her own childhood in Kentucky to form ideas. Crabtree said she had to puzzle through what people would wear at the end of the world for radiation exposure and make them built to last.
The colour scheme was the next step.
“Colour is a very simplistic and a very heady thing in ‘The Handmaid’s Tale,’ because it means so much,” she said. “I said, ‘What about this colour of something fading away due to radiation?’ and it was this sort of bluish/green/grey…You want it to be hauntingly beautiful.”
To achieve the dirty and faded look of the Colony clothing, Crabtree and her crew had to hand-paint the fabric.
“You can carry some equipment with you [to the filming location] to age the clothes down, but it’s really difficult and it’s also freezing, so you don’t really want to add cold mud to the actors to make them suffer any more,” Crabtree said. … Also because of the wind, which can blow away a lot of dust that you use…so we learned to hand-paint stuff so that it would always stay on.”
Her initial plan had to be scrapped though, because of weather.
“Toronto is notorious for its very extreme weather and so we were going to shoot [the scenes] in a fall-type moment, but then we had to push it to very cold winter, so I had to redesign every thing,” she said. “The way to do that was to use wool as the coat and then create all of these layers.”
Crabtree said she got a “nod of approval” from “Handmaid’s Tale” author Margaret Atwood in September.
“The greatest nod of approval she gave me was that she was so proud of the show and so proud of the costumes and that it went beyond what she imagined, so that’s pretty good,” Crabtree said.
Season two of the series will be released on DVD Tuesday, December 4.
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