New Zealand's Gloriavale 'cult' inspires Handmaid's Tale costume design

HULU

Based on the dystopian novel by Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid's Tale tells the story of a future America where women are kept as property, valued only for their virtue and fertility.

Costume designer Ane Crabtree says she looked to New Zealand's Gloriavale community for inspiration when designing clothes for hit TV show The Handmaid's Tale. 

According to an extensive interview with the designer on feminist pop-culture site Jezebel, Crabtree researched religious "cults" when designing costumes for the "handmaids" that were both striking and functional. 

"I wanted there to be glimpses of reality in the clothing, " she said. "There's this very interesting New Zealand cult - they probably call it a religious group - the Gloriavale Christian Community. They have a very old-world culture, much like Gilead [the new name of a fictionalised US after a religious coup], where women are baking bread and children are dressed quite close to the women of the group."

Gloriavale women and girls performing at a community event.
JEHAN CASINADER

Gloriavale women and girls performing at a community event.

The Handmaid's Tale, based on the 1985 book of the same name by Margaret Atwood, is set in a future USA, where religious militants have overthrown the government and women as kept in strict hierarchy as "wives", Handmaids - who are forced to bear children, or servants. 

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In the show Handmaids wear bright red dresses that cover them from neck to foot, and white peaked caps that obscure their faces - and their view of the world. 

Women dressed as handmaids at a promotional event for The Handmaid's Tale.
REUTERS

Women dressed as handmaids at a promotional event for The Handmaid's Tale.

"In Episode 1 you see the little girls coming out in pink," says Crabtree. "It's so scary to me to see children dressed the same way as the Handmaids; the colour's not the same, but the silhouettes are.

"That kind of scary-creepy, it creeps into my work a lot... So that Children of the Corn kind of stuff always creeps in. It's subtle but it's there. I might look to Gloriavale, but then it goes off on a whole kid's version of a nightmare."

The Gloriavale closed Christian community in Haupiri on the West Coast has come under scrutiny in recent years after members attempting to leave have been shunned and cut of from family members who remain. 

Samira Wiley as Moira in The Handmaid's Tale.
HULU

Samira Wiley as Moira in The Handmaid's Tale.

A police investigation into the community is on going after members escaped from Gloriavale with claims of abuse and beatings.

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The police make regular visits to the community after it was revealed a convicted child sex offender was living there under an assumed identity. Gloriavale founder Neville Cooper, who calls himself Hopeful Christian, also has historical sexual abuse convictions.

The Handmaid's Tale is airing on HULU in the US. It's not yet airing in New Zealand. 

Elizabeth Moss as Offred, literally "Of Fred", or "belonging to Fred") in Hulu's The Handmaid's Tale - where women no ...
HULU

Elizabeth Moss as Offred, literally "Of Fred", or "belonging to Fred") in Hulu's The Handmaid's Tale - where women no longer have their own names.

 - Stuff

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