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Fashion & Lifestyle

#MeToo personal for ‘Handmaid’s Tale’ costume designer

From the United States to Argentina, by way of Ireland and Poland, the red habit and white bonnet synonymous with “The Handmaid’s Tale” have become a powerful symbol of the #MeToo movement.

Yet its potency has come as a shock to 54-year-old costume designer Ane Crabtree, the creator of the now iconic outfit for the runaway-hit television series based on the dystopian 1985 novel by Margaret Atwood.

“It´s a very big thing. It´s grown bigger than the purpose I designed it for,” Crabtree told AFP during a recent visit to New York to be a judge at Comic Con.

The book´s success has been amplified by the wild popularity of the Hulu series, which first aired in April 2017 just as liberal America started contending with the presidency of Donald Trump.

Atwood´s nightmare of an America transformed into a totalitarian society, where women are reduced to sexual slavery, quickly became a parable to many about the political shift to the right and the national reckoning about sexual abuse.

Since then, female protesters have donned the costumes worn on TV by the persecuted women on Gilead all over the world.

In Washington, women who opposed the confirmation of new Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh — in part because of sexual assault allegations against him — donned the habit.

Others wore it at abortion rallies in Buenos Aires and Dublin, or at anti-Trump rallies in Warsaw.

Crabtree, the daughter of a US father from Kentucky and a Japanese mother from Okinawa, admits she was oblivious to the phenomenon at first.

“For two and a half years, I was doing ´The Handmaid´s Tale´. I did not really see the impact,” she says.

Filming was intense and breaks were rare. It was only afterwards that Crabtree, who worked in fashion in the 1990s before moving into television, realised that her design had taken on a life of its own.

“For me, it´s brilliant news — it´s something that´s quite emotional and emotionally satisfying,” she tells AFP.

“As an artist, you are trying to express the times, aren´t you? Trying to understand how to communicate and emotionally commune with people.”

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