'The Handmaid's Tale': The Meaning Behind the Wives' Dress Color

Colors play a significant role in the Republic of Gilead, indicating the importance of a woman within this society. That includes the wives of commanders, who wear shades of blue and teal throughout Hulu’s original drama series.

Here’s what we know about the significance of the wives’ dress color in The Handmaid’s Tale.

The commanders’ wives wear a blue/teal color in ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’

Women have a unique role in Gilead society. If they were infertile but married to a high-ranking commander, the “commanders’ wives” were tasked with wearing an outfit entirely in a blue or teal shade. 

The colors that the commander’s wives wear aren’t just a contrast to the handmaids’ red outfits. As another call to religion, the wives wear shades of blue as a reference to the Virgin Mary, emphasizing their purity regarding “their” children. 

What is the significance behind the blue outfits in ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’

Then-lead costume designer Ane Crabtree used shades of blue in the first season to “indicate which of the wives carried the most power, with those higher up dressed in darker shades,” according to Pop Sugar.

One of the best-known wives to viewers is Serena Joy Waterford, who wore shades of teal throughout this series. The symbolism behind this hue could be interpreted several ways, according to the same Pop Sugar analysis. 

Blue is “the color of tears, the color we associate with sadness… when we say someone is ‘feeling blue.’ Blue is the color of water, which may look tranquil and unobtrusive at first glance, but has the power to erode and wash away and to choke the life out of anyone who slips beneath its surface, sometimes so quietly that no one even notices until it is far too late.”

Why do the handmaids in Gilead wear red?

One of the most iconic costumes of this series is worn by the handmaids. That’s the red cloak, which could be interpreted as a symbol of the menstrual cycle and blood. Red is also a color associated with sexual signs, as seen in The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne. 

Even the language used by the handmaids is meant to encourage fertility. Phrases like “blessed be the fruit” and “may the Lord open” were used to emphasize further the importance of giving birth to children. 

The white bonnets, sometimes referred to as “wings,” were included for two main reasons. Handmaids were physically handicapped by these headpieces, impeding their vision while in the home or at the store. They were white to emphasize purity, despite how evil “the ceremony” actually was.

Episodes of The Handmaid’s Tale are available for streaming on Hulu.

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