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‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ Costume Designer On “Dressing For Dystopia”

Culture
Graphic by Lindsay Hattrick

“This job is the most personal one”

Costume designer Ane Crabtree has a lengthy resume spanning 28 years, having worked on everything from Westworld to Masters of Sex. However, the job she has connected with the most is for Hulu's The Handmaid's Tale, the story of a dystopian near-future in which fertile women are forced to bear children for high-ranking officials in a new fundamentalist regime.

"This job is the most personal one I have had the pleasure of designing," Crabtree says. "I think when you feel something so deeply, and those emotions go into the work, you can only be truthful in the design. That makes this job so simple and so complicated at the same time." And while it was difficult to completely separate herself from this project, Crabtree says she's been incredibly moved by the way the show—and subsequently her costumes—have been able to play a role in the cultural conversation currently surrounding women's rights. 

Seeing the impact of her work, it only seems fitting that Crabtree's Handmaid's Tale costumes would be the star of a new collaborative exhibition between Hulu and the Savannah College of Art and Design. Appropriately dubbed "Dressing for Dystopia," the show debuts at the SCAD FASH Museum of Film + Art on May 1. So ahead of the exhibition, we caught up with Crabtree to talk about her design inspirations, how she created a whole new set of costumes for the Colonies this season, and the impact her iconic, blood-red handmaids robes have had since the show's debut. Read our Q&A below.

Tell us a little bit about the SCAD exhibition and collaborating with them on the project.
SCAD is a wonderful creative ground that combines so many of the arts, including fashion and film. I’ve always been a fan. Last year, Vogue had a pop-up presentation at the PUBLIC Hotel that showcased my work on Season 1. Mangue Banzima, the curator of that show and a SCAD alumnus, approached me about having an exhibition with a longer showing, this time at SCAD FASH Museum of Fashion + Film. Who would say no to that? I’m lucky that he and SCAD see the value in the work and want to share it in a way that is artistic and educational. Everyone wins in that situation.

I am just now understanding the value and symbolism behind the work. Something that was [personally] meaningful in the designing of the costumes has taken on a life of its own—touching other people politically, emotionally, psychologically, and, perhaps, in an artistically-inspired way. I want my brown-skinned nieces to see a woman in their family in a museum. I want to inspire women and people of color to create what could be a vehicle to teach others.  

How much of an influence did Atwood’s original text have on the costume design? What other source material did you use to create the costumes?
Margaret Atwood has been an influence on me—and certainly on the costumes—since I saw the original Handmaid’s Tale film back in 1990. I start with all things Atwood, and I’m pretty sure she knows I am a rabid fan. Beyond this, I look to artwork, music, other cultures, religions, and creeds to [influence] the clothing. Nature inspires via color and the way things move. My two Davids, David Byrne and David Lynch, have informed the work. So has Matthew Barney, Blondie, Patti Smith, industrial workwear, and Kimiko Crabtree, my mother. Inspiration is everywhere.

I’m particularly curious about the thought process behind the handmaids' outfits—they’re so striking, especially in scenes where you see them marching all together en masse. What was it like designing that particular costume? 
It was lengthy. I mean it took forever mentally to find what clicked for me. The biggest thing for me was to design something akin to a t-shirt and jeans, and something that moved like a river of blood when the wearer is walking in it by way of a bright red dress and some crazy headgear, along with a very expansive cloak. The new normal.

Why did you feel like headwear was a necessary part of the design? 
The headgear came directly from the original novel and was something we [originally] thought we would stay away from, [as] it didn’t feel particularly modern. In the end, though, it solidifies the idea of keeping these women from having the freedom to talk to each other, to sell and trade contraband, to hide secrets. That is the patriarchy thinking they can control the masses. In the end, this design helps to conceal secrets—to communicate to the next handmaid. It is a weapon used against the patriarchy in those ways. It translates to something otherworldly and strange. And yet it is utilized as a very normal piece of clothing, like a baseball cap. 

What is it like watching your creations onscreen? Do the costumes still feel oppressive or is there a feeling of unity when all the handmaids are together?
It is heaven. Achingly beautiful to watch, I won’t lie. But I should preface that with the idea that no costume designer, especially me, has a filter on what one creates. It’s like giving birth to a creation. You don’t find it ugly, even if it is. Sometimes the costumes are oppressive and sometimes they liberate the body—all of it is [reflexive] from the individual, including myself. My emotions towards the costumes change on a daily basis, sometimes within the hour of watching the show.

We're seeing new costumes on the people shipped off to the Colonies this season. What was your thought process like when creating these new looks?
My thought process was, Oh holy hell, what do we do now? Sincerely, I was worried about a creative dry-up—meaning, I was blocked in the beginning of the design process. How do you make [something for a place] as important to the story as the Colonies? A beautiful mash-up of Dinah Washington’s “This Bitter Earth” and Max Richter’s “On the Nature of Daylight” got my brain spinning towards the colonies. It was the muse that gave birth to the whole place—the unwomen, the aunts, and the guardians. The faded colors of a world battered by radiation—caught in a Van Gogh and Wyeth painting. 

What was it like seeing women wearing garments inspired by your designs to protest last year?
Heaven and hell, beautiful and terrifying, just like the show. And the show is just like real life in America—beautiful and terrifying. Surreal, too. I’m very proud, and I have [few] words for it. Something from my brain, inspired by the words of Atwood, has seeped into the consciousness of people brave enough to protest what isn’t right with the world. I am astounded by the nature of human nature itself. Still, I don’t think I have had the time to fully grasp the moment. Perhaps with some time, I will.

SCAD x Hulu's "Dressing for Dystopia" will be on display from May 1 to August 12 at the SCAD FASH Museum of Fashion + Film. Learn more about the exhibition here.

Screenshot via YouTube

And I need to see the rest ASAP

As excited as we already are for Olivia Wilde's directorial debut, Booksmart, to hit theaters next week, we just got even more desperate to see it. Why? Well, the first six minutes of the film were just released, and every minute is incredible.

The film opens on Molly (Beanie Feldstein) meditating and listening to a motivational tape telling her she's better than everyone else, and to "fuck those losers." Her room is decorated with pictures of Michelle Obama and RBG, so we know her head is in the right place. We learn she's the class president when she arrives at school with her best friend, Amy (Kaitlyn Dever).

It's there that we get a glimpse of the social hierarchy in which Molly and Amy exist—but somewhere down near the bottom, way below the popular kids, the theater nerds, the stoners, and even the annoying class clown.

The film officially hits theaters on May 23, but Annapurna Pictures is holding advanced screenings across the country today, May 17—we're actually holding two of them! So, if you're in L.A. or New York, check them out.

But also, you can watch the first six minutes of the film, below, and prepare yourself to watch the whole movie in a week.

BOOKSMART | Uncut First 6 Minutes www.youtube.com

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Photo by Rich Polk/ Getty

Her hypocrisy would be mind-blowing if it weren't so predictable

It's been just over two years since Tomi Lahren appeared on ABC's The View to assert that, despite her ultra-conservative bona fides, she holds one position more normally associated with the left wing: She's pro-choice. In that talk show appearance, Lahren made clear then that her pro-choice views were consonant with her self-identification as a "constitutionalist," further explaining:

I am someone that's for limited government. So I can't sit here and be a hypocrite and say I'm for limited government but I think the government should decide what women should do with their bodies." I can sit here and say that as a Republican, and I can say, "You know what? I'm for limited government, so stay out of my guns, and you can stay out of my body as well."

Back then, we noted the hypocrisy inherent to that position, since Lahren was an ardent supporter of President Trump—who made no secret of his desire to appoint anti-abortion judges to the Supreme Court and other judicial benches—and Vice-President Pence, whose anti-abortion views are even more ardent.

Since Lahren's appearance on The View, she has appeared in the anti-abortion film Roe v. WadeRoe v. Wade, which co-starred fellow execrable conservative troll, Milo Yiannopoulos, and, um, Joey Lawrence. Though the film has not yet been released, it is alleged to contain "several graphic scenes depicting aborted fetuses," and also the acting styles of Jamie Kennedy, so we're not sure for whom it will really be appropriate.

But while Lahren's role in that film would be enough to make anyone question just how committed she is to her alleged pro-choice stance, the recent news about de facto abortion bans in Alabama and Georgia has incited Lahren to speak out about her views once again.

On Twitter, Lahren opened herself up to "attack[s] by [her] fellow conservatives" and spoke out against the Alabama abortion ban as being "too restrictive." And, indeed, her "fellow conservatives" did quickly attack Lahren for not actually caring about human life, and for having too liberal a position on whether or not a woman should be forced to continue a pregnancy that resulted from rape. But then also, as Lahren must have known would happen, other people supported her for... not having one irredeemably monstrous position amongst her arsenal of irredeemably monstrous positions.

But, let's be clear: Tomi Lahren is not—no matter what she tweets—pro-choice, and neither is any supporter of the Republican Party. There is no doubt that there are Republicans who are in favor of safe access to abortion—particularly when it comes to themselves and their family members having said access. But by supporting the Republican Party, they are showing how little it actually matters to them, and showing what it is that they really prioritize over women's safety and freedom: namely, access to guns, bigoted immigration policies, the continued disenfranchisement of voters across the country. I could go on, but there's no need.

Lahren's tweet doesn't reveal in any way that she's an advocate for women's rights, all it reveals is her hypocrisy and that of anyone (Meghan McCain, hi), who would love to have a world created specifically for their needs, and who is willing to sacrifice the rights of the less privileged in order to secure their own. It is despicable and dangerous and incredibly predictable. But, at least, it might give Lahren something to talk about on the red carpet with her fellow anti-abortion movie costars, if that film ever gets more than a straight-to-video release.

If you want to find out how to help women have access to abortion, please visit here for information about donating and volunteering.

Diplo, Vince Staples, and Rico Nasty also appear

Lil Nas X went all out with the visuals for his hit "Old Town Road," tapping all of his newfound collaborators and friends, like Billy Ray Cyrus, Diplo, Vince Staples, and Rico Nasty, to star. The movie travels from 1889 Wild Wild West to the modern-day city outskirts, so saddle up and come along for the ride.

As the visuals start, Nas and Cyrus gallop away with a bag of loot, obviously having pulled off a heist. The trio of men on horseback that were in pursuit of them come to a halt, unable to catch up, and Chris Rock—the leader of the group—states, "When you see a Black man on a horse going that fast, you just gotta let him fly." Just as Nas and Cyrus think they're able to relax in stranger's home, it turns out the homeowner isn't so friendly. Nas jumps into a hole to escape, only to end up hundreds of years in the future on the other side.

Forget trying to figure out the logistics of time travel, and just embrace the hilarity of Nas' horse also having wound up there, and in peak racing condition. He impresses the locals not only in the race (with Vince Staples losing money in a bet against him) but with his sweet square dancing skills. Once he and Cyrus (yes, he time traveled too) trade out their old-timey duds for some fresh, rhinestone-adorned outfits, they enter a room playing bingo with Rico Nasty in it. Diplo is playing the washboard, I feel like I'm losing my mind, and this is probably the best music video I've watched this year.

Watch the movie for "Old Town Road" again and again, below.

Lil Nas X - Old Town Road (Official Movie) ft. Billy Ray Cyrus www.youtube.com

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Screenshot via YouTube

They really "don't care" about how this was edited, do they?

Ed Sheeran and Justin Bieber used the name of their song as inspiration for the "I Don't Care" music video, and have presented what is essentially a long blooper reel of the pair messing around with a green screen.

The visuals show how dedicated the two are to proving just how much they don't care, because I'm pretty sure they did the editing on this video as well. They dance around in costumes, as an ice cream cone, a panda, a teddy bear, and more. I have a clear vision of Bieber and Sheeran raiding a costume shop just an hour before setting up a tripod and going to town on this one. They also juxtapose their faces on top of a ballerina, a skydiver, and a corn inside the husk.

Blink, and you'll miss the funniest moment of all in the video: Ed Sheeran gets married to a cardboard cutout of a young Bieber with swoopy hair.

Watch the visuals for "I Don't Care" below.

Ed Sheeran & Justin Bieber - I Don't Care [Official Video] youtu.be

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Photo by Jena Cumbo

Her new LP, 'Take Me to the Disco,' is her most personal work yet

Meg Myers isn't afraid to admit she's still figuring out who she wants to be. Originally from Tennessee, Myers moved to Los Angeles at the age of 19 to dedicate her life to her music career. In 2012, she released her first EP, Daughter in the Choir, which set the groundwork for the releases of Sorry (2015) and Take Me to the Disco (2018). Well-known for her poetic lyrics, crude vocals, and cover of Kate Bush's "Running Up That Hill," the honest singer-songwriter makes a point to tell me that self-acceptance is a process. After listening to her deeply personal LP, Take Me to the Disco, I know she's not wrong.

In the middle of producing her new forthcoming music, the star opens up to NYLON: "I've always been able to channel [more painful moments in life] into my art. Music always stood out to me as the easiest way to capture all the emotions at once in one piece. Music for me is wild and free." It's clear that it is this fearlessness to self-reflect that not only makes her body of work so authentic but also what motivates her to continue to grow.

Below, we speak with Myers about her new music, self-love, and her ever-evolving relationship with creativity.

The Great Eros Pants, Chae New York top, Schutz shoes, and Via Saviene rings. Photos by Jena Cumbo

How did moving to Los Angeles influence the artist you are today?
I feel more safe here. I've been tapping more into my truth and expressing myself on a deeper level here. Growing up, my family was very chaotic, and I never knew what was about to happen. I have four brothers and a sister, and we grew up basically as best friends, making fun out of the chaos and always creating some type of art from it. I've always been able to channel [more painful moments in life] into my art.

Music always stood out to me as the easiest way to capture all the emotions at once in one piece. Music for me is wild and free.

What are some of your biggest influences?
I think all the barbecue and shrimp and grits [in Tennessee] really adds a smokiness to my music.

My queerness gives me a lot of material to create with. It's allowing me to be more playful and not take every little thing so seriously.

Silk Laundry jumpsuit, Wild Vertigga T-shirt, and Nakamol earring.Photo by Jena Cumbo

Tell me about your new music. Why is it different than anything you've ever created?
This EP is going to have a lot of similar vibes to my last album, because I wrote it at the same time with the same producer about a lot of the same struggles and self-discoveries as my past music. I'll share more with you on my third album.

I'm such a fan of your cover of Kate Bush's "Running Up That Hill." Why did you gravitate toward that song to cover?
It's such a powerful song! Kate Bush is magic. It's almost like I've been being guided to cover that song for a long time. I don't know how to explain it in words, as they can feel so limiting, and this song is beyond words to me. It's just a deep inner knowing, and it makes my heart flutter.


Chae NewYork blazer; Saku top, The Great Eros bottoms, and Inch2 boots.Photo by Jena Cumbo

Are there any other songs you feel really connected to?
I would love to collaborate with Active Child. The songs "Hanging On" and "Johnny Belinda" are also otherworldly to me. I've been listening to this band called Walk the Moon a lot. I also love Phoebe Bridgers. I have a crush on her. I generally listen to instrumental music and classical. If you look up 432hz music, it's incredibly healing, and solfeggio frequencies have helped me with a lot.

What does self-love mean to you?
It's been a process for me. It's been quite the journey. Right now, I would say [self-love for me] is about accepting myself, and having love for all the experiences that have led me to where I am. It also means being grateful for growth. It's also been about learning to be in the present moment. It's been learning to trust myself and not listening to what others think I need to be doing. As I learn to do this, I also learn how to love others deeper. All this being said, it's a process.

Chae New York blazer and Saku top.Photo by Jena Cumbo

What advice do you have for someone struggling to find happiness right now?
Spend some time in solitude if you can, or with a really safe person who you feel you can express yourself freely with. Find someone who has no expectations of you and is supportive. In that present moment, ask yourself, What feels good to you? What do you feel like doing? Use your imagination. Daydream. Find what it is you enjoy doing. I promise you can unlock magic inside yourself. It just takes patience.

*This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.

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