The Republic of Gilead, the fictional totalitarian state depicted in The Handmaid’s Tale, is a harsh and unforgiving place. In this dystopia, women aren’t permitted to read or write, fertile ones are essentially relegated to becoming sex slaves named after their captors, and disobeying the strict laws will get you maimed, killed, or swiftly shipped off to clean up toxic waste. But all those horrors aside, I’ve realized something newly disturbing about this dystopian society: nobody has comfortable home clothes.
This revelation first came to me while watching yesterday’s episode and seeing Serena Joy puttering around her greenhouse. It’s an activity best done in old sweats or something else you don’t mind getting dirty; instead, she’s stuck in her typical structured blue dress and coat. (Women in Gilead wear different colors according to the class they’re in and the roles they fulfill.) Ever considered that she’s so cranky all the time because she hasn’t worn leggings for years?
And while the handmaids’ flowing red robes are more loose-fitting and forgiving than the wives’ standard garb, their bedclothes — like Offred’s stiff white cotton babydoll dress — seem even more uncomfortable than their daywear. The only time I can remember even a mere hint of stretch fabric is when Offred is permitted a red sweatshirt while convalescing, but she still has to wear it over the white dress.
If you think I’m being hyperbolic when I say that this has become one of the most distressing aspects of the show for me, you need to understand: I’m absolutely obsessed with being comfortable when I’m at home. The second I walk into my apartment after work, I’m seized with a maniac urge to rip off my bra and put on the stretchiest fabrics I own. If I work from home, I’ll wear leggings all day and then slip into something even more comfortable when I’m done. (Tangentially, if you’re someone who just straight up hangs around in jeans, what the hell is wrong with you?)
And unlike pretty much every other problem in The Handmaid’s Tale, this upsetting lack of leisurewear isn’t something that’s exclusively terrible for women. Even the Commander can’t seem to chill out and take off his suit in the comfort of his own home. I get that the Old Testament declares you shouldn’t “wear clothing woven of two kinds of material” — but surely there’s an exception to be made for some spandex.